Discover 15 Types of Portrait Photography: Styles, Techniques, and Inspiring Examples
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 13 min read


1. Classic Types of Portrait Photography

2. Creative Types of Portrait Photography

3. Lighting Techniques in Types of Portrait Photography

4. Specialized Types of Portrait Photography

5. Modern Styles in Types of Portrait Photography

6. Inspiring Examples of Types of Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is a fascinating world that lets you capture the essence of a person in a single image. With so many styles and techniques available, it's easy to get overwhelmed when trying to find your own creative voice. In this blog, we'll explore 15 types of portrait photography, offering you a comprehensive guide to help you master this art form. Let's start by looking at the classic types of portraits photography that have stood the test of time.

1. Classic Types of Portrait Photography

Classic types of portrait photography focus on capturing a person's likeness, often emphasizing their facial features, expression, and personality. These timeless styles have been popular for centuries and continue to be a favorite among photographers and subjects alike. Let's dive into three classic types of portraits photography:


Headshots are close-up portraits that typically focus on a person's face, neck, and shoulders. They are often used for professional purposes, such as actors' and models' portfolios, corporate profiles, or social media avatars. When taking headshots, it's essential to pay attention to details like lighting, background, and the subject's expression. Some tips for creating great headshots include:

  • Using a simple background to keep the focus on the subject
  • Positioning the subject in a flattering angle, often slightly turned away from the camera
  • Utilizing soft, even lighting to minimize harsh shadows and enhance the subject's features

Full-body Portraits

Full-body portraits capture the subject from head to toe, often incorporating elements of their environment or personal style. This type of portrait photography provides a more comprehensive view of the subject, allowing you to showcase their personality, attire, and even body language. To create compelling full-body portraits, consider the following:

  • Selecting a location that complements the subject's outfit and personality
  • Positioning the subject in a natural, relaxed pose to create a sense of authenticity
  • Using a wider aperture to create a shallow depth of field, which helps separate the subject from the background

Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits place the subject within their surroundings, emphasizing the connection between the person and their environment. These portraits often tell a story about the subject's life, profession, or hobbies. Whether you're photographing a chef in their kitchen or a musician in a recording studio, environmental portraits capture the essence of the subject's world. To create captivating environmental portraits, try these tips:

  • Scouting the location beforehand to find interesting angles and lighting conditions
  • Using props and elements from the environment to add visual interest and context
  • Directing the subject to interact with their surroundings, creating a sense of genuine connection

Now that we've covered the classic types of portraits photography, let's move on to some creative styles that allow you to express your artistic vision.

2. Creative Types of Portrait Photography

While the classic types of portrait photography focus on capturing a person's likeness, creative portrait styles offer you the opportunity to experiment and express your artistic vision. With endless possibilities, you can truly make a lasting impact with these types of portraits photography. Let's explore three creative styles that will inspire you to think outside the box.

Conceptual Portraits

Conceptual portraits are all about conveying a specific idea or concept through the use of visual storytelling. These portraits often incorporate elements like props, costumes, or unique poses to communicate the desired message. To create thought-provoking conceptual portraits, consider the following tips:

  • Start with a strong concept or theme that you want to portray, and brainstorm ways to visually represent it
  • Choose props, wardrobe, and location that help convey your concept and elevate the overall image
  • Communicate your vision with your subject, and work together to create the perfect pose and expression that supports your theme

For example, a conceptual portrait could depict a person surrounded by flowers to represent growth and renewal, or a subject dressed as a powerful historical figure to showcase strength and leadership.

Surreal Portraits

Surreal portraits take creativity to the next level by incorporating elements of fantasy and dream-like imagery. These types of portraits photography often involve digital manipulation or unconventional techniques to achieve a unique and otherworldly look. To create mesmerizing surreal portraits, try these approaches:

  • Experiment with double exposures, layering multiple images to create a single, cohesive piece
  • Manipulate colors, textures, and lighting in post-production to create a surreal atmosphere
  • Combine seemingly unrelated elements to create a sense of surprise and intrigue

For instance, you might create a surreal portrait by merging a portrait of a person with a landscape, giving the impression of their face emerging from the natural environment.

