How to Take Portraits

How to Take Portraits

It isn’t enough to buy a camera for $2000 and call yourself a professional, you need to know how to take portraits with any light and model. Follow these 20 easy steps for taking portraits like a pro having zero experience in it.

how to take portraits

How to Take Portraits in 20 Steps

Follow these easy steps to take gorgeous portraits easy and fast without much experience.

1. Set Your Subject at Ease

portrait photography ideas

Although it may seem too simple and obvious, I still remind you that interaction with your model is the basis for a successful photo session. Your task as a portrait photographer is to make your subjects relax and let them feel comfortable.

Tell an interesting story or joke, add a little fun to the workflow. As a result, discomfort and shyness will be overcome.

2. Learn the Composition Techniques

portrait photography poses

To take better portraits you need to use the composition correctly. It affects the visual perception of the image. The composition should be thought out well and contribute to a more advantageous capturing of the object.

One of the main principles of portraiture is to follow the rule of thirds. Do not forget to pay attention to the leading lines technique.

3. Incorporate Props

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While learning how to take good portraits, remember about the props. Many beginners avoid working with them because they are afraid to spoil the whole photo.

However, properly selected props can emphasize the individuality of your model, attract additional interest, and even relax the atmosphere during the shooting.

4. Frame Your Subject

portrait photography ideas

This approach presupposes using a frame within a frame. You can use the archway, door, mirror and other objects that will become the second frame in the image.

It is very important that the frame is in a clear focus and has a different shape. Thanks to this technique, your subject gets an extra focus and attract viewers’ attention.

5. Guide Your Subjects

portrait photography poses

Posing is an important part of good portraits. Since your models may not know how to show themselves best, you should monitor the process and give recommendations. Your instructions should be clear and simple. For example, you can ask to raise the chin slightly or straighten the back.

6. Choose the Right Background

best portrait photography location

The beauty of the location should not be the main criterion when choosing a background. First of all, it should match your portrait photography ideas themes, as well as clothing and poses.

The background should naturally complement the entire composition you have created.

7. Change Up the Angles

portrait photography poses

Would you like to know how to take stunning photos? Then be attentive with this trick! Do not limit yourself to shots at eye level. Of course, this is the classic option for photographing.

However, try to rise above your subject or go as low as possible. You will see how cool your portraits could be. All this is possible thanks to the angle changing at which your model is captured.

8. Try New Ideas

portrait photography ideas

Avoid using the same poses and ideas during a photo shoot. Soon this will not be interesting to you and your pictures will not be unique. Try to go beyond the usual photo templates. Look for inspiration in the work of other photographers, in the environment or on the net before you start taking portraits.

9. Capture Environmental Portraits

portrait photography ideas

Shooting people in the natural environment or in everyday life is one of the effective tips on how to take portraits. Take a camera in your hands and go out into the street.

Ask ordinary people to become your models for a few minutes. They may be shopkeepers, skateboarders in the park, street artists, etc. Capture them during routine activities. This is a great chance to hone your skills!

10. Outsource Your Photo Editing

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If you are only taking the first steps in taking portraits, I recommend entrusting picture editing to outsource services.

It will take less time for professionals to make real masterpieces out of your photos.

In addition, you can spend more time photographing and improving your skills.

Order Portrait Retouching $5 per photo
 

11. Never Shoot in Direct Sunlight

portrait photography lighting

If you are planning to realize your outdoor portrait photography ideas, you should take into account the weather and lighting conditions. Midday shooting on a sunny day can give you a lot of trouble.

Avoid direct sunlight. Otherwise, you will get unflattering deep shadows on the lower part of the face and on the eyes. The most advantageous conditions for shooting are a bit cloudy days.

You can also take pictures when the sun is not high in the sky. On a sunny day, you must take pictures in the shade to get amazing portraits.

