Discover Photography Portrait Styles: 12 Essential Types and Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


Classic Photography Portrait Styles

Modern Photography Portrait Styles

Creative Photography Portrait Styles

Specialized Photography Portrait Styles

Techniques for Photography Portrait Styles

Discovering photography portrait styles can be an exciting adventure. In this blog, we'll introduce you to 12 essential types and techniques that can help you capture stunning portraits. So whether you're a beginner or a seasoned photographer, get ready to explore the world of portrait photography.

Classic Photography Portrait Styles

The classic photography portrait styles have stood the test of time and continue to be popular choices for photographers. These styles often focus on capturing the subject's true essence and personality. Let's dive into three classic styles: headshots, environmental portraits, and studio portraits.


Headshots are close-up photographs of a person's face, typically from the shoulders up. They are often used for professional purposes, such as resumes, company websites, and social media profiles. When taking headshots, remember to:

  • Focus on the eyes – The eyes are the most expressive part of the face and can convey a person's personality.
  • Use a simple background – A plain, non-distracting background allows the viewer to focus on the subject's face.
  • Pay attention to lighting – Soft, even lighting helps create a flattering image without harsh shadows.

Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits showcase the subject within their natural surroundings, providing context and telling a story. This style highlights the subject's connection to their environment, whether it's their workplace, home, or a favorite location. To create compelling environmental portraits:

  • Choose a meaningful location – The setting should reflect the subject's personality, interests, or occupation.
  • Use depth of field – A shallow depth of field can help separate the subject from the background while still providing context.
  • Consider the composition – Arrange the elements in the frame to create a balanced, visually pleasing image.

Studio Portraits

Studio portraits are taken in a controlled environment using artificial lighting and background setups. This style allows for complete control over the lighting, composition, and mood of the image. If you're taking studio portraits, keep these tips in mind:

  • Experiment with lighting setups – Studio lighting can be adjusted to create various effects, such as dramatic shadows or soft, even illumination.
  • Select an appropriate background – Choose a background that complements the subject and the mood you want to convey.
  • Focus on posing – Direct your subject to create natural, engaging poses that showcase their personality.

Now that we've covered classic photography portrait styles, let's move on to modern styles that offer more creative freedom and unique perspectives.

Modern Photography Portrait Styles

As we venture into the realm of modern photography portrait styles, we'll find more creative freedom and unique perspectives. These styles often reflect current trends and allow photographers to push boundaries. Let's explore lifestyle portraits, fine art portraits, and cinematic portraits.

Lifestyle Portraits

Lifestyle portraits capture everyday moments and candid emotions, creating a natural and authentic feel. This style is perfect for documenting real-life events or simply showcasing a person's hobbies and interests. When shooting lifestyle portraits, keep the following in mind:

  • Embrace spontaneity – Let the moment unfold naturally, and be ready to capture authentic expressions and interactions.
  • Focus on storytelling – Compose your images to tell a story about the subject and their daily life or activities.
  • Be mindful of lighting – Natural, ambient light often works best for lifestyle portraits, as it adds to the genuine atmosphere.

Fine Art Portraits

Fine art portraits elevate photography to an art form, combining creative concepts with technical skill. These portraits often feature unique compositions, visually striking elements, and strong emotional impact. To create captivating fine art portraits:

  • Plan your concept – Develop a clear vision for your portrait, considering themes, symbolism, and the message you want to convey.
  • Experiment with techniques – Fine art portraits allow you to explore various photography techniques, such as long exposures, multiple exposures, or creative lighting.
  • Pay attention to detail – Ensure every element of your image, from wardrobe to post-processing, contributes to the overall artistic vision.

Cinematic Portraits

Cinematic portraits draw inspiration from the world of film, using lighting, composition, and storytelling techniques to create a movie-like atmosphere. This style transports viewers into a different world, evoking a strong sense of mood and emotion. When working on cinematic portraits, consider the following tips:

  • Set the scene – Choose a location and props that fit the narrative and create a cinematic atmosphere.
  • Utilize dramatic lighting – Experiment with dramatic, directional lighting to add depth and intensity to your images.
  • Focus on color grading – Post-processing plays a major role in achieving the desired cinematic look, so pay attention to color grading and other editing techniques.