Abstract Portraits

Abstract portrait photography challenges traditional representation by focusing on shape, form, and color rather than a person's likeness. These types of portraits photography often experiment with unconventional compositions and visual elements to create a unique and visually striking image. To create captivating abstract portraits, consider these suggestions:

  • Focus on specific features or details, such as a close-up of the subject's eyes or hands, to create a sense of mystery and intrigue
  • Experiment with unusual angles, perspectives, and framing to challenge conventional portrait composition
  • Play with light, shadow, and color to create striking contrasts and visual interest

An example of an abstract portrait could be a high-contrast black and white image of a person's silhouette, highlighting the shape of their profile without revealing their specific features.

With these creative portrait styles under your belt, you're well on your way to expanding your types of portraits photography repertoire. Next, let's dive into different lighting techniques that can further enhance your portraits.

3. Lighting Techniques in Types of Portrait Photography

As you continue to expand your types of portraits photography skills, mastering different lighting techniques can take your portraits to new heights. The way you illuminate your subject can dramatically impact the mood, atmosphere, and overall quality of your image. In this section, we'll explore three lighting techniques that can help you enhance your portrait photography.

Natural Light Portraits

Utilizing natural light is a popular and accessible option for many photographers. Whether you're shooting outdoors or near a window, the sun provides a versatile and ever-changing light source. Here are some tips for working with natural light in types of portraits photography:

  • Timing is key: Shoot during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) for soft, warm, and flattering light. Overcast days can also provide even, diffused light that minimizes harsh shadows.
  • Direction matters: Experiment with different lighting angles by having your subject face the light, turn away from it, or stand at a side angle. Each direction creates distinct shadows and highlights on the face.
  • Use reflectors: Reflectors can help bounce light onto your subject, filling in shadows and creating a more balanced exposure. They come in various sizes and colors, with silver and white being the most common for portraits.

Keep in mind that natural light can be unpredictable, so be prepared to adapt your approach as conditions change throughout the day.

Studio Lighting Portraits

For photographers who want complete control over their lighting, studio lighting offers a wide range of possibilities. With various light sources, modifiers, and setups, you can create a multitude of effects in your types of portraits photography. Here's what you need to know about studio lighting:

  • Light sources: Studio lights come in different forms, such as strobes, continuous lights, and speedlights. Each has its own advantages and learning curve, so choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.
  • Modifiers: Softboxes, umbrellas, and beauty dishes are common modifiers that shape and diffuse light for different effects. Softboxes create soft, even light, while umbrellas produce broader, more diffused light. Beauty dishes provide a focused, slightly harsher light that accentuates facial features.
  • Setups: There are numerous lighting setups to explore, such as Rembrandt, butterfly, and split lighting. Each creates a unique look in your portrait by emphasizing different facial features and casting distinct shadows.

When working with studio lighting, take the time to experiment and learn how each element affects your final image.

Mixed Lighting Portraits

Mixed lighting combines natural and artificial light sources to create a unique, layered look in your types of portraits photography. This approach offers creative flexibility and can add depth and interest to your images. To effectively use mixed lighting, consider the following:

  • Balance your light sources: Adjust the intensity of your artificial light to complement the natural light, ensuring that one doesn't overpower the other. This can create a harmonious blend of light and shadow in your image.
  • Color temperature: Be aware of the color temperature of your light sources, as mixing warm and cool tones can create an appealing contrast or an undesirable color cast. Use gels or adjust your camera's white balance to achieve the desired effect.
  • Experiment with creative effects: Play with the position, angle, and intensity of your artificial light to create unique effects, such as rim lighting, silhouettes, or dramatic shadows.

Embrace the challenge of mixed lighting and discover new ways to make your portraits stand out.

Now that we've covered a range of lighting techniques, let's move on to specialized types of portrait photography, where you can apply these skills to specific genres and situations.

4. Specialized Types of Portrait Photography

Armed with your newfound knowledge of lighting techniques, it's time to apply these skills to specialized types of portrait photography. These genres focus on specific subjects and moments, allowing you to capture meaningful and memorable images. Let's explore three popular specialized types of portraits photography: family, wedding, and maternity.

