Portrait photography requires a delicate balance. It is important to remember all the details and do it right. Technically, you must consider choosing the right lens, setting up your camera, and composition. But you also need communication skills with your subject to guide them and make them feel comfortable. These tips will help you improve your portrait photography skills.

The most important aspects are lighting, color, accessories and exposure settings. This will allow you to master portrait photography. You can read the entire guide to portrait photography or jump to any section using the quick links. Let’s start with the art and craft of posing.

These tips can only be enjoyed if you have a great camera, ideally a DSLR. For our top picks, look at our guide best cameras for creatives. You can still make a good deal with a high-quality camera phone, especially if your smartphone photography tips are followed.


We’ll save you three years of learning with one simple piece of advice. Don’t pose your subject unless you are working with a professional model. You’re likely to photograph family and friends, so making them pose for photos will only make them feel anxious and unnatural. You won’t be able to pose models well if you aren’t a skilled portrait photographer who has worked with them before. You can do some things to make your subject happy, relaxed, and comfortable. This can help make for better shots.

Portrait photographers often get asked this question by their subjects: “What do you do with your hands?” This is a common question portrait photographers hear a lot. It’s often a sign that the subject is nervous, which can lead to poor photographs. Give your subject something to do. You could give your subject something to do, such as thumbing through old photos or playing with some of their jewelry. Pockets can be a great way of hiding fidgety hands. However, to achieve that boyband/girl band look, it’s best to avoid taking photos directly at your subject.

Giving your subject something to focus on and to do will help them relax. This can make a big difference in portrait photography. If your subject’s eyes seem strained, ask them to look to the side or close their eyes to fix them. This can make your portrait look elegant and timeless. However, you don’t need to be in their eyes while taking the picture.

,Curves and S-shapes should be made with your subject for larger portraits to create interest in the frame. Ask your model to move one shoulder or a leg to break up the lines in the body.

In portrait photography, it is important to establish a friendly relationship with your subject. Talk to your model more often than you photograph. This helps you build trust and rapport between you. You can also offer your model a drink or play music to keep you both entertained while shooting.


Natural light (sunlight) is the best way to lighten portrait photography. Lighting in this manner is all about the placement and blocking of light. A window is a great way to provide lighting for your subject. The walls surrounding it will block light and create a directional source of light. How diffused the light is will depend on the size of your window.

Soft light is light that has been diffused. This light is flattering for portraits as it helps hide pores and smoothen wrinkles. On overcast days, you’ll see soft light outside through shade or north-facing windows that don’t get direct sunlight.

The images shown above show no direct sunlight rays through the windows. Therefore, the light is heavily scattered. This diffused light is directional and softens facial features.

Hard light is direct sunlight, regardless of whether the model is indoors or outdoors. Hard light is more difficult to control when just starting in portrait photography. Hard light can create extreme brightness levels, from dark shadows to bright highlights. It enhances skin texture and casts unflattering shadows.

Also, it is difficult to get good exposure to direct sunlight. Highlights are too bright, and shadows too dark. Your subject may be forced to squint when looking at the sun on top of this.

Perfect portraits can be captured in both the dark and light. This is a great and quick way to set up a portrait. You can place your subject directly in front of the window, and then you can take photos from a distance. As the light enters the room, it falls off quickly.

For soft shadows that are stunning on the face, ask the subject to turn towards you. Or, have them look out of the window for a more accented profile. This could expose the subject too much.


Your portrait’s appearance will be affected by your choice of clothing and styling. Use neutral tones and earth tones like browns, greys, and whites for a timeless, classic look. If you are confident behind the camera, you can also add some color to your photos by using bright colors, make-up, or vibrant backgrounds.

Match the white balance of the camera to the light source to capture accurate colors. Does it get sunny? Choose the sunny option. Shade? Shade? Lightbulbs indoors? Tungsten, you guessed it!

These light sources all look different: sunlight is more yellow, shade is darker, and light bulbs are brighter. The camera will adjust its white point to reproduce the correct colors if it is set at the right setting. You can check if things look right or not by shooting in RAW format and then changing it later.


