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Thread: what makes a portrait a portrait

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    what makes a portrait a portrait

    whether it be a person a animal or some other subject. Can a tree be a portrait or maybe a flower or does it have to be a person or animal what is the difference from somebody saying this is a portrait or a photo this is most likely a stupid question but I am just trying to learn my way I guess.
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    Always of a person and about a person.
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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Good Q, Nikkie. I have often thought of this in my very limited foray into that field. B-4 answering, I thought I'd check out a "definition", and turned to Wiki(ubiqi)pedia. I always thought that the "trait" part of portrait would have to have a bearing, and that would mean capturing "something recognisable" about the subject.

    As to your question about a tree, I'd say, yes.
    Am.

    PS. The Wiki explanation seems to make a point about face/expression/mood, all of which would be rather subjective, but I agree with the (ED: last part of the) last sentence in their opening excerpt here.
    A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.
    I suppose you cold ask how a snapshot differs from a portrait. (I think of a snapshot as a subset of portraits. ED: Or is it the other way around?)

    OK, next!
    Last edited by ameerat42; 10-07-2011 at 9:42am.
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    Thanks Kiwi and AM that is just what I thought but just wanted to make sure I had it clear in my own mind and my way of thinking as well but just wanted to be sure to be sure LoL I know it seems like a silly thing to ask tho

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    Ha, this is my first post and exactly the question I needed answering today - bit silly to have such a question, since I have been a photographer for 20+ years now, but I really wanted to know exactly what a portrait is and I think that's been pretty well answered by this post, so well done Nikkie to raise it. I also have a question related - is an animal a portrait too, coz there are a number of animal portrait photos on there already?? Hmm wouldn't seem to be if it is of a person as the wikipedia defination states. Oh well, I have some good portraits so I guess I will steer away from the animal ones, even though my wife and I have a fabulously beautiful Cat and a great new dog too (I will post some photos later) - oh well, the animal portrait category will come along soon enough anyway, good to talk to you. Trixter
    Last edited by I @ M; 13-07-2011 at 7:09am. Reason: Edited in line with site rule #9

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    as long as it is a posed shot, I consider it a portrait - without any form of advertising involved.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    Always of a person and about a person.
    Can't agree with this, I think any living thing that has a brain can be the subject of a portrait, not necessarily human. I think it does have to have some personality or character which is trying to be captured. Good question, though
    Cheers, Lani.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    Can't agree with this, I think any living thing that has a brain can be the subject of a portrait, not necessarily human. I think it does have to have some personality or character which is trying to be captured. Good question, though
    OK, but is a picture of a bird a portrait of a bird - I suppose it could be but you wouldnt call it a portrait would you, is a studio shot of an animal for example a portrait, I suppose it is.

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    Does Orientation not come into this discussion?? Ie Portrait vs Landscape?
    Greg Bartle,
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    I wouldnt have thought it relevant at all Greg, but thanks for raising it

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    Is a portrait still a portrait if it's taken in landscape??

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    you can have a portrait in portrait and a portrait in landscape, or a landscape in portrait and a landscape in landscape or square

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    OK, but is a picture of a bird a portrait of a bird - I suppose it could be but you wouldnt call it a portrait would you, is a studio shot of an animal for example a portrait, I suppose it is.
    Depends on the bird, and how she is posing I reckon. Seriously though, as with most things in photography though, a lot of it depends on the viewer. I reckon Rich et al see their bird images as portraits because they can appreciate the charcater of their subject. Others won't see anything other than just a bird.

    And absolutely, a studio shot of an animal is a portrait....I have photographed some wonderfully engaging animal personalities, sometimes more so than some of the young "models" I have worked with.

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    That the subject is in Focus, and not the background
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    Animals certainly can be the subject of a portrait - assuming they can display a personality.

    I often worry about school photograph 'portraits' - where they are often forbidden to display any form of personality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle72 View Post
    That the subject is in Focus, and not the background
    No, can't agree with that.

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    I think anything with personal expression and taken in close up facing camera would be considered a portrait of that being.

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    Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch jim's Avatar
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    What an interesting question. My first reaction was "it's obvious!" but the more you think about it the less obvious it gets.

    This
    The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person
    from the Wikipedia article above seems to get at the heart of it, except that nearly any photo shows the likeness of something, and a portrait doesn't need to be a person. I think having some personality to portray is a necessary condition for a portrait.

    It seems clear that you can make a portrait of any animal, but whether or not a picture of a flower or a tree could be a portrait is probably unanswerable. Personally I'd say no.

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    Eye contact.....if it has eyes it can be a portrait. Think about a candid....if theres no eye contact is that a candid verses a portrait?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricstew View Post
    Eye contact.....if it has eyes it can be a portrait. Think about a candid....if theres no eye contact is that a candid verses a portrait?
    I dont think eye contact is essential, or that a candid needs a lack of eye contact

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