Define portrait for me

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Sweetsomedays, Jul 7, 2007.

  1. Sweetsomedays

    Sweetsomedays TPF Noob!

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    Someone brought to my attention maybe my understanding of a portrait is not correct.
    In photography what defines a portrait? Is it just a head shot, or a very basic picture that shows a persons features? In order to do a portrait does it have to be in a studio setting, or posed? How does one separate portraits from candids?
     
  2. aMac

    aMac TPF Noob!

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    I think it's generally accepted that something called a "portrait" focusses mainly on the subject's face/head and shoulders, but that's not the exclusive use for the term. To me, a portrait is something more formal than just a candid shot of someone, framed at the head and shoulders. It has a purpose, either to show the character or the subject or something else. I don't think the location should be a defining factor though.

    The question is where do you draw the lines? Is a full-face shot a portrait? What about a standing full body including feet? How much of the frame must a person fill?
     
  3. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    "Portrait" Definition -
    1. A likeness of a person, especially one showing the face, that is created by a painter or photographer, for example.
    2. A verbal picture or description, especially of a person.

    It does not need to be a headshot although that is usually the type of image that is made. I've taken many full length portraits though.... A portrait does not have to be in a studio or be posed and a candid portrait is just that..... it's still a portrait :)
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    "a likeness of a person"

    As usual the definition is vague, and could include many different concepts. More adjectives should be used to narrow the definition. There are always folks who will assume that their personal definition is what everyone else should follow. If they are your clients you might want to listen to them; if not then you should feel free to follow your own instincts.

    candid:
    1. frank; outspoken; open and sincere: a candid critic.
    2. free from reservation, disguise, or subterfuge; straightforward
    3. informal; unposed: a candid photo.
    4. honest; impartial: a candid mind.
    5. Archaic. white.
    6. Archaic. clear; pure.
    7. an unposed photograph.

    Once again very vague, but some photogs will argue forever about what is and isn't a "candid photograph".
     
  5. Sweetsomedays

    Sweetsomedays TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone for your input :) I spose it's one of those "6 to one half dozen to another" type of things but it gives me a guide line. I appreciate it!
     
  6. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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  7. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not really, a portrait is a photo whose only purpose is to portray an image that captures the likeness of a person in the fullest sense. One where if you have seen the person's portrait then you would be able to recognize them when you first met them.

    A good portrait will give you some clue of their personality and the background is irrelevant.

    A candid depends on the background and does not put weight on the likeness as much.

    mike
     
  8. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    I understand this totally... A couple of years ago I was at a photo exhibition and a guy was there with some stunning portrait work and I got chatting and discussing 2 or 3 images and how he did the work.

    Anyway, just a couple of months back I was at a first communion and my girlfriend's neice was there with her boyfriend. As soon as I saw him I felt I knew him. And you are right, that image captured an amazing likeness and it was indeed the guy I had saw once in that image...... It was "canny" as we say in Scotland.

    Not sure I agree so much with this though. The background is VERY relevant in a portrait image - even more so than in a candid. the background should not detract from the subject.

    [​IMG]

    A candid portrait is a shot of a person showing their likeness but in a non posed moment in time.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You are right JD, I put the part about the portrait background badly. As you say, nothing should compete for attention with the subject's face.

    mike
     

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