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Updated: Feb 12

How to Display Portraits Like an Expert

Decorating Your Home with Classic Portraiture

Portraits have been used to decorate homes for centuries, adorning the walls of castles, manors, and museums with images of nobility, ancestors, and famous figures. Today, you can bring this timeless trend into your own home to add a touch of sophistication, inspire meaningful conversations, and showcase what matters most.

In this comprehensive guide from portrait expert Rod Evans from Evans Portraits, we'll explore why portraits make excellent wall décor, provide tips on selecting and arranging portraits for any room, and detail professional techniques to perfectly frame and light your prints so they stand out.

With careful planning and an artistic eye, you can easily transform an empty wall into a polished gallery display that reflects your style and personality for years to come. We'll break down the entire process step-by-step to ensure stunning results you'll be proud to show off.

Benefits of Portraits

Displaying portraits around your home offers several key benefits that make them an exceptional wall decoration choice. Personal portraits allow you to showcase loved ones and customize your space, while still appearing polished and sophisticated.

Portraits add a personal touch that mass-produced art cannot replicate. Seeing the faces of close family and friends elicits nostalgia and showcases your memories. Children and grandchildren will feel special seeing themselves featured prominently in your home.

In addition to personalization, portraits lend a refined, luxurious aesthetic. More so than generic landscape images, family portraits make a space feel curated and intentional. The variety of sizes, poses and stylized black & white options ensure portraits align with any decor style.

Your personalized portraits will undoubtedly spark conversation. Guests will relish opportunities to ask about the people featured and hear your meaningful stories. When strategically placed, portraits naturally draw the eye and serve as talking points during gatherings.

Choosing Portraits

When selecting portraits to use as wall decor, you'll want to consider a few key factors: the style, color vs. black & white, and size variety. Matching the style of the portraits to your existing home decor ensures sophistication

Portraits come in both color and black & white. Color portraits tend to be more vibrant and eye catching, offering a pop of brightness for walls. Black and white portraits, on the other hand, offer a classic and timeless look. From classic film stars to striking fashion photography, black and white portraits tend to have a distinct air of elegance.

When choosing multiple portraits to display, they don't have to be uniform in size. Playing with a variety of image dimensions and aspect ratios is key to creating an artful arrangement. Consider including a mix of large statement pieces alongside smaller supporting portraits to create visual interest. Just be sure portraits on the same wall share an overall cohesive look and feel.

Portrait Placement

When deciding where to place portraits in your home, consider hanging them at eye level in frequently used spaces for maximum impact. Areas like seating arrangements or above fireplaces tend to work well.

Hanging portraits above couches or beds creates a polished, gallery-like look. Position the portrait about 9-12 inches above the furniture piece so it doesn't feel cramped. Use sculpture mounts to easily achieve the ideal placement without measuring.

You'll also want to consider sight lines and furniture arrangements when positioning portraits to avoid visual clutter. Place portraits above fireplaces or sectionals at a height that feels balanced.

No matter where you decide to display portraits in your home, hang them at standing eye level (about 57-60 inches from the floor) so guests can best admire your artistic choices.

Frames & Backdrops

The frame and backdrop can make or break a portrait's visual impact. Carefully choose frames and backdrops that enhance the portrait without overpowering it. For frames, you can select between ornate, decorative frames versus minimalist, simple frames. Ornate frames with intricate carved patterns or gold leaf accents can add an elegant, classical feel to portraits. Minimalist black, white or natural wood frames keep the focus on the portrait subject. Match the frame style to the existing decor of the room.

Backdrops should complement the portrait while providing enough contrast for the subject to stand out. Black, white and gray backdrops are versatile neutral options. Rich colors like navy, emerald, or wine red also make striking backdrops that bring out warm skin tones. Busy patterns can distract, so opt for solid colored backdrops. Backdrops can be changed out as you update your home's style.

Some key considerations for backdrops:

  • Black backdrops add drama and make the subject pop

  • White or gray backdrops create an airy, minimalist look

  • Blue backdrops bring out warm undertones in the skin

  • Green backdrops complement red hair and fair skin

  • Simple solid colors keep focus on the portrait

With ornate or minimalist frames paired with complementary colored backdrops, portraits take on a polished, professional look perfect for home decor.

