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A Very Brief History Of The Portrait

By Nikki | Inspiration

Portraits are, arguably, the most well-known and popular form of photography. Portraiture photography is so popular because a portrait can say so much in such a simple way. The main goal of portrait and self-portrait photography is to tell some kind of story simply, yet elegantly, and the main components of this style are staging the perfect pose and lighting. Today, I’m going to give you a very brief history of this lovely style of photography, and then I’m going to give you some tips on you how you can use the BeFunky Photo Editor to make your portraiture photography unique.

In The Beginning:

Portraits and portraiture started out as paintings. Usually, these types of portraits were done to show power, status, and nobility and were typically reserved for the wealthy. However, once photography became popular in the late 1800s with the release of the very first Kodak cameras, portraiture became popular and was more available to the masses. Portrait and self-portrait photography replaced paintings because of their convenience and their ability to capture photos of many people, such as a family, all at once without tedious sitting sessions.

by Unknown photographer, albumen print, 1857-1858
Julia Margaret Cameron & Children, 1860

Portraits in Photojournalism:

During the American Great Depression, photographers began taking photos of families and individuals suffering from this economic disaster in order to expose the world to the very real suffering migrant workers and low-income families were experiencing every day. These photos were also known as “Dust Bowl Photography.” One of the most iconic photographers of that time is Dorthea Lange because of her notorious 1936 portrait, “Migrant Mother.”

migrant mother

This portrait became the definition of a picture saying a thousand words and still resonates in photojournalism history today.

Modern Portraiture:

Portraits have become a staple in current photography and can be seen in the media almost anywhere, especially of celebrities. One of the pioneering photographers of celebrity portraiture photography is Annie Leibovitz. The simplicity of Leibovitz’s photos are what make them so striking and truly encapsulate the goal of portrait photography, which is to say a lot with a little.

William S. Burroughs

As with many other styles of photography, portraiture has evolved and modernized with the aid of smart phones and devices, and the self-portrait has been made more convenient with the selfie.

self portrait 2

While many people tend to joke about the popularity of selfies, it’s important to acknowledge that they are a product of the age-old practice of portraiture photography. They are simple, creative, and worth a thousand words.

Sources: The National Portrait Gallery & PBS


Last Halloween, my friend took this candid portrait of me dressed as Yoshi that I just love:


I adore this portrait because the soft lighting was perfect, and my friend was able to capture an actual moment of contentment I had at a party surrounded by friends. To give this already lovely photo just a bit more oomph, I open the BeFunky Photo Editor and get started.

First, I sharpen the photo at 50% to make it more pronounced and then I go to Beautify to make my colors pop, which I apply at 30% to keep it simple.


To finish things off, I go to Vignette and adjust it to 36%, and then I go to Blur Edges, which I only apply at 10%

yoshi edit final

All of these applications are under the Edit section of the Photo Editor and add a simple, dreamy elegance that reflects the heart of portrait photography to make the subject of the photo (me) stand out amongst the busyness of the background.

Add a new shot to your portrait history:

Photo Editing, Simplified.

Photo Editing. Simplified