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Portrait Photography Tips - Shoot like a Pro

Updated on November 21, 2012

Portrait Photography tips - 5 great points to shoot like a Pro


ortrait photography is the most popular form of photography.

Most people who know how to point and shoot a camera are all portrait photographers. However, there are of course, differences in its quality. Professional portrait photographers have certain characteristics that let them get the best out of their subjects.

A portrait photo does not only mean a person's image. In a way, it shows character and emotion. If you want to start shooting portraits and don't know the essential elements, fear no more because these five tips can give you a head start.


Building rapport with your subject is the first thing that you should learn. Interest in knowing your subjects is a plus.

If you get to know your subject and they know you, your they will become more comfortable in front of the camera. When the shoot comes, you have better chances of getting the best natural expressions of the people you are photographing.


Always make sure that your photos will show the personality of your subject. You will only know this if you know the person. Make sure that their personality shows in their faces. Personality usually appears when the subject is not expecting a shot, so you have to be ready to take the picture when the opportunity comes.


Most photographers prefer natural lighting. However since you want to emphasize the person's face and character, you should always consider using artificial lighting. Be sure that light is evenly distributed, or that it satisfies the angle that you want to emphasize. Lighting can have a great effect especially if your they want a serious picture.


Most portraits have light backgrounds to emphasize the subject. You can also use the environment to add more character to your subject. Also, be sure that the colors of your background and the dress of your subject compliment each other. Sometimes backgrounds become the flaw of a picture because the photographer took it for granted.


Be sure that you are ready before you go to the photo shoot. Not only that you have all the equipment that you need, but be sure that you can handle the job properly. Prepare all the necessary materials and be sure to bring a good topic for conversation so that your subject can relax while you are shooting.

Portrait photography is a really enjoyable hobby. If you're serious in making it your career, you can be sure that it can be lucrative as long as you perfect your craft. However, remember that you should have the heart for the job because portrait photography's first requirement is interest.

Factors to Consider in Determining the Best Angle in Photography

Many aspects have already been said up to now that dealt with the position of the camera in relation to its subject when it comes to photography.

The camera, however, may be focused on the subject from various angles that can also affect the shot. The three basic camera angles are eye-level, high, and low shots. Among the three, the two basic angles are the high and low angle shots.

Basically, the angle of the camera has an aesthetic and psychological significance when it is seen in the context of the story. This is because the photographer can project an air of domination depending on the kind of angle that he wants to use or the way he wants to emphasize the subject through a distinctive camera angle.

With this, camera angle speaks only for the context in which it is found. You can't surmise that the photographer wanted to express the whole concept or idea of the subject, in general, through camera angles. This is because camera angles only show a certain point of the story through the dominant position you may want to project.

Consequently, the correct determination of the best angle will render good picture of the subject that will, in some way or another, replicate the best view of the real scene. Keep in mind that the camera does not exactly capture the way the human eye sees a particular scene. Hence, it now depends on the expertise and skill of the photographer to determine the best angle to capture the best view.

There are many factors to consider in determining the best angle. Here are some of the basic and the most important factors in order to determine the best angle when it comes to photography:

1. Point of interest

This is the most basic factor that every photographer must learn to master. Photography should always have a point of interest. This is where the story evolves.

After determining the point of interest, the angle of the camera will follow by emphasizing on the kind of drama the photographer wants to express in his shot. The idea is to attract attention, to compel readers to see the picture and derive its meaning.

2. Lighting

In determining the best angle, lighting becomes a deciding factor in determining the personality of the subject in focus. This goes to show that the subject's personality may change depending on the kind of lightning used in taking the picture.

Indeed, camera angles may seem ordinary but they best define what photography is all about. That is why the determination of the best angle in photography is extremely significant.

Strategies for Portrait Photography

Photography is one of the most popular hobbies and professions in the world.

There is nothing like capturing fragments of reality and preserving it on film. There are many kinds of photography, but one of the most in-demand is portrait photography.

A good portrait is described as a picture with a quality image that captures both the physical features and character of the subject. Taking good portraits is very challenging because a photographer needs a subject with an upbeat personality that also reflects sensitivity and liveliness.

There are lots of factors that photography enthusiasts need to know in capturing the perfect portrait.

1. Revelation of the subject's character

For a portrait to be considered good, it must capture at least one element that shows the features and traits of the subject as well as one that captures his or her individuality. The image must reveal an important part of the subject's character that can be identifiable by those who know them. Therefore, it is quite challenging for a portrait to show the character of his subject if they have only met for the first time.

2. The right moment to take pictures

Definitely, the photo shoot should start when the subject is comfortable and at ease with his or her appearance and surroundings. Never shoot if the subject is tense or uneasy, because it will reflect in the pictures. There is no rule that says a conversation should stop when shooting starts, it can still continue especially if it makes the subject open up more to the photographer.