Family Portraits

Family portraits are a cherished tradition, capturing the love and connection between family members. These photos often become treasured keepsakes, so it's important to make them both visually appealing and emotionally resonant. To create stunning family portraits, consider these tips:

  • Coordinate outfits: Encourage your subjects to wear complementary colors and styles, but avoid overly matching outfits. This helps create a cohesive look without appearing too staged.
  • Choose the right location: Pick a location that holds meaning to the family or offers a visually interesting backdrop. This could be their home, a favorite park, or a scenic outdoor spot.
  • Keep it natural: Capture candid moments and genuine interactions, as these often result in the most authentic and emotive images. Encourage your subjects to relax and have fun, and use your types of portraits photography skills to create a comfortable atmosphere.

Remember to be patient when working with families, as it can sometimes take time for everyone to feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Wedding Portraits

Wedding portraits capture the love and joy of a couple's special day, with images that will be cherished for a lifetime. This genre presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring both technical skill and artistic vision. To excel in wedding types of portraits photography, consider the following:

  • Know the schedule: Familiarize yourself with the day's timeline, so you're prepared to capture key moments and make the most of your time with the couple.
  • Scout locations: Visit the wedding venue ahead of time to identify the best spots for portraits, considering factors like lighting, background, and potential distractions.
  • Build rapport with the couple: Establish a connection with the bride and groom, making them feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera. This can lead to more natural, expressive images.

As a wedding photographer, it's essential to stay organized and be adaptable, as the day's events can sometimes unfold unexpectedly.

Maternity Portraits

Maternity portraits celebrate the beauty and anticipation of pregnancy, creating a meaningful memento for expectant parents. This genre requires a delicate balance of artistry and sensitivity, as you'll want to capture the mother's radiance while ensuring her comfort. To create beautiful maternity types of portraits photography, keep these tips in mind:

  • Timing matters: Schedule the session during the late second trimester or early third trimester, when the baby bump is prominent but the mother is still comfortable.
  • Choose flattering poses: Experiment with poses that emphasize the baby bump and make the mother feel confident and beautiful. Use props like chairs, fabric, or even the partner to create interesting compositions.
  • Focus on connection: Capture the emotional bond between the mother and her partner or other children, as these relationships are an integral part of the maternity experience.

By combining your technical expertise with a compassionate approach, you can create stunning maternity portraits that will be treasured for years to come.

Now that we've explored specialized types of portrait photography, let's dive into some modern styles that can add a fresh twist to your portfolio.

5. Modern Styles in Types of Portrait Photography

With a solid understanding of specialized types of portraits photography, let's explore some modern styles that can help you stay current and stand out in the ever-evolving field of portrait photography. These styles focus on capturing the essence of the subject in a more natural and authentic way. We will discuss three popular modern styles: lifestyle, candid, and street portraits.

Lifestyle Portraits

Lifestyle portraits aim to capture people in their everyday surroundings, highlighting their personalities and the environments they live in. This type of portrait photography is less posed and more spontaneous, resulting in images that feel genuine and relatable. To excel in lifestyle types of portraits photography, try these tips:

  • Observe and adapt: Watch your subjects as they go about their daily routines, and adjust your approach accordingly. This will help you capture the most natural and authentic moments.
  • Blend in: Make yourself as unobtrusive as possible, so your subjects can relax and be themselves. This might mean using a telephoto lens or positioning yourself in the background.
  • Emphasize the surroundings: Include elements of the environment in your compositions to give context and tell a story about your subjects' lives.

By focusing on genuine moments and personal connections, lifestyle types of portraits photography can reveal the beauty in everyday life.

Candid Portraits

Candid portraits capture unposed, spontaneous moments that reveal the true emotions and expressions of the subject. This style is all about seizing the moment and being ready to snap the perfect shot when it presents itself. To succeed in candid types of portraits photography, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Be prepared: Always have your camera ready, as you never know when a great moment will arise. Keep your settings dialed in and your finger on the shutter button.
  • Anticipate the action: Learn to read people and anticipate their reactions, so you can be in the right place at the right time to capture the perfect shot.
  • Stay subtle: Remain as inconspicuous as possible, so your subjects don't feel like they're being watched. This might mean using a silent shutter mode or keeping your distance.

With a keen eye for detail and a quick reaction time, candid types of portraits photography can result in some of the most genuine and engaging images.

