Portrait photography, also known as portraiture, is a form of photography that uses effective lighting, backdrops, and poses to capture the personality of an individual or group of people. A portrait picture may be either creative or clinical in nature. Portraits are often commissioned for special occasions including weddings, school functions, or business purposes. Portraits may be used for a variety of purposes, from personal web sites to business lobby displays.
The comparatively low cost of the daguerreotype in the mid-nineteenth century, combined with the subject’s reduced sitting time (though still much longer than it is now), contributed to a general increase in the popularity of portrait photography over painted portraiture. The early works’ style represented the technical difficulties of long exposure times as well as the painterly aesthetic of the period. This challenge led to the creation of secret mother photography, in which portrait portraits of young children’s mothers were hidden in the frame to relax and hold them still.Subjects were usually seated against bland backgrounds, illuminated by a soft overhead window and whatever else might be reflected in mirrors.
Since the daguerreotype, advances in photographic technology have enabled photographers to capture images with shorter exposure times and work outside of a studio setting.
Lighting with three points
One of the most popular lighting setups is three-point lighting. It’s usually used in a studio, but it can also be used on location in conjunction with natural light. To completely bring out details and the three-dimensionality of the subject’s features, this setup uses three lights: the main light, fill light, and back light.
The main light
The key light, also known as the main light, is positioned 30 to 60 degrees from the camera, to the left, right, or above the subject’s face. The main light’s job is to form and highlight the subject’s most prominent features. The main light’s distance from the camera determines the light’s falloff and the depth of shadows.
Fill the room with light
The secondary main light, also known as the fill light, is usually located opposite the key light. If the main light is 30 degrees camera-left, for example, the fill light would be 30 degrees camera-right. The aim of a fill light is to counteract the main light’s harsh shadows. The fill light may be the same intensity as the main light to fully remove shadows, or it can be less bright to simply reduce shadows. A reflector, rather than a lamp, can be used to serve the function of a fill light.
The back light, also known as a hair light, is used to help distinguish a subject from its surroundings and highlight hair. Photographers can use a hair light to produce lens flare or other artistic effects in some situations.
Lighting that is both high-key and low-key
High-key lighting is a lighting technique that produces a picture with a backdrop that is lighter than the subject and is often free of shadows. In a three-point lighting setup for high-key lighting, all three lights (or more) are usually used.
Portrait in a low-key environment.
Low-key lighting is a photography technique that produces images with only a portion of the subject illuminated, dim shadows, and a backdrop that is darker than the subject. In a three-point lighting setup, low-key lighting usually only uses one light .
In this iconic shot from Shanghai Express, Paramount 1932, director Josef von Sternberg used butterfly lighting to enhance Marlene Dietrich’s features.
Lighting in the form of butterflies
Just two lights are used in butterfly lighting. In a three-point lighting system, the main light is positioned directly in front of the subject, above the camera (or slightly to one side), and slightly higher than the key light. The second light (usually a reflector rather than a light) is used as a fill light directly below the camera (or slightly to the opposite side).
The bright light falling on the forehead, the bridge of the nose, the upper cheeks, and the distinct shadow below the nose, which also resembles a butterfly and hence gives this lighting technique its name, are all signs of this lighting technique.
Famous Hollywood portraitist George Hurrell was a fan of butterfly lighting, which is why this type of lighting is also known as Paramount lighting.
Before artificial sources of light were discovered, windows were used as a source of light for portraits for decades. A window and a reflector are everything amateur and experienced photographers need to light a portrait, according to Arthur Hammond. While window light restricts portrait photography options as compared to artificial lighting, it allows amateur photographers to experiment. The contrast can be evened by using a white reflector to reflect light onto the darker side of the subject’s face. While shutter speeds will be slower than normal, necessitating the use of a tripod, the lighting will be soft and rich.
Early morning and late afternoon are considered the best times to take window light portraits since the light is more bright on the window. Soft light is created through the use of curtains, reflectors, and intensity reducing shields. For high-key lighting, mirrors and glasses may be used. Colored lenses, filters, and reflective artefacts can be used to achieve the desired colour effects in the portrait. Window light portraits have a distinct influence from portraits taken with artificial lights due to the composition of shadows and soft light.
By using window light, the camera’s location can be adjusted to achieve the desired results. For example, placing the camera behind the subject will result in a silhouette of the person, whereas placing the camera next to the subject results in a combination of shadows and soft light. High main effects with few shadows can be achieved by facing the subject from the same point of light source.
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