Portraits can serve many purposes, from usage on a personal Web site to display in the lobby of a business.
There are essentially four approaches that can be taken in photographic portraiture:
Constructionist – constructs an idea around the portrait—happy family, romantic couple, trustworthy executive. It is the approach used in most studio and social photography. It is also used extensively in advertising and marketing when an idea has to be put across.
Environmental – depicts the subject in their environment be that a work, leisure, social or family one. They are often shown as doing something, a teacher in a classroom, an artist in a studio, a child in a playground. With the environmental approach more is revealed about the subject. Environmental pictures can have good historical and social significance as primary sources of information.
Candid – where people are photographed without their knowledge going about their daily business. Whilst this approach taken by the paparazzi is criticized and frowned upon for obvious reasons, less invasive and exploitative candid photography has given the world superb and important images of people in various situations and places over the last century. The images of Parisians by Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson demonstrate this approach.
Creative – where digital manipulation (and formerly darkroom manipulation) is brought to bear to produce wonderful pictures of people. It is becoming a major form of portraiture as these techniques become more widely understood and used.