17 Portrait Photography Tips Everyone Should Master

by | Oct 1, 2021 | Portrait Photography

Portraits requires a good amount of light, posing, and seizing natural expressions. It’s a skill that needs time and practice. Here are some tips to get you started.Portrait photography is one of the popular types of photography and one of the reasons why many people first pick up a camera. Portraits focus on taking the look and personality of the object. They can be formal and posed or have a more of a candid texture. Portraits can be of individuals, groups of people, or even pets.

There are numerous places to shoot portraits, so pick where you want to focus, and then experiment with lighting and angles to see what works for you.

There are numerous different types of photography that can be performed, including:

Flatscreens – Pretty bare bones, but quite efficient. Use them for anything from taking client pictures to branding pictures.

Lenses – You want to use different lenses to vary your angles. The competition is fierce, so playing it safe isn’t a bad idea.

Flatscreens – Best for candid, natural looking photos.

Lenses – You can use a wide angle lens for landscapes or a telephoto for interior shots.

Overshoots – Best used for large conferences with multiple images on display, e.g. sports center photos.

Zoom – A great tool to quickly zoom in and out on any shot.

How is Portrait Photography Different Than, say, for Branding?

Branding photos get tons of attention and, more often than not, hate from the masses. The unfortunate truth is, brand photos require a pretty sizeable amount of time and effort to do well. For those lacking the time to spend the time to shoot such photos, consider photography to capture the personality look and feel of a business, product or marketing representative. Or maybe you are the one who is most currently presenting your brand or company in a given situation. No matter your angle, the only thing that makes a great portrait is the quality of your lighting. In formation, it seems simple enough to take a simple snapshot of your product. However, that simple turn of the camera is what allows photographers to become masters of light and positioning to capture the nuances of everything from pose to expression.

Important and Practical Things to Know

Specific lighting should always be your first go-to for any type of photos you are working on. Several things will affect the quality of light the best, such as the size and shape of the subject. Dangling hair, bright lights, drafts, shadows, reflects, reflections and mirrored surfaces are the most common contributors to such issues.

From experience, it’s worth mentioning that a wide angle lens, like the ones we’ll be discussing, is more accurate than a telephoto. However, they vary in cost drastically and may not be the cheapest option for you to pick up.

Unlike the regular selfie photo you take with your phone, a selfie with a wide angle prime lens helps you capture every little detail in your spouse’s lost hair.

If you’re still not sure how to start there are some great posts in this blog post on The Art of Portraiture.

Take time to pose. Eric Olson gives a great video tutorial demonstrating poses, where you should emphasize the eyes and nose.Notice how there is a variety of light and shade in the photo above? Do your own research about lighting to determine the type that will work for your photos and to achieve the best look and feel to your subject.What about color? Well, if you’re starting from scratch, start by using neutral gray for your photos. Don’t feel obligated to use “true” white or black, either. Color is a personal preference that can vary from photo to photo. Look at the houses that you and one friend or family member fronted and the photos that you both took together. Do you notice any similarities and differences? Now, experiment a bit by mixing and matching digital photos.

Getting into flowery poses using painting techniques isn’t really the point (see the post on flowers for more about that). But if you really want to capture a landscape or mood in your photos, consider using a soft focus lens this time. If you want your photos taken in what Zoompf calls “slofies” (slo-flower), focus on heavy petals, deep, strong lines, and astounding colors.

My husband, James Lowe, likes to create a slower, softer image. He prefers to take photos of a beach, an autumn forest, or the ocean. His process is to take multiple photos, compose them into a grid, and then arrange them into something like this. By choosing focal lengths and by not making each photo the most amazing image you can, he can take photos of unique and interesting subjects.

One last weather tip for portraits. Light boxes can create an unnatural lighting effect. Instead of trying to light each element directly, use a diffuser to diffuse the light and add softness to your shots. It’s better to get caught in the feels of the moment than have your subjects recognize your lighting is fake. Once you have your basic portraiture strategy perfected, your photos will take on a whole new level for both you and your subject. Pretty soon, your personal photography portfolio will be a piece of art.

Okay, I’ll admit; I took this picture — sorry, I’m not that good at it. Before you start taking those crazy selfies, this guide explains some techniques that make it easier.

Things to do before you take photos:

Pick an ideal style for your photos (artsy, formal, relaxed, etc)

Choose an ideal lens (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, etc)

Focus on the ideal lighting (fluorescent or natural light)

Select your camera settings (speed, aperture, exposure time, etc)

Set your background higher or lower than the ideal

Familiarize yourself with your camera and its settings

How to take the best photos when you’re first learning how to do it:

1. Make sure the lighting is right

A lot of times people think they need a bright background (looking at you, iPhone or digital camera) but thinking about what to use as the foreground will prevent your facial features from displaying its best. A sunny day doesn’t count as an ideal photo because it means the background is too dark. Moreover, the exposure time should be as short as possible, since it will last for just a few seconds. Try to use natural light. In a well-lit room, you should be able to take enough photos without having to bounce or hold the camera.

2. Keep a relaxed face

A lot of facial expressions are extremely difficult to control. If you’re going to be relaxing, make sure to keep a flat face, no matter how happy you are. A certain expression is needed to express decisive emotions (e.g. embarrassed, overwhelmed, pleased, etc). If you don’t have the skill to use a flat expression with a relaxed face, then make an effort not to be stiff. Stiff muscles make the face look stiff and unnatural, which won’t make your photos look natural.

3. Use a wide angle lens

A wide angle lens is a great tool if you want to put a lot of emotions between you and your subjects. It allows you to capture the upper part of your face in each photo. Most photographers use this lens for portrait photos and it gives the widest depth of field.

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