ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to make your photos portfolio ready, especially portrait photography

Updated on August 16, 2016
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, B.A., Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX., has been writing cool and interesting articles for the internet world since 1995.

Model shots


Analyze your best photographs

Specializing in one type of photography would necessitate that you choose your best photo shoots in that one category. Otherwise, choose the best of your photos from the categories that you are best at photographing.

Portrait photography is where the money is. Include your best people shots for sure. Practice taking portrait photos as much as possible. You'll never get as good as Annie Leibovitz if you don't. Your style will develop itself over time. The only way to be a great photographer is to take thousands and thousands of photos!

An entire portfolio of portrait shots is not uncommon. Best tips for any kind of photography and especially portrait shots:

  • you must be able to connect with people almost instantly
  • control your lighting and background - experiment with both
  • be aware of shadows and how they will appear in the photo
  • shoot from many different angles, not just the standard "mug shot"
  • a person's eyes are the most important part of the shot
  • learn the "rule of thirds" and practice using it.
  • practice taking action shots - don't have your subject just stand there doing nothing
  • use props and shoot candid shots
  • get up close - REALLY close. 5 feet away is the maximum, unless you are doing landscapes.
  • frame your subject - surround the central idea with something
  • experiment with different lenses, exposures, timing and movement
  • fill the frame in your camera with your subject - this is also known as cropping in camera
  • shoot interesting subjects, not boring ones. If the subject isn't interesting on its own, then find a way to make it interesting!

Favorite portrait shot

Bluebonnet prize winner
Bluebonnet prize winner | Source

Portrait Composition

A friend of mine from work wanted to have some photos of her children to enter in a local photo contest. She had seen my work and asked me if I would take the photo. Of course I would! Great practice for me and a fun thing to do for a friend.

The top photo is my favorite because it was natural lighting; it was candid; it focused on an interesting subject (mother and baby in a hammock); it had a great background; it focuses on their eyes and it was easy to fill the frame with the whole subject and still attend to the law of thirds.

The second portrait was the prize winning photo. Even though it's a pretty standard photo of children in a field of bluebonnets, it does have good color, background, and subject expressions.

The kids weren't too thrilled to be out in a field, but they were putting on brave faces. The blue jean jumpers were just right for setting off the bluebonnets and their faces. The photo has a little bit of "wow" factor and a lot of personality.

The Bride - always an important portrait!
The Bride - always an important portrait! | Source

The requisite bridal photo

Women are always beautiful as a bride. It could be the culmination of joy, perfect makeup, awesome hair-do, incredible gown and the "glow" that shines on every bride's face.

If you want exceptional bride portraits, take them outside! Shoot in natural lighting with soft shades and reflections. Most bridal shots are vertical, so change the angle and shoot horizontally focusing on the face and eyes. That's where the action is.

Model shots

Models need what they call "head shots". They are not always of their heads, of course. I will always try to take unusual shots of models. Any decent photographer can take a "head shot" and charge lots of money for it, but I want to try to capture something a bit more elusive than that.

This shot is an example of "depth of field" in a photo. It also captures motion. It appears as if the model is walking down a runway.

Depth of field is easily captured by posing a model on a pathway. The background always seems to be receding while making the subject seem to jump to the front of the photo. If you can find a pathway with a little curve in it at the back, so much the better.

This photo looks best in black and white and most models need some black and white shots available because black and white photography shows a lot of detail. In fact, most photographers practice many black and white shots just to focus on the details.

In today's world of photo editing software, you can shoot digital portraits in color and convert them to black and white with the click of a mouse, so spend some time thinking about how your shots will look in black and white.

Change the angle of a photo!
Change the angle of a photo! | Source

Perspective and angles

One of the most interesting things you can do to improve your photography is to change the angle of a shot. Turn your camera horizontal, then vertical, then get on the ground or high above the subject. Shoot from the left, from the right, from behind.

Move around your subject or let the subject move around you. Don't take boring straight on photos (unless that is what you are after). Create some interest in your photos!

Whether you are shooting professionally or just for your own personal scrapbook or album, make your photos portfolio ready!

Types of Photography

What type of photography would you specialize in if you could?

