Best portrait photography tips

woman portrait from side

Best portrait photography tips

Do you struggle when taking portrait photos or do you feel that they lack a professional outlook? Then don’t worry any longer as we are here to save your shoots.

In this article, we have compiled the best portrait photography tips from experts which will take your portrait photography to the next level. They are highly effective techniques and cover everything.



From setting up the scene to gain maximum impact on the best camera settings, everything is included. So by the end of this article, you will have no difficulty capturing stunning portrait images, anywhere at any time.

Picking the Perfect Background

In portrait photography, the background is just as important as the subject. A busy or distracting background will take attention away from the person in your photo. Usually, for portrait photography, you’ll want a neutral, uncluttered background that won’t distract the viewer from your portrait subject.

Here are some ways in which you can enhance your background:

· Using a neutral background

A neutral background doesn’t mean something completely plain or bland. It means something which makes the subject pop as it remains soft. For example, an interesting fence, or a brick wall can add a wonderful appeal to your subject and make it stand out.

woman portrait with neutral background

· Using a textured background

Another technique is to make the background interesting by adding an object which complements the subject. This provides added context such as an artist portrait can be enhanced by placing him/her in front of the easel, or a guitar can be placed with a musician, etc…

woman with guitar

· Using Blurred background

Blurred bokeh has its beauty and catches viewers’ attention. It attracts all the attention to the subject which is sharply in focus.

woman portrait with bokeh background

Preparing the Subject for The Shoot

You will produce poor results even with the most expensive and effective camera equipment if the subject is not ready. The comfort and mood of the subject should be a top priority as the picture revolves around them.

As being photographed might be unnatural and stressful for them, it is your job to make this experience simple and stress-free. Here are some tips to make them feel relaxed and feeling their best.

· Try to break the ice by making small talk. Prevent them from feeling apprehensive by keeping them engaged.

· Explain the shot in details so that they know what they are getting. Ask them for their suggestion so that they can take part in the whole process

candid photo with children

· When conducting portrait photography with children, get down to their level and be gentle with them. Encourage them to play so that they can forget about the camera and then take candid shots.

· Where possible ask the subject to adorn neutral colors. Dark neutral colors are preferred as they help the subject’s face stand out.

· Remove anything that might be distracting the subject for example fluff on clothes, clothes riding up, shirt half tucked in, uneven buttons and lapels

· Lastly be prepared yourself, because if you are confident the subject itself begins to feel at ease. Act like a professional with a personal feel by having both your camera and attitude ready for the shoot.


Posing Your Subject like A Professional

Now when your subject is ready, meaning that it is comfortable and relaxed, then you need to proceed to the more skilled task of making them pose. It is the pose that defines portrait photography so you have to ensure that your subject poses well and doesn’t feel exhilarated throughout.

Keep them calm and try to work quickly but confidently. Keep calm yourself and give your subjects clear instructions as you click. Here are some portrait photography posing tips:

· As subjects are unlikely to know how to pose, you will need to give them constant and clear guidance. Don’t get frustrated, just simplify the poses for them without using any jargons.

· Do not overwhelm your subject instantly with complicated requests. First, go for simpler poses and then make small adjustments, such as “Raising the chin a little”, “Straightening the back,” to get to the final look.

· Do not hesitate to explore different posing techniques just because the subject is a newbie. You can experiment by involving them. Add a different perspective, by shooting from unusual perspectives such as very low or very high angles.

· For a more engaging pose shoot slightly from above or let the subject lean slightly towards the camera.

· Make the subject turn their body and shoulders slightly away from the camera to get a natural feel. But if you want a confrontational portrait then, make their shoulders square-on to the camera.

