We know that portraits can interact with the real world, and the subjects can move between any different frames they are painted in. This is used as a plot device in the Deathly Hallows.

We also know from Philosopher's Stone that Chocolate Frog cards' portraits exhibit the same behaviour - Dumbledore is pictured on Harry's first card and moves out of the frame.

Has mass-surveillance crept into the wizarding world unnoticed? Does portrait Dumbledore have a window into the bedroom of almost every wizarding child?


You have a few misconceptions.

  1. Characters in portraits CAN interact with the real world via speach with what we'll call "echo memory".

  2. Characters in portraits can move between other portraits of themselves, and other portraits in the same building.

  3. Pictures CAN NOT talk, they can simply wave, smile, motion.

“and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right

potion, the pictures’ll move.” Colin drew (key word move, not talk. )

  1. ONLY 1 instance of a person in a portrait exists at once.

  2. Unlimited instances of a person can exist in a picture at once.

Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table

surrounded by large pictures of his own face, all winking and

flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd.

To sum this all up, the portraits that contain "echo memory" (which includes memories, the ability to speak and interact) are a single instance with multiple frames. It's not 2 separate portraits of Phineas Nigellus, it's 1 portrait of Phineas Nigellus in 2 locations. He has to physically enter his other frame to be able to see out of it; he can't have 1 copy of himself in one frame and 1 copy in another and have them both share memories.

Based on this (and the fact that taking pictures is a far less complicated procedure than painting and would likely not retain the memories of the person captured), a person in a picture does not share a consciousness with any other copies of that picture or any other pictures of that person.

To confirm, via Pottermore

Hogwarts portraits are able to talk and move around from picture to picture. They behave like their subjects. However, the degree to which they can interact with the people looking at them depends not on the skill of the painter, but on the power of the witch or wizard painted.

When a magical portrait is taken, the witch or wizard artist will naturally use enchantments to ensure that the painting will be able to move in the usual way. The portrait will be able to use some of the subject’s favourite phrases and imitate their general demeanour. Thus, Sir Cadogan’s portrait is forever challenging people to a fight, falling off its horse and behaving in a fairly unbalanced way, which is how the subject appeared to the poor wizard who had to paint him, while the portrait of the Fat Lady continues to indulge her love of good food, drink and tip-top security long after her living model passed away.

However, neither of these portraits would be capable of having a particularly in-depth discussion about more complex aspects of their lives: they are literally and metaphorically two-dimensional. They are only representations of the living subjects as seen by the artist.

Some magical portraits are capable of considerably more interaction with the living world. Traditionally, a headmaster or headmistress is painted before their death. Once the portrait is completed, the headmaster or headmistress in question keeps it under lock and key, regularly visiting it in its cupboard (if so desired) to teach it to act and behave exactly like themselves, and imparting all kinds of useful memories and pieces of knowledge that may then be shared through the centuries with their successors in office.

The depth of knowledge and insight contained in some of the headmasters’ and headmistresses’ portraits is unknown to any but the incumbents of the office and the few students who have realised, over the centuries, that the portraits’ apparent sleepiness when visitors arrive in the office is not necessarily genuine.

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  • @randal'thor your miss-understanding what im saying, they are portraits not pictures != – Himarm Jan 29 '16 at 0:35
  • Ah, OK. But what's the difference? – Rand al'Thor Jan 29 '16 at 0:35
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    Didn't know there was a difference between those two. Cool. – CHEESE Jan 29 '16 at 0:36
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    @randal'thor one is a camera, one is assumadly hand painted/or created by some other form of magic, still digging up the quotes to fill in each point. But the portraits are color, and are on full sized canvases. – Himarm Jan 29 '16 at 0:37
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    The only thing that really gainsays this (if I understand you correctly, you're saying that in a picture, the subject is basically limited to the picture—this certainly holds true for all the pictures we see in photo albums and newspapers, etc.: they remain in shot, or at least close enough to scoot into shot) is that Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card picture really does leave its frame and disappears. “You can't expect him to hang around all day, can you?” So either pictures don't really work like that, or the CF cards are portraits, or they're something else entirely. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '16 at 6:03

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