See results

© 2011 Lela


Submit a Comment
  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    6 years ago from Western NC

    I do mostly nature and macro photography, but you're right: the money is in doing portraits. I need to get doing that. Voted up and shared on my Facebook page. :)

  • ehsan121 profile image


    7 years ago from Karachi

    I might get a camera just because of this hub.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    7 years ago from Wales

    What a brilliant hub. I have not been interested in photography for long but even thopugh itis my partners domain I am very interested.

    Thank you so much for this one which I am bookmarking into 'My Most Useful Hubs.'

    Take care and enjoy your day.


  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    7 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Lela,

    Loved seeing your examples of photography and explanations of how to make photos even better. My favorite was the black and white photo. The model's white outfit really stands out against that interesting background. Up and useful votes!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    My dad was a photo engraver. I guess it is in my genes! I've always loved photography.

    People tell me I have a gift for explaining things. Personally, I think people have a mental block about learning some things. I could never understand politics, for instance.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    7 years ago from south Florida

    This is outstanding information, Lela, for people like me who do not possess the photography gene. Thank you.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    wow! See all the good stuff I learn following your commentary:) lol. Cool way to see it WD!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Good point, WD

  • WD Curry 111 profile image

    WD Curry 111 

    7 years ago from Space Coast

    Austinstar - an artist always sees the flaws in their work. The professional learns not to tell anyone else.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    So I did get the software out. It is printshop 2.0 deeee lux. It's desktop publishing stuff...I hooe it's easy to use. I'm going to mess around with it. I would never ask you to critique my photos! Omg! I can see/) lmao! Im very bad....but I do get lucky sometimes! I took a class in high school....but I skipped almost was 7th hour! The teacher was a mean ole harpy lady...I only went if we were developing photos or something.

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 

    7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    Damn - did you see the big zit on my face??? I was looking for a photo so I spent the last hour going through my old photographs. It was so much fun but so many of them are garbage. Old cameras not working properly, bad lighting, bad - just bad - framing. But it is about the memories with those photographs. I also put my hand into professional photography at a time. I did it freelance for awhile... did a few senior pictures, family photos and stuff. It is a job of love!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Oh, heck, I make myself want to get out the camera and try harder. I think of every photo as an opportunity to improve. Please don't ask me to critique a photo as I always spot the errors first - especially in my own work. I think this comes from spending 30 years having to be 100% error free when working with blood.

    So when I took my photography classes, I learned all about errors, it was hard to focus on what is right with a photo.

    It's like looking at someone with a zit on their face. All you can see it the darn zit.

  • mljdgulley354 profile image


    7 years ago

    A very useful hub. I'm not very good yet a photography but I enjoy looking at great photos

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    You make me want to get my camera out and try harder. You always set the gold standard and you've done it here too:). I love those photographs. Especially the black and white - it almost looks supernatural. The blue bonnet - gorgeous. I can totally see why it wwas a winner! Beautiful work!

    Up and everything...not funny though. This weekend I'm going to try out that software program for photos. You and Stacy put me to shame:) lol

  • oceansnsunsets profile image


    7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

    Great hub! I love your photos and tips for taking them. I like the idea of placing your model on a pathway, and how the back recedes out, etc. The point of view with a different angle is also great. Thanks for sharing.

  • WD Curry 111 profile image

    WD Curry 111 

    7 years ago from Space Coast

    I went to art school. My photography teacher was great. I was not. I am glad for digital. This article was great. It is right on for a professioanl approach. You must be practical in the business. Until you are established as an artist, you had better know how to butter your bread. I know a couple of artistic pros who can shoot anything they want and it will sell. They will still do weddings, because they love to capture the event. They get top dollar, and you won't find the at the buffet.

    I think portrait his the hardest, and it doesn't hurt to be master of your lights. I am barely tolerable as a photographer, but I know what goes into it. I think it would be a good addition to a curriculum.

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 

    7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    These are some great tips. And I had long forgotten the main rule of The Rule Of Thirds. It makes me want to pull out all my old class books from photography class and really dabble in my photography. I haven't done it for awhile because I have always been so busy. Maybe some day soon!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)