What makes a portrait?

Family portraits Madison WI

“Do you take portraits during your sessions?” This is absolutely one of the most common questions I hear from families that are interested in working with me. What I think people most often mean by this question is whether or not I do traditional, posed, everyone-looking-at-the-camera-smiling portraits. My answer to this is that, absolutely, I can do a few posed portraits of you and your family during our time together.

But the more nuanced answer is that I always want to give to this question is that the photos I take of families are full of portraits. They are photos that are made not by asking someone to stand in one spot, smile and look at the camera, but rather they are like tiny bits of stillness amidst the movement and activity of a few hours spent with your family.

A portrait need not be something planned or perfectly posed. With eyes open or closed, a face smiling or serious, oriented upside down or right side up–a portrait, to me, is showing a little glimpse of who someone is in a particular moment in time and space. And while these portraits might not be what folks are thinking of when they ask me if I do portraits, I think they’re just as worthy as being showcased, framed or hung on your living room wall.

Madison family portraits
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Catherine Hilcove Photography: Family Photography, Madison WI