You don’t need much extra equipment if you already own a DSLR to start taking amazing portraits. There are a few tricks that you can use to get your portraits to the next level.

For cool effects, try placing translucent objects in front of your lens. This works well with transparent objects such as jewelry or CDs. The CD was placed right in front of the lens to create the photo. This reflection of the sun’s light gives the portrait a subtle light flare and a colored tint.

You can also use smoke grenades to look great. However, they should be used outside when there is no wind. Your subject must remain visible. Solid objects like leaves and flowers can be used, but they are best placed around the edges of frames. This can help create intimacy in portraits. It can also work well for romantic couple photographs. To make these techniques work, keep the accessory close enough to the lens that it doesn’t fall out of focus.


The notion of a ‘portrait lens’ is a myth. You can choose the focal length and aperture limits that are most suitable for you. These two variables have a significant impact on the quality of your portraits. Three forms of focal length have an impact on photos: the field of vision, depth of field, and perspective distortion.

For example, wide-angle lenses (18mm) have a larger field of view which makes it easier for you to see the surrounding objects within your frame. You will also find objects closer to you and further away sharper with wide-angle lenses. Your focal length will be shorter, but the opposite. Telephoto lenses (70mm) have a shallow depth of field, which isolates subjects from other features.

The gallery below shows how perspectival distortion and focal length can affect a person’s features . To keep the same amount of space, we must step back farther from the person whose focal length is increasing. As the focal length increases, facial features become flatter.

A wider aperture means that it is more difficult to capture the light passing through it. This makes it harder to ensure sharp images. If clever optical engineering and coatings have not been used, all colors from red to green will resolve at different distances. This is why f/1.4 lenses tend to be more expensive than those with f/1.8 lenses. They are harder to make sharp when wide open.

This is not an issue for prime lenses with a fixed focal length, but adding a zoom range can increase the cost of the lens. The additional glass required and more difficult optical problems will make it more expensive. Zoom lenses that are less expensive will have variable apertures, such as f/4.5 to 5.6. The aperture narrows as you zoom in. This is because less light passes through the lens the further you zoom in. It forces you to adjust ISO or shutter speed, which can affect the depth of field. However, this is a minor concession if you are on a tight budget since constant aperture zoom lenses are often very expensive.

Camera settings

Shutter speed is the enemy of the beginner portrait photographer. Aperture is the best friend of the beginner photographer. The aperture controls the depth of field or how much of the scene we can focus. The affinity of f/16 will make nearly everything sharp from the foreground to the background. An aperture of only f/1.4 will leave a small amount of sharpness, while the rest will fall into a creamy blur.

There is no right or wrong way of using an aperture. You should use a narrow aperture (f/8,f/11,f/16) if the environment around the subject is equally important. If your subject is important or distracting, use a wider aperture.

For examples are shown in the gallery that illustrates how the aperture can alter the depth of field for portrait photographs. These were all taken with a Nikkor 50mm F/1.4G . The depth of field is enhanced by reducing the aperture from f/1.4 up to f/16.

The shutter speed is what determines whether the motion looks blurry or not. If the shutter speed is fast (1/1000 sec), moving subjects will be frozen still. A slow shutter speed (1/10sec) can cause blurring if the subject or the camera moves. Your subject must be blurred by the shutter speed of the camera. Keep the number equal to the focal length of the lens.

For example, 50mm lens = 1/50 sec, 200mm lens = 1/200 sec. This guideline is meant to be a guide, but it can be adjusted as needed. You can hold a 50mm lens in your hand for 1/20 seconds as long as everything is steady.

You should adjust your ISO to allow you to see your subject clearly. High ISO noise can be handled by modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras quite well. You shouldn’t worry about how high your ISO is. As a general rule, however, you should know that entry-level cameras will struggle to handle ISO1000 above. Our photography cheat sheet contains more information about camera settings.

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