Arranging Multiple Portraits

When displaying multiple portraits on a wall, it's important to arrange them intentionally for a polished look. Here are some popular techniques for arranging portraits:

Gallery walls featuring multiple frames of varying sizes and subjects clustered together have a lively, eclectic feel. Mix black and white and color photos, and combine portraits with other types of art and prints. Use a large area of wall space to give you flexibility in building your arrangement. Place the center of the gallery wall around eye level.

Floating shelves are a sleek way to neatly display a line of framed portraits. Stick with the same frame color and style for cohesion. Space the shelves evenly and style them simply without clutter. Place them high enough on the wall so you can utilize the space underneath.

Creating a stair step pattern with progressively sized frames makes for a clean, structured look. Use the same frame color and mat for continuity. Start with larger frames on the bottom and lead up to smaller ones toward the top. This technique works especially well on a stepped wall with built-in shelves or ledges.

Lighting Portraits with Style

Proper lighting is crucial for emphasizing and enhancing your portrait displays. The right lighting highlights the colors, contrasts, and details of the portraits while creating visual interest on your walls. Here are some of the best lighting options for portraits:

Track Lighting

Track lighting is ideal for focusing light directly onto wall portraits for accent illumination. Track lights allow you to aim spotlights onto the portraits from above. Choose bulbs with warm color temperatures around 3000K to illuminate skin tones and colors nicely. Track lighting offers flattering directional lighting that adds drama.

Picture Lights

Picture lights mounted above or alongside the frame are perfect for portraits. Opt for slim, unobtrusive LED picture lights. Picture lights eliminate glare and shadows while showcasing the portrait details. Use low-wattage bulbs around 50-100 watts directed on the portrait to avoid overpowering brightness or heat.

Natural Light

Strategically placing portraits near sources of natural light is an easy way to achieve beautiful illumination. Hang portraits near windows where sunlight can naturally highlight the artwork. Note the direction of light and avoid placing portraits where glare and shadows may be an issue.

DIY vs Professional Portraits

When it comes to portraits, many people may choose to save money by taking their own DIY family portraits at home rather than hiring a professional photographer. While DIY portraits allow you total creative freedom to customize backdrops, poses, editing and more, professional portraits excel when it comes to quality, expertise and polish.

Much of the decision depends on your intended use for the portraits. If you simply want casual portraits to display around your home, DIY may suffice. However, if you want sophisticated, art-quality portraits to adorn your walls with a timeless elegance, professional expertise is recommended for lighting, poses, resolution and printing.

Professional photographers have years of experience perfecting their portrait art. They have top-quality cameras, editing software, studio setups and an artistic eye for flattering poses and angles. This allows them to produce polished results showcasing the beauty and personality of their subjects. While DIY can seem cheaper upfront, prints from professional photos last longer without quickly dating themselves.

In the end, casual DIY family portraits have their place for experimental creative freedom. But for heirloom-quality fine art prints you'll proudly display as the centerpiece of your home for decades to come, invest in custom portraits captured by a professional photographer.

Summing Up

In summary, portraits are timeless and elegant pieces that can add a personal, sophisticated look to any room or space. When selecting portraits for your walls, consider black & white or neutral-colored photos, a variety of sizes, and photos that match the style of your home.

Placement is also key. Position portraits at eye level, in seating areas, above fireplaces, or over furniture to create the greatest impact. Frame them in ornate or minimalist frames, depending on the theme of your space. Arrange them in structured galleries, stair stepping patterns or floating shelves to really make them shine. Picture lights, track lighting and natural sunlight all expertly illuminate portraits.

As you can see, walls of portraits lend a curated, polished look while also allowing you to honor your favourite people or pets. We hope this article gave you lots of great ideas and tips for showcasing portraits in your home or office. Ready to get started? Evans Portraits is here to help you create memorable, timeless portraits worth displaying.

Updated: Feb 4

Iconic Portraits for The Generations

Do you long for portraits that feel like they're never going to go out of style? Nothing stops someone scrolling through feeds faster than crisp black and white portraits. Stripped of all color, eyes are drawn straight to the rich textures, intriguing shadows, and emotionally stirring expressions of the subjects. Like scenes pulled straight from classic cinema.

Black and White Elicits Emotion

Black and white photography has a striking way of conveying emotion that color simply cannot match. By removing the distraction of color, black and white portraits allow the viewer to focus on the expression and mood of the subjects.

Black and white elicits a sense of nostalgia and memories of simpler times. There is an old-fashioned, timeless mood that black and white portraits capture. This allows the portrait to feel melancholy, conjuring up emotions from the past.