· To make waists look slimmer ask the subject to turn their waist away from the camera.

woman portrait from side

· Introduce props as they are a great way to make the shoot special. These can be things such as hats, balloons, party glasses, pen, flowers, etc…  If they are not even used, they can help the subject feel comfortable as they lighten the mood and break the ice

Ensuring that the Subject Is Well Lit

Generally speaking, it is best to shoot portrait images in natural daylight. It is the most attractive light source and can be really useful for those photographers that don’t have dedicated studio lighting. Here are some sources of light by which you can light up your subject:

· Portrait photography natural light

Direct sunlight isn’t always desirable because it can create very harsh shadows on the face of the subject. In such circumstances, it is best to shoot inside with natural light inside the room without any artificial sources.

This gives a soft and natural feel to the image especially if the weather is slightly overcast and this natural flatters your subject.

· Portrait photography sunlight

Alternatively, you can embrace the opportunity to shoot in the sun, but this can be very challenging if it is a really sunny day. You will have the subject’s back to the sun and use backlighting which results in a golden glow all around the subject.

But remember you will require some fill light to illuminate the shadows on the subject’s face. This can be done by using a reflector or a simple white card which can reflect and bounce back sunlight onto the subject’s face

· Portrait photography window light

Conducting portrait photography by using the light from the window gives shadows on certain parts of your subject which adds depth and a sense of drama.

woman portrait near window

It is easy to carry out as well as you don’t have to go outside and at the same time, you can make use of sunbeams shining through in the best way possible. If it gets a bit dark and the shadows become deeper, you can use reflectors to bounce backlight.

Exposing the Subject’s Face

Exposure refers to the brightness or darkness of your image. Like all other photography, exposure is important in portrait photography as well. The most important part where the right amount of exposure is needed is the subject’s face as it is what defines the portrait. So, as a photographer, it is your job to ensure that the face is correctly exposed.

Neither is it under-exposed which will make it too dark nor it is overexposed which will make it too bright. It is better to make the background too dark or too bright rather than having a face under or over lit in portrait photography. So before shooting just adjust your exposure compensation setting on the camera to suit the conditions. You can easily increase or decrease the exposure as you shoot as well.

Focusing On the Eyes

The best of all portrait photos are the ones in which the eyes are in sharp focus. As they say, the eyes speak a thousand words, it is indeed true for portraits. Eyes are the focal point which leads to the connection between the subject and the viewer.

woman close up portrait

So focusing on the eyes really improves the sense of eye contact and create a powerful and engaging image. Thus, whenever you are shooting portraits, ensure that you set your focus point carefully. This can be done by following these steps:

· Your camera usually has several Autofocus points visible in the viewfinder.

· Select the central Auto Focus point and then position this point directly over the subject’s eyes.

· Now half-press the shutter button for locking this focus.

· If required, move your camera to recompose the shot for best composition.

· And then press the shutter button completely to capture the shot.

This will make the eyes really sharp and attract the viewer’s attention as they will feel the eyes calling on to them.

Follow these tips and we assure that your portrait photos will light up. You will soon be creating beautiful and professional-looking portraiture without any difficulty. Just remember to experiment and add a tinge of creativity with a drop of skill and you will be more than fine!

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Author: condruzmf

6 thoughts on “Best portrait photography tips

  1. Wow these are great tips on photography, I like the one where you have said to make waists look slimmer ask the subject to turn their waist away from the camera. I also wanted to share with you a tip – I personally do this when it comes to hiding my double chin:)

    A double chin (or the entire neck area) is easily hidden by resting the chin on the hands, arms, or shoulders. Be careful that the subject barely touches his or her chin down on the supporting element. Resting on it too heavily will alter the jawline.

    Looking forward for more such tips, loved reading it.

  2. Great information! I’ve been working on taking better portraits of my kids. They are so hard to photograph!! These are some great tips! I also think getting a better camera would help!! I am not a professional but do you have any recommendations for affordable cameras?

    1. Hi Angela, I have a suggestion for you – just type in my search box ”A6000” and press enter
      You’ll find my Sony A6000 review. This is a camera I used for 2 years and most of the photos from my gallery
      are taken with this one. Not expensive, it is a hobby camera – but very good quality
      Please ask if you need more details, I will gladly help

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