With a deeper understanding of modern photography portrait styles, let's move forward to explore creative styles that challenge our imagination and push artistic boundaries.

Creative Photography Portrait Styles

As we continue our exploration of photography portrait styles, we now delve into the realm of creative styles. These styles allow photographers to express their imagination and artistic vision, often resulting in captivating, thought-provoking images. Let's discover conceptual portraits, surreal portraits, and abstract portraits.

Conceptual Portraits

Conceptual portraits use symbolism and visual storytelling to convey a deeper meaning or message. These photography portrait styles often challenge viewers to interpret the artist's intention, sparking curiosity and engaging their imagination. When creating a conceptual portrait, consider the following:

  • Develop a strong concept – Begin with a powerful idea or message, and use visual elements to represent it in your portrait.
  • Be intentional with your choices – Every aspect of the image, from wardrobe to props, should contribute to the overall concept and meaning.
  • Embrace ambiguity – A little mystery can intrigue viewers, so don't be afraid to leave elements open to interpretation.

With a clear vision and thoughtful execution, conceptual portraits can leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Surreal Portraits

Among the creative photography portrait styles, surreal portraits are perhaps the most visually striking. These images blend reality with fantasy, often combining unexpected elements or manipulating scenes to create a dreamlike atmosphere. To craft an unforgettable surreal portrait, consider these tips:

  • Think outside the box – Push the boundaries of your imagination, and explore unusual or unconventional ideas for your portrait.
  • Master your editing skills – Photoshop and other editing tools are essential for seamlessly blending elements and creating a surreal effect.
  • Play with perspective – Experiment with unusual angles, scale, and depth to enhance the dreamlike quality of your image.

By combining artistic vision with technical skill, you can create surreal portraits that transport viewers to a world of wonder.

Abstract Portraits

Abstract portraits focus on shape, form, color, and texture rather than a clear representation of the subject. These photography portrait styles encourage viewers to see beyond the surface and find their own meaning in the artwork. To create an abstract portrait, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Experiment with focus – Deliberately using out-of-focus techniques, such as bokeh or intentional camera movement, can create an abstract effect.
  • Emphasize texture and form – Highlight the subject's physical features or surrounding textures to add depth and visual interest.
  • Work with color and light – Bold colors and dramatic lighting can evoke emotion and add a sense of intrigue to your abstract portrait.

By breaking away from traditional representation, abstract portraits offer a fresh perspective on the human form and invite viewers to engage with the artwork on a deeper level.

Now that we've explored creative photography portrait styles, let's turn our attention to specialized styles that cater to specific genres or industries, further expanding our understanding of the diverse world of portrait photography.

Specialized Photography Portrait Styles

As we continue our journey through the world of portrait photography, let's take a look at some specialized photography portrait styles that cater to specific genres or industries. These styles add unique flair and character to the images, making them stand out in their respective fields. We'll explore fashion portraits, glamour portraits, and boudoir portraits in this section.

Fashion Portraits

Fashion portraits showcase clothing, accessories, and the overall style of the subject. These photography portrait styles often feature models and are used for editorial or advertising purposes. To create stunning fashion portraits, keep these tips in mind:

  • Focus on the wardrobe – Choose clothing and accessories that complement the subject and make a visual impact.
  • Work with a team – Collaborate with stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers to create a polished and cohesive look.

Remember, fashion portraits should tell a story about the clothing and the overall style, so pay attention to details and create an atmosphere that enhances the fashion narrative.

Glamour Portraits

Glamour portraits aim to highlight the beauty and allure of the subject, often using glamorous makeup, hairstyles, and wardrobe. These photography portrait styles can range from sophisticated and elegant to playful and sultry. Here are a few pointers for capturing glamorous portraits:

  • Establish a mood – Decide on a specific vibe or theme for your glamour portrait, and use lighting, wardrobe, and makeup to support it.
  • Focus on the eyes – The eyes are the windows to the soul, so make sure they stand out and captivate the viewer.