12. Experiment with Lighting

portrait photography poses

You have many opportunities for various experiments with portrait photography lighting. It can be both natural and artificial lighting. For example, if you use side-lighting, your portrait will be a bit sterner. Silhouettes and backlit portraits evoke a sense of mystery and secrecy.

Try shadow photography, as a result, you will get excellent, beautiful images. Adjust the lighting correctly in accordance with your ideas, and you will achieve incredible results.

13. Choose the Right Lens

portrait photography settings

This tip concerns beginner portrait photography equipment. Do not use wide-angle lenses as they may distort the image. The best choice will be models with a width of less than 50mm.

Pro photographers believe that telephoto lenses are the most suitable for portrait photography. They can give the blurred background effect. For example, you can use Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM.

14. Use a Reflector

portrait photography lighting reflection

To make your portraits more attractive and give them a professional touch, I advise you to use reflectors. For example, one of the available options is Neewer Collapsible Reflector.

Put a reflector near the window if you are taking pictures indoors. You can also use this equipment during an outdoor shoot. Its main task is to fill in unnecessary shadows directing the light on the object.

Are you limited in budget? Do not be discouraged and use a sheet of plain white cardboard! It will cope with the tasks perfectly.

15. Use Shallow Depth of Field

portrait photography settings

Trying to figure out how to take better portraits? Then follow this tip: take photos with a shallow depth of field. This moment is very important for portraits as you focus on the subject and the background remains blurred or out of focus.

To get the desired result, you should select the smallest aperture number available in your lens. I usually choose f/1,4.

16. Shoot In Burst Mode

portrait photography poses

When people are in front of the camera, they may feel shy or tense. Therefore, I recommend taking a series of shots and not one shot. Thus, you can get one or even a few cool pictures, capture a fleeting emotion or look, and take a picture of an unexpected smile or movement.

If you use burst mode, then you have more chances to embody your studio portrait photography ideas successfully.

17. Choose the Proper Shutter Speed

portrait photography poses

Adjusting the shutter speed, take into account the situation and the subject. For more active movements, use high speed, and vice versa for slower objects. If we are talking about portrait photography settings, then the shutter speed should be no lower than 1/60. Otherwise, the camera may shake.

18. Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

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To get a correct exposure, many famous photographers use Aperture Priority mode. This option allows you to adjust the shutter speed automatically. Using this mode by default is one of the basic tips for taking portraits.

19. Shoot RAW

portrait photography poses

Even if you have already figured out how to take portraits and you get amazing shots, they still need post processing.

Therefore, to have more opportunities to improve your photos, you should use the RAW format when shooting. This gives you a chance to adjust White Balance or exposure if necessary.

20. Focus On Eyes

portrait photography poses

Eyes are the most expressive part of the face so you need to pay special attention to them if you want to take great portraits. Focusing on the model’s eyes, you give portraits a special power. Select a single autofocus (AF) point to achieve the desired results.

Best Portrait Photography Freebies

I have selected for you 5 excellent freebies that will help you enhance your portraits fast. Using them you can quickly fill your portrait photography gallery with great pictures without spending much time editing them.

Free Photoshop Action "Burn"



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If you need to add some expressiveness to your portrait, then choose this free PS action. It highlights and emphasizes facial features making the photo slightly darker. This plugin only affects the face of the model and the background remains unchanged.

Free Photoshop Action "Bright Eyes"



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The eyes are the center point of good portraits. Therefore, it is very important that they are expressive and bright. If you can’t achieve this effect, using a camera, try this Photoshop action.

Free Bokeh Overlay "Holiday Sparkles"



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Add some glowing lights all over the portrait. Test possible settings and choose something that makes your image a true masterpiece.

Free Lightroom Preset "Old Style"



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When you are taking portraits against a wonderful background, think about slight blurring and giving a matte effect. All this can be done using this filter. Most of all, it is suitable for backlit portraits.

Free Lightroom Preset "Pine"



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This LR preset will enhance soft skin tones and add pastel shades to your images. Photo retouchers often use it for portrait and boudoir shots.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments. read more