Street Portraits

Street portraits are a subgenre of street photography that focuses on capturing the faces and stories of people in public spaces. This style combines elements of both candid and environmental portraits, as it seeks to portray individuals within the context of their urban surroundings. To create compelling street types of portraits photography, consider these tips:

  • Choose an interesting location: Find a bustling area with diverse people and activities, such as a busy market or a popular park. This will provide a wealth of opportunities for interesting portraits.
  • Be respectful: Always respect people's privacy and personal space. If someone seems uncomfortable with being photographed, move on to another subject.
  • Look for unique characters: Keep an eye out for people with distinctive appearances, expressions, or attire that can make for a striking portrait.

With a combination of patience, observation, and respect, street types of portraits photography can yield fascinating images that offer a glimpse into the lives of others.

Now that we've covered modern styles in portrait photography, let's move on to some inspiring examples and photographers that can help you take your types of portraits photography to the next level.

6. Inspiring Examples of Types of Portrait Photography

Now that you've learned about various types of portraits photography and modern styles, it's time to get inspired! Let's explore some exceptional examples of portrait photography, featuring famous photographers, iconic images, and emerging trends in the field. These examples will spark your creativity and help you elevate your own portrait photography skills.

Famous Portrait Photographers

Studying the work of renowned portrait photographers can provide valuable insights into different types of portraits photography. These professionals have mastered the art of capturing people's essence through their lenses. Here are three influential portrait photographers worth exploring:

  1. Richard Avedon: Known for his minimalist black-and-white portraits, Avedon's work often features strong contrasts and simple backdrops, allowing the subject's personality to shine through.
  2. Annie Leibovitz: A celebrated contemporary photographer, Leibovitz's portraits are characterized by their cinematic quality and storytelling elements, often featuring celebrities in imaginative, meticulously planned settings.
  3. Yousuf Karsh: Famed for his dramatic lighting techniques, Karsh's portraits emphasize the character and emotions of his subjects, including many influential figures of the 20th century.

By analyzing the approaches of these iconic photographers, you can gain a deeper understanding of types of portraits photography and develop your own unique style.

Iconic Portrait Images

Iconic portrait images have stood the test of time and continue to inspire photographers worldwide. These memorable photographs capture not only the likeness of the subject, but also their character and spirit. Let's look at three iconic images that represent different types of portraits photography:

  1. Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl": Perhaps one of the most famous portrait images ever taken, this striking photograph features a young girl with piercing green eyes, symbolizing the resilience and beauty of people in war-torn regions.
  2. Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother": This poignant image from the Great Depression era captures the hardship and determination of a mother struggling to provide for her children, showcasing the power of environmental portraits to tell a compelling story.
  3. Vivian Maier's street portraits: A secretive and prolific street photographer, Maier's candid images provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in mid-20th-century America.

These iconic images serve as powerful examples of the emotional impact and storytelling potential of different types of portraits photography.

As the field of portrait photography evolves, new trends and techniques continue to emerge. By staying informed about these developments, you can adapt your own approach and stay ahead of the curve. Here are three emerging trends in types of portraits photography:

  • Authenticity and vulnerability: In today's world of picture-perfect social media images, there's a growing demand for more genuine, unfiltered portraits that showcase people's true selves, imperfections and all.
  • Dynamic movement and expression: Capturing subjects in motion or displaying strong emotions can add a sense of energy and depth to your portraits, making them more engaging and memorable.
  • Environmental storytelling: Integrating the subject's surroundings into the portrait can help reveal their character and create a more immersive, narrative-driven image.

By embracing these emerging trends in types of portraits photography, you can keep your work fresh, relevant, and impactful.

Armed with this knowledge of classic and creative types of portraits photography, lighting techniques, specialized portraits, modern styles, and inspiring examples, you're well-prepared to take your portrait photography skills to new heights. Remember to stay curious, creative, and open to learning from the masters and innovators in the field. Happy shooting!

If you're inspired by the various types of portrait photography and want to develop your own unique style, don't miss the workshop 'How Do I Find my Photographic Style?' by Louis Bever. This workshop will help you explore different techniques and approaches to find your personal photographic style, setting you apart from the rest.