7 Different Types of Portrait Photography You Should Know

Portrait photography is one of the easiest genres of photography to get started with. However, the many different types of Portrait Photography can be quite overwhelming if you’re starting out. What are the differences? What should look out for when shooting portraits? We will guide you through the most important types of this amazing style to get you started on your path of Portrait Photography

What is Portrait Photography?

Okay, but what is Portrait Photography exactly? Essentially, a portrait is defined as a photo of a person. That’s quite an easy definition. However, a portrait can mean so much more than just a simple photo of a person, like some random Instagram selfie!

“In a portrait, I’m looking for the silence in somebody.”

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

As photographers, we aim to capture the essence of our subjects, and portrait photography is one of the most effective ways to do so. In simple terms, portrait photography is all about capturing the emotions and expressions of a person in a photograph.

When you see a portrait, it should make you think!

  • Who is that person in the photo?
  • What is their story?
  • What are they thinking?

If a portrait can make you ask yourself these questions, it’s a success.

beautiful blonde girl looking back to look at the camera as a type of portrait photography
Source: _iamkosuke

But what do we need to get this successful shot? Well, that’s the big question we all would like to know. However, there are a few basic portrait photography guidelines that will help you out:

  • Equipment: If you want to take your photography to the next level, consider getting a DSLR camera. Your photos, and especially portraits, will look much more professional than with a phone, for example.
  • Composition: Think about the composition. Should the subject be looking straight into the camera? Should they be centered? What about the background?
  • Poses: These often make the difference between serious glamour photography and silly Instagram posing. Have a look at one of our posing articles if you want to know more!

With these three basics, you are at least set to begin your first sessions. Just get started! The most important aspect of taking photos is experience, after all.

Different Types of Portrait Photography

As we already mentioned, there are different types of portrait photography that we can use to achieve our goal of expressing emotions and personalities in our photos. Let’s go over the most important types!

1. Traditional Portraits

Traditional portraits are the most common type of portrait photography. They are usually shot in a studio with a formal photography backdrop. The subject is looking at the camera and posing for the photograph. These portraits are often cropped to show the head and shoulders of the subject rather than the full body. Traditional portrait photography is great for capturing a person’s personality and character.

asian girl with smooth skin looking in the camera with her dark eyes and hair, clean skin, polished portrait photography
Source: jp12206b_studio

2. Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits are portraits that are taken in public places or in a setting that is relevant to the subject’s life or work. The idea behind environmental portrait photography is to capture the subject in their natural environment. This type of portrait photography is great for capturing the subject’s personality and character in a natural setting.

man with donkey posing for a environmental portrait photography shooting
Source: patwack

3. Candid Portraits

Candid portraits are portraits that are taken without the subject’s knowledge. They are great for capturing spontaneous moments and emotions. Candid portrait photography is all about capturing the subject’s natural expressions and emotions. This type can bring out some of the most pure emotions of your subject but can also be relatively hard to shoot.

group of woman laughing, indian style, indian clothes, happy family photography, popular type of portrait photography
Source: dvddhiraj___photography1336

4. Creative Portraits

Creative portraits are portraits that are taken with a surreal or conceptual idea in mind. This can be unique lighting, an interesting setting, or even just unorthodox post-editing. This type is more for experienced photographers who want to push the limits of Portrait Photography.

Woman in beautiful lighting shooting a selfie of herself to create a creative portrait to show different types of portrait photography
Source: caspar.jade

5. Self-Portraits

Or, as Instagram would call them, “Selfies“. As the name says, self-portraits are portraits that are taken by the subject themselves. Self-portraits are great for capturing the subject’s personality and character in a unique and personal way. You, as a photographer and model, can do exactly what you need to do – in front and behind the camera. Also, as nobody else is involved in your shooting process, self-portrait photography is an amazing opportunity to practice your portrait skills! 

photographer doing a self portrait with his little camera in the mirror, bokeh effect, self portrait
Source: chalkak.diary

6. Group Portraits

Group portraits are portraits that are taken of two or more people. Group portrait photography is great for capturing the relationships between people. Family portraits, family and group portraits, and wedding portraits are all great examples. The larger the group, the harder it gets to take a good photo, of course, so you might need some experience!

happy family group posing in front of an old wall, smiling into the camera for happy portrait photography
Source: kyliecousinsphotography

7. Specialized Portraits

Specialized portraits are portraits that are taken for a specific purpose. Glamour portraits, headshots, street portraits, abstract portraits, maternity portraits, pet portraits, boudoir portraits, you name them. There are so many different types of portrait photography that fall into this category. Specialized portrait photography is great for capturing the subject’s personality and character in a unique and specialized way.

cute dog with a butterfly on it's nose looking into the distance, golden, brown eyes, ocean in the background
Source: williethelabrador

What Type of Portrait Photography Should You Specialize in?

Of course, there is no specific answer to this. Generally, you want to find the type of photography that is the most fun to you and brings you the most satisfaction when doing your art. If you’re just getting started, we have a small outline of how you should progress to become a professional photographer:

  1. Just start off with some Self-Portraits. You probably already did this if you’ve ever taken a selfie. No matter if you have a DSLR camera or just your phone, just get started with some photos!
  2. Have a look into the basics of editing. There are many guides for portrait photography editing that will improve your photos A LOT!
  3. Start doing traditional shootings with other subjects. You can fully concentrate on the shooting part now and work on the composition and poses of your model. Ask some of your friends; we’re sure they would love some cool photos of themselves!
  4. Do candid photography in the city. Just go to a crowded place and take some photos of people. Also, ask them if you might take a few photos of them. Most people will be flattered!
  5. Practice. A ton. We know, not the most interesting step. But it’s the most important one. Practice makes perfect.
  6. Experiment with different types of portraits! Do some creative shots, and play around with your camera and subject. This way, you’ll find out what your most liked type is. Also, you might be able to get some commissions and jobs with your skills by now!

Our Opinion on Portrait Photography Types

We love Portrait Photography. It is one of the purest, easiest, yet most powerful genres of photography. Every serious photographer should definitely look into these types and play around with them. Even if you’re more of a landscape photographer, we’re sure you can get some inspiration out of portrait photography.

Also, Portrait Photography just looks amazing in your portfolio. Customers always love portraits, as they can picture themselves in them. This can land you many jobs, which is great!

However, if you still have questions about portrait photography, or don’t really know how to start, have a look at our guide for aesthetic self portrait photography, to get yourself started! Or have a look into these articles for further reading:

Also, leave a comment or check out our Socials to stay up-to-date on the latest photography trends!

What are some creative portrait photography ideas?

Consider experimenting with different lighting, angles, and compositions. You can also try incorporating props or unusual backgrounds to add interest to your portraits. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box!

What are some famous photographers of portrait photography?

There are many famous portrait photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, and Yousuf Karsh. These photographers are known for their unique styles and ability to capture the essence of their subjects.

Which portrait type is the most profitable for a photographer?

The most profitable type of portrait photography will depend on your target market and the demand in your area. Wedding photography and family portraits are typically in high demand, but you may also find success in niche markets such as pet photography or boudoir photography.

Which type of portrait photography should I specialize in?

When deciding which type of portrait photography to specialize in, consider your interests and strengths as a photographer, as well as the demand in your area. It’s important to choose a niche that you are passionate about and that allows you to stand out from other photographers in your area.

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