This article is to give the reader a language with which one can discuss portraits of academics and their usage. Moreover the four most frequently used genres of portraits of academic authors will be introduced. And it will be argued why insight into, and knowledge of these genres is crusial in order to make correct choice of portrait in the light of the context. The most relevant genres within photography of academics can be found within four categories: The classical portrait, the staged portrait, the situational portrait and the news portrait. When choosing a portrait whether it is for the news, public relations or the back cover of a book it is useful to have a vocabulary about the visual elements concerning photography of academics. Such a language can be provided by semiotics, and in this context I have drawn on aspects of the semiotic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, and Charles Sanders Peirce.