Portrait Photographer

By TACP Staff on July 08, 2021

The term “portrait photography” covers a broad range of techniques, styles, and genres. Every portrait photographer will have their own unique approach and style of photographing people. Portraits can be as simple or complex as the photographer desires, but no matter what stylistic approach a photographer takes, they will always focus on the same core aspects: capturing someone’s mood, emotions, and essence in a single image.

What Is a Portrait Photographer?

A portrait photographer is someone who captures the personality, look and feel of their subject in a photographic portrait. This is done with an understanding of light, visual composition, tone, and mood. Portrait photographers are often tasked with capturing the likeness of a person or people for commercial purposes such as advertising campaigns or for use in publications such as newspapers or magazines.

The art of capturing a picture that not only reflects the physical appearance but also reflects the emotional state of the subject can be traced back to classical painting. Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Titian all produced portraits of kings, popes, and religious figures from life. But it was not until the invention of the Daguerreotype in 1839 that people could have their portraits taken at such a low cost to themselves. Artists who worked with these new tools were able to create images of their subjects that had never been seen before and the public was amazed. These early photographers captured many images of famous people including Queen Victoria and even Abraham Lincoln. Today, the portrait photographer has many more options available to them than in the past.

What Does a Portrait Photographer Do?

Portrait photographers have the unique ability to capture a single moment in time with perfect clarity. They use their cameras to capture an individual’s personality, style, and spirit with a single image. This type of photography is unique in that it allows for one image to tell a story in a way that words simply cannot.

Portrait photographers have a variety of different tasks and responsibilities, depending on their field and project type. They can work in areas of fashion, advertising, or fine art photography. In these roles, they will set up shoots, scout locations, choose backgrounds, clothing, accessories, and lighting to suit the design of the portrait. They will also work with clients to determine the overall look of the shoot; whether it will be formal, artistic, or candid.

Examples of Portrait Photography

Portrait Photographer Salary

Portrait photography is a specialized profession within the larger category of Photography. According to salary data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2020, photographers earned a median annual salary of $41,280, which is the equivalent of $19.85 per hour. Top earners within the category reported earnings higher than $86,850, or $41.76 per hour. 

Generally speaking, it is very difficult to estimate the potential earnings for a person working full-time as a professional photographer, because a person’s ability to earn is so dependent on experience, artistic skill, location, and the artist’s ability to establish a strong reputation. Roughly 63% of all photographers are self-employed, which means that their income may fluctuate and vary greatly from that of others in the field. 

Professional Organizations & Resources

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