Remember that the subject does not need to smile to make the portrait look good. Oftentimes, a thoughtful or a serious expression is preferred since it reveals more of the subject's character.

3. Preparedness of the photographer

This is important since it is the photographer who takes control of a photo session. The subject must feel that the person behind the camera knows what he's doing and is experienced enough to tell the subject how to pose. The photographer himself must be prepared and relaxed throughout the session.

4. Right kind of lighting

Probably the best light that can be used for capturing the personality of the subject is natural daylight. The variety of lighting choices brought about by outdoor conditions gives more creative leeway for the photographer. Having the subject sit near the window can also produce great effects. The only disadvantage of natural light is that it's not always consistent. This is the reason all photographers must utilize artificial lighting. All photographers must have studio flashes. Also, the position of the photographer in relation to the subject can also be shifted in order to maximize the light available.

5. Appropriate background

Simply put, a bad background can destroy a picture. Always pay close attention on the scenery behind the subject when framing shots. There are many creative options that be used when shooting outdoors. The subject can be made to pose beside or in front of colorful flowers or leaves, the sea or the sky. To reduce the effect of a distracting background, a photographer can make use of long lenses or an expansive aperture. For indoors, one can use black or grey cloth for the background, then adding colored transparent plastics over the flashes to modify color.

6. Usage of costumes and props

Portraits usually are a rare photograph of a subject, and good costumes can make the portrait more interesting and valuable. You don't always need to use a full costume, sometimes a hint of it will make wonders, such as hats or scarves. Props should be used very carefully, and should not distract from the main subject of the photograph. A prop should establish the natural pose and mood of the one being photographed.

7. Framing

The kind of framing can already create the image desired by the photographer. It is recommended that photos be cropped before shooting. The image should be checked a few seconds before clicking the shutter. Images that are not needed should be excluded from the shot.

Producing the perfect portrait may seem hard at first but these tips can help novices so that they can shoot better pictures.

Check out this five star "must have" resource on Portrait Photography

The Best of Portrait Photography: Techniques and Images from the Pros (Masters (Amherst Media))
The Best of Portrait Photography: Techniques and Images from the Pros (Masters (Amherst Media))

Product Description

Featuring techniques and images from more than 40 of the industry's top photographers, this resource shows the best methods for lighting and posing individuals, couples, and groups, both on location and in the studio.

Details are included on how to pose subjects, elicit expressions, create dynamic compositions, and utilize traditional lighting setups.

Whether a photographer shoots weddings, group portraits, executive images or a little bit of everything, this book serves as a how-to guide and an idea file.

Fully updated with all new images and covering the newest digital technology and latest software versions, this resource is an indispensable guide for photographers.


Focus and get the best out of a shot

Taking pictures is an experience that is rewarding as well as memorable. Photography can be fulfilling as well as frustrating.

The following are basic tips and advice to get the most out of taking great pictures.

Taking pictures indoors

The best way to achieve a good focus indoors is by using a roll of film that has a speed of ISO 400.

There may be instances when pictures taken indoors are bit of a blur, the best way to solve this problem is by switching the automatic focus on your camera. This prevents from you having to manually focus and tirelessly concentrate on getting it sharp when the camera can do the work for you, in less time, making it easier for you.

Also, there is a reason why there is a flash on your camera. You need to use it especially when taking indoor shots. Pictures that are blurry are also the result of poor lighting. When this happens, the shutter of the camera is forced to open for a considerable amount of time therefore making the image blurry.

Dark photos could be prevented by using a flash. Indoor shots need to have a flash even if there is light available. To make sure though, it is highly advisable that one shot be taken with a flash and another without.

Batteries, batteries, batteries

Sometimes, trying to achieve focus can prove to be difficult especially if your camera is running out of power. You should always check your batteries. A flash system takes a lot of battery power and the sign that you need to have your old batteries exchanged for new ones is when your flash does not fire when taking that shot.

Get the glare out of your pictures

There may be instances when the final prints of your pictures may have a glare. Usually this happens when the flash reflects off mirrors, walls that are shiny, windows, tvs, etc. You may be able to avoid this by putting the camera on its side.

Frame and focus

Before clicking on that shutter button, focus on framing the shot you are taking. Be aware of the picture’s frame and try not to cut off the top of the subjects heads.

The best way to take pictures is with your bare hands. Remove gloves if you are wearing them and don't hold any objects while framing and focusing the shot. Doing such actually helps in avoiding the lens to be unnecessarily blocked.

What about pictures taken outdoors

These types of pictures may be taken using film that is ISO 100 where there may be light readily avaiable like during the day.