With the right approach and attention to detail, glamour portraits can showcase the subject's beauty while evoking a sense of intrigue and charm.

Boudoir Portraits

Boudoir portraits are intimate, sensual images that celebrate the subject's body and confidence. These photography portrait styles often take place in a bedroom setting, with the subject wearing lingerie or other revealing attire. To create tasteful and empowering boudoir portraits, consider these suggestions:

  • Create a comfortable environment – Make your subject feel at ease by providing a private and cozy setting for the shoot.
  • Use flattering lighting – Soft, diffused light can enhance the subject's features and create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Boudoir portraits should celebrate the subject's confidence and beauty, so focus on capturing genuine emotions and highlighting their best features.

Now that we've explored specialized photography portrait styles, let's move on to discussing some essential techniques that can be applied to all types of portrait photography, ensuring that your images are captivating and visually appealing.

Techniques for Photography Portrait Styles

Now that we've uncovered the various photography portrait styles, it's time to discuss the techniques that can help you create stunning and captivating portraits, regardless of the style you choose. In this section, we will explore three key aspects: lighting techniques, posing techniques, and post-processing techniques. By mastering these elements, you'll be well on your way to becoming a portrait photography pro!

Lighting Techniques

Lighting plays a significant role in shaping the mood, tone, and overall appearance of your portraits. With the right lighting, you can dramatically enhance the features of your subject and make your photography portrait styles truly shine. Here are a few essential lighting techniques to consider:

  • Natural light – Sometimes, the best light source is the one Mother Nature provides. Natural light can create a soft, warm, and inviting atmosphere in your portraits. To make the most of it, try shooting during the golden hour, which occurs shortly after sunrise or just before sunset.
  • Artificial light – Studio lights and flash units give you more control over the direction and intensity of the light. Experiment with different light modifiers, such as softboxes, umbrellas, and reflectors, to create the perfect lighting setup for your photography portrait styles.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to lighting—experimenting and finding what works best for your chosen style is key to achieving stunning results.

Posing Techniques

Posing is another crucial aspect of portrait photography, as it can help your subject look their best and convey the desired message or emotion. Here are some tips on posing techniques that can elevate your photography portrait styles:

  • Communicate with your subject – Establish a connection with your subject and guide them through the posing process. Encourage them to relax and be themselves, while also offering specific instructions on how to pose.
  • Experiment with angles – Shooting from different angles can drastically change the look and feel of a portrait. Try shooting from above, below, or even at eye level to find the most flattering and interesting perspectives for your subject.

Ultimately, the goal is to make your subject feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera, so they can express themselves naturally and authentically.

Post-Processing Techniques

Finally, let's dive into post-processing techniques. Enhancing your portraits with editing software can bring out the best in your images and add that extra touch of magic. Here are some post-processing techniques to consider for your photography portrait styles:

  • Adjusting exposure and contrast – Making minor adjustments to the exposure and contrast can help balance the lighting in your portraits and draw attention to your subject's features.
  • Retouching – While it's important not to go overboard, subtle retouching can remove any unwanted blemishes, smooth out skin tones, and enhance the overall appearance of your subject.

Experiment with different editing tools and techniques to find the perfect balance that enhances your photography portrait styles without compromising the natural beauty and authenticity of your subject.

By mastering these lighting, posing, and post-processing techniques, you'll be well-equipped to create stunning and captivating portraits in any photography portrait style. Remember to always experiment, learn from your experiences, and, most importantly, have fun while capturing the unique essence of your subjects!

If you're excited about discovering various photography portrait styles and want to dive deeper into finding your own unique approach, don't miss the workshop 'How Do I Find my Photographic Style?' by Louis Bever. In this workshop, you'll learn essential techniques and tips to help you develop a photographic style that truly represents your artistic vision.