Before cameras were invented portraits were the reserve of royalty and the wealthy, a portrait took days to paint and the subject had to sit or stand still for hours on end. When using an artist the likeness that was the end result of the portrait sitting was what he saw or was even a variation on a theme of what saw, the colours were as close as his palette could make them and the features in the person and the setting were as detailed or not as they could be painted. There was no such thing as photo shooting although studios with a variety of backdrops or props were often used.
Even back then, in a time before point and shoot the artist had the traits that a good portrait photographer needs today and the best professional photography demonstrates that in the photos taken and displayed. A good portrait photographer needs to intuitively know people, capturing the personality of the subject and hopefully pulling out that secret smile in true Mona Lisa style. A model photographer who takes the very best portrait pictures is a master among photographers and just like the artists of old knows how to position the model to make the most of the right sort of light.
A photo studio can and very often is used and photo shooting can still take some days to get the right shot if one particular shot is demanded or multiple photographs of the same model are required. Portrait photography is an art and one that has not changed a great deal since the masters were painting kings, queens and generals and a good portrait photographer will not rush his job. If makeup or costumes are to be used they will be used and completed with the end product, the masterpiece in mind.
The model for the portrait and the setting, whether one chooses a studio or location are key to the success of a good portrait photograph. A good portrait photographer will instinctively know who fits in with where and can even make the who that does not fit in with the where work to produce a portrait photograph that can be most surprising. A good portrait photographer use his eyes and other senses to produce the perfect photograph, once may think he only needs his eyes but sound, smell and touch can all create expression – warmth, happiness, surprise.
Professional photography is as much an art today as portrait painting was centuries ago, today royalty still have their portraits painted but know that a portrait photographer can produce something of equal beauty that captures a moment that will never be felt, found or seen again.