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Chapter 9. How to Take a Great Family Photo > The Art of the Formal Portrait

The Art of the Formal Portrait

The forced-smile group photograph we talked about earlier has its roots in the history of photography. From the 1800s to the early 1900s, taking a photograph required coating a sheet of glass or paper with a chemical mixture by hand and then making an exposure of several minutes to capture an image. Because of the long exposure times, subjects had to sit very still to make sure the final picture wasn't blurry. With the process being so complicated and so expensive, no one would risk ruining a shot by photographing a moving subject.

Even though technology has vastly improved over the last hundred years (most cameras can easily take a picture in 1/4000 of a second or faster), we still take portraits the same way. We line people up, make them stand still, and take their picture. It might not make sense but it's tradition, and traditions are hard to change. It would be hard to imagine a formal event such as a wedding or a prom without a portrait photographer.


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