History of Portrait Photography

The History Of Portraiture Before Portrait Photography

Before portrait photography, came portraits in the form of rock carvings, paintings, drawings and more. Portraiture can be traced back to five thousand years ago in ancient Egypt, where it flourished. A painting, sculptures or drawn portraits were the only methods for recording people before photography was invented.

The Mona Lisa painting also known as La Jaconde is arguably the most recognized Portrait in the World. Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint it anywhere between 1502 to 1516. While he would paint the Mona Lisa he was also dissecting human cadavers allowing him to have an extraordinary ability and understanding of human expression. Lisa del Giocondo the model of the Mona Lisa lived in Florence of what is now Italy.

Modern Portraiture: Portrait Photography

Modern portraiture or portrait photography is a picture of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the individual. Some portraits are artistic, journalistic or in most cases are used for special occasions such as graduations or weddings.

Sharbat Gula was photographed by Steve McCurry during a visit to a refugee camp in Palestine, Israel. She was a child who had lost her home due to the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR in the ’80s. This image has an uncanny effect on most people watching her eyes and expression.

This image would later build Steve McCurry’s career and would be used countless times by National Geographic Magazine to increase revenue. Sharbat Gula’s portrait is so captivating that her image somehow manifests a deep-seated longing to buy the National Geographic Magazine.

In 2016, Sharbat Gula was arrested for allegedly possessing a fake identity card and swiftly deported to Afghanistan. She was suddenly forced to leave behind a life of 25 years, during which she had gotten married, raised children and became part of a community. Sharbat Gula was one of more than 600,000 people expelled to Afghanistan in 2016, in what Human Rights Watch described as the “world’s largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times”.

Amnesty International
Portrait Photography by Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh photographed Winston Churchill in 1941 ( https://karsh.org/ ) at a time when England was defending what most thought it was a losing cause. Churchill would use his portraits and speeches to rally the British to go beyond and to fight.

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Winston Churchill

Today’s Portraits: Headshot Photography

The size of the World remains the same but the access towards any corner of the World has become immediate. People can work virtually and shop for items anywhere online. We have lost touch and portrait photography has become a way to bring closeness to each other.

A headshot is a modern portrait where the focus is on the person just like portraiture but today is mostly used for casting ( actor headshots ), looking for work and in the ‘about us’ page of a corporate team. We like to incorporate the best of the old and the new together to produce our distinct process for revealing an Art of Headshots.

During a session, Art of Headshots has 9 step process towards helping our customers reveal something genuine and profound. Later, our customers will receive a proofing gallery to chose the final image to be processed by our photo editing team. The image is professionally retouched, photoshop and deliver to the customer via the web in different optimizations to be used in social media, email correspondences or printed. Our goal is to produce a portrait that encourages their loved one’s to smile.

That is our process but countless of other photography studios around the World have devised unique systems for capturing modern portraits, headshots.

Avoid bad headshots by choosing the right photographer

As obvious as it may seem, I am often amazed by companies and individuals trying to shortcut and save money.  “We had our receptionist do our headshots but it backfired – we hated the pictures…  We are a professional architectural firm and our headshots didn’t match up with our talent”, that was a recent clients starting call.  “I have been an amateur photographer for years and thought I could do my Wive’s headshot, all we did was argue and it was uncomfortable”.

Headshots seem simple but they are not easy and require a certain type of professional who has the aptitude for taking portraits and the professional system allowing you the customer to have all the resources needed.  Avoid hiring a professional simply because he or she is in the photography business.

How to choose a headshot photographer


Art of Headshots specializes in corporate and professional headshots for websites, social media like LinkedIn, and advertising. We have over 13 years of experience guiding you into authentic and professional portraits.

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