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Create a perfect photo-portrait in just a few steps

Updated on July 13, 2017

This is how our final product should look

A really nice and well-edited photo of myself, which is helpful for our guide
A really nice and well-edited photo of myself, which is helpful for our guide

What you need to get started

First off, get me right: you don't need a professional DSLR camera like I have, most phones these days have 4K resolution cameras, which is awesome and helpful.

But, if you want to look professional I recommend renting or buying a good digital camera, and my all-time favorite must be the Nikon D3300. For its low price and size, it actually does a really good job at taking sharp and crispy photos. It's also got a movie mode in case you want to become a movie-maker, but more on that in another article.

The background I chose for my photo
The background I chose for my photo

Worrying about the background

Once you got your camera, you should take some time to arrange the background. I recommend going against a wall, like I did, a simple-patterned wall or if you are outside, try having something beautiful as your background. Some examples:

  • A modern building
  • An old building
  • The sea
  • Your front-yard (but only if it's not messy)
  • A street (watch out for cars though)
  • A landscape

I like taking photos inside, so the sun isn't directly above me, so I can choose a nice background and so I can set my camera easily.

Arranging the camera

After you're done with the background, find a nice place to place your camera on. Now this is very important, as you don't want shaky and messy photos, you want that crispy professional look. What I recommend doing is buying a tripod, but if you can't afford one and/or want to save money, you can use some books as a stand, just arrange them on a table and make sure they don't collapse.

You should arrange your camera so you are the middle of the shot. Now, this is not always necessary, as sometimes, you can take photos in which you are on the right/left of the photo, or you want to shoot your torso only.


I say this again, but you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive studio lights. Maybe your lamp would help build up that warmness of the photo, and leave some curtains open, let a little glimpse of sun fall onto your photo.

Remember: your photo hasn't got to be really shiny and bright. Sometimes, the best photos are a little dark. That extra feel of mystery gives the photo exactly what it needs. Just remember this: if your face is going to be smiley, there is no need for the photo to be dark. It goes the other way around too: if you are going to have a sad or mysterious face expression, than you rather make the photo darker.

What is the photo about?

Every photo tells a story. So ask yourself "What am I sharing through this photo?".

Pick your best facial expression. You may have a beautiful smile! Or have a cocky look when you raise your eyebrow. Or maybe you just happen to become more attractive when thinking about something. Pick the one that suits you. Now here are a few tips to always look great in photos:

  • If you decided to smile in the photo, don't just fake it. Make it real! Think about that lame joke your dad told you when you were 10, or think about your friends laughing hard, this works for me every time! If you're gonna fake it, it will instantly become awkward.
  • But, if you fake it, do it in style: don't raise or smile with half of your mouth! Not cool. Try to make all your mouth muscles work! Pinch your eyes, try to imitate that Chinese guy look.
  • You shouldn't face directly to the camera. Only if you got a perfect face or perfect Photoshop skills. Showing all of your face makes all the impurities show and thus leave a really dirty face. Though this can be corrected in post-production. Try to look 30 degrees away from the camera.
  • Heads up!(literally) Looking down shows that triple chin. Not cool.
  • Wear something stylish. If the photo is serious, you may want to put a shirt on or a whole suit if it's something serious. If the photo is casual, pick a T-shirt, but what I prefer is picking one that doesn't have any inscriptions on it. This way, the attention of the viewers isn't on the shirt, but on your face!
  • Accessorize! Put on your brand new watch, get a pair of glasses, and maybe slide a hat there too! But don't overdo. You know the limit.

Try one of these styles. Find out what is best for you!

Try the most serious face you got. Maybe you will instantly become a macho-man. Or woman.
Try the most serious face you got. Maybe you will instantly become a macho-man. Or woman.
Try to think of some existential problems, like what is the meaning of life?
Try to think of some existential problems, like what is the meaning of life?
Think of something funny, like a turtle dancing.
Think of something funny, like a turtle dancing.

Editing and post-production

Once you are all set up, you take your photo. You must look great! Awesome! Now the most important part: editing the photo!

Now here, here is where it gets interesting. And here is the part where I suggest you actually invest some money in. You obviously can't edit them in MS Paint. And you can't pick one of those lame Instagram filters. They're overused.

What I suggest is buying a license for Photoshop Lightroom. Now if you are really advanced you can take it to the next level and buy Photoshop itself. Yes, it will cost you more, but your photos will turn out flawless.

What is Photoshop Lightoom?

Photoshop Ligtroom is a software produced by Adobe that allows you to modify photos, add gradients, change noise spills, add vignettes, and play with your photo until it turns out great!

What should I do once I bought Lightroom?

You can watch a ton of tutorials on YouTube on it. My tip is to play with it until it looks awesome. But again, don't overdo. You should know the limit. I think that every photo has its own story, so you must tell it through details. Add a little gradient on the sides. Blue on a side and orange on the other. This way, the photo will look like there is a battle between to sides and you are in the middle of it. Think of something that catches the eye! Lightroom is like secondary make-up. It's doing a great job at it!

Watch this video for help on Lightroom

And you're done!

This is approximately how you want your photo to turn out. Slick, crispy sharp and just awesome!
This is approximately how you want your photo to turn out. Slick, crispy sharp and just awesome!

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    • lsmith131 profile image

      Lanecia Smith 6 months ago from Ohio

      Great article Marius. Thank you for providing these useful tips! I am a beginner at photography and learning how to use my Canon Rebel. Your advice will will help me out a lot.