However, there may be instances where people may be squinting when their pictures are being taken. To avoid this, try to position people so they aren't facing the sun. It may be handy to have an umbrella handy.

Cases also occur where people appear dark or shadowy in the picture even if the pictures are taken outdoors. When this happens, it could be that the photographer was positioned directly towards the sun. As much as possible, the sun should be behind the person taking pictures. Or use a flash to reduce any shadows on the subjects being photographed, if it is necessary that the photographer be positioned towards the sun.

Most cameras have a capacity to lock on their focus. To do this, have your camera point towards a spot that is bright. Keep pressing on the shutter halfway, without going overboard and pressing it completely. Then, move the camera to the picture you are to take and press the shutter fully.

Be aware not just of the subject you are focusing on but on any backgrounds available where your subject is positioned. Pay attention to trees or any objects that could appear behind the subject that could ruin the shot. There have been instances where a flag pole seems to be coming out of a model’s head, when actually the shot was just poorly framed and focused.

All in all, focusing is easy if you put your mind, heart and eyes into it.

Filters for Special Effects

Have you seen picture ads in magazines that look so nice that they don't look real at all? Some of them have been edited using photo editing software. But, definitely, most of them have been taken using a camera with a special kind of filter.

There are a wide variety of filters to choose from when adding to your camera equipment. There are filters for either color or black-and-white shots or both. Each filter has its own function, whether it be for enhancing the color contrast, improving sharpness, highlight flares and more. And there are filters for special effects like those photos normally seen in magazines and advertisements.

Here are some examples of filters that can be used to enhance the image by adding special effects to them.

Star and Cross Effect Filters

There are different star effect flares available such as Star-Six and Star-Eight. The Star-Six has six-pointed light flares, while Star-Eight has eight-pointed flares. These flares add more brightness to images. This filter is good when taking pictures of streetlights, theme-parks during the night or sun-reflections on glass structures.

A cross screen filter is similar to star filters except that the flare is four-cross. It also gives a dramatic effect to bright points in the image. It is ideal for taking photos of ladies wearing jewelry.

Spectral cross filter produces cross effects as well as soft-focus effects normally desired for portraits, outdoor shots with direct lighting or back lighting with increased cross effects. It is a filter with two transparent and colorless optical glass in a rotating frame with a black gauze-like fiber in between.

Vario cross filter gives an effect of four rays of light coming out from each light source point. It is a filter consisting of two glasses with parallel lines etched on each glass. The front glass can be rotated separately to modify the angle of the light rays.

Close-up Filters

As the name implies, these filters are for close-up photography which are better than zooms. These filters are available in +1, +2, +3, +4, and +10 diopters with the higher number giving a much closer shot.

Macro close-up filters are good for taking shots of small insects, flowers and other tiny objects at close-up. It has a +10 diopter rating with a 2-element, 2-group construction lens.

Split field filter takes a close-up shot of half of the image while the other half is normal. This is used for keeping in focus both close and far objects at the same time.

Multivision Filters

To create a fantastic effect of repeating an object in a single photo, multivision filters are used. These are available in 3PF, 3F, 5F, 6F, and 6PF where the number determines the number of times the object will be repeated. It works great with dark backgrounds or larger objects.

Multivision filters are made up of optical glass accurately cut into different facets. Color multivision filters add different colors to the image. There are two types available – 3F with three faces in red, green and blue, and 5F with five faces equally divided into orange and green colors.

Misty Spot Filters

This type of filters provides a blurring effect of the background of a clear and sharp central image. There are four types of these kind available.

A breezing filter gives unidirectional streaks of the blurred background. Gradual filter has streaks that seem to originate from the center image. The windmill filter has a blurring background that swirls about the center. The halo filter has blurring streaks that originate from a point at the edge of the field.

Diffusion Filters

Diffusion filters provide a soft focus effect on the image due to an irregular or uneven surface. This kind of filter is specifically used for portraits.

Center Spot Filters

The center of this filter has a clear spot that gives the center image a clear and sharp effect, while the background can have an effect of fog to make it romantic.

These are just some of the special effects filters available for professional and amateur photographers alike. It surely is nice to add even just one or two to your collection with the fabulous effects that it can provide on your shots.

Here are some Portrait Photography resources for you:

The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images

Artwork from 30 of the industry's top photographers is used to highlight both clear-cut shooting strategies and colorful, cutting-edge approaches to family portraiture in this handbook intended for idea gathering and inspiration. Advice on focal length, perspective, and maximizing the potential of digital equipment highlights the technical aspects of family portraiture while group posing strategies demonstrate how best to flatter each subject and convey a sense of family unity. A lengthy discuss...

Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers
Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers

Time-tested lighting strategies that will improve the quality of a portrait are detailed in this book for beginning photographers. Terminology used by industry pros is explained, the equipment needed