The lack of color also makes black and white portraits more dramatic. Without the tones of color softening the image, the lighting and contrast is more stark. This makes joy seem more bright and pronounced, while sorrow and longing come through in a more poignant way.

Black and white has the power to distill portraiture down to its emotional essence. Removing the colors of a particular era or style, black and white focuses on the core human emotions being expressed. This makes it an incredibly powerful choice for creating moving, nostalgic portraits.

Black and White is Timeless

One of the key benefits of black and white portrait photography is that it creates truly timeless images. Without color to tie the photo to a certain era or fashion trend, black and white portraits focus on the essence of the subjects.

The simplicity of black and white removes any elements that may date the image later. Instead, it creates portraits that are powerful in their starkness and focus on the subjects' expressions. That's why black and white portraits will be just as moving and meaningful to the viewer decades later as they are today.

Choosing a Photographer

One of the most important decisions when planning your black and white portrait session is your choice of photographer. To get the best results, look for a photographer with experience and skill in black and white portrait photography.

Choose a photographer who has an extensive black and white photography portfolio. Their previous work should showcase excellent use of lighting, posing, and composition to create dramatic, emotive portraits. The tone and style of their black and white images should match the timeless, luxurious look you want for your family.

Equally important is their skill with photographic composition. A photographer experienced with black and white photography knows how to pose subjects and arrange elements in the frame to create strong, intentional compositions. This draws the eye to expressions and relationships between subjects.

Meet with photographer in person to evaluate their expertise and vision. Look for one who asks thoughtful questions, makes styling suggestions, and understands the mood you want to achieve. Take time selecting a photographer invested in bringing your vision to life through their black and white portrait artistry.

Styling Tips for Black and White Portraits

To achieve a timeless look, keep the styling simple and minimal when planning black and white portraits. Go easy on trends, patterns, accessories, and props that could date the image. Classic styles and neutral colors will ensure the focus remains on you and your loved ones rather than distracting elements.

Stick to wardrobe pieces in solid blacks, whites, and grays. Avoid plaids, prints, and busy patterns that compete for the viewer's attention. Select garments with simple lines and silhouettes - think button downs, slacks, sheath dresses, and fitted tops. Accessorize lightly with delicate jewelry like pearls, lockets, or small stud earrings.

Hair and makeup should also be understated and elegant. A sleek low bun or ponytail, clipped back waves, or soft curls suit black and white photography. Apply makeup subtly to define eyes and lips. The lack of color demands a flawless complexion, so ensure skin is exfoliated and glowing.

Props can add interest but use them sparingly. Classic items like books, flowers, or musical instruments make thoughtful additions. Minimalist props allow loved ones and their expressions to shine as the central focus.

Dramatic Lighting Creates Atmosphere

When shooting black and white portraits, photographers have the ability to use dramatic or low-key lighting to great effect. Dramatic lighting, with high contrast between light and shadows, can create a moody atmosphere. Low-key lighting, with shadows dominating the scene, is also highly effective for black and white portraits. It creates a somber or mysterious mood. Photographers should experiment with different lighting styles to find what works best for their desired atmosphere and portrait concept.

Black and White Focuses on Subjects

Black and white photography removes the distraction of color, forcing the viewer's eye to focus on the subjects in the portrait and their expressions. As Ansel Adams said, “In black and white there are more colors than color photography.” Without color, the photographer must be more intentional with elements like composition, lighting, and posing to fully bring out the subjects.

Black and white portraits rely on strong shapes and textures to create interest. Photographers utilize elements like leading lines, patterns, contrast, and negative space to compose striking images.

Without the distraction of colors, black and white photography allows the photographer to be laser-focused on drawing the viewer's eye to the subjects through intentional composition techniques.

Create Timeless Portraits with Black and White

Black and white portrait photography is a powerful and emotive medium to

connect with your family today and preserve those relationships for tomorrow. By focusing on expressions and connections over color and trends, black and white creates timeless, meaningful portraits that will be treasured for generations.

If you're ready to commission a timeless family portrait that tells the story of your family today, it's time to book a black and white portrait session. Our experienced photographers know how to use light, composition, and posing to create dramatic black and white photographs that convey the essence of your family. Don't miss this opportunity to create heirlooms that will remind you of the love you share.

Contact us today to book your black and white portrait session and capture your family in beautifully honest photographs you'll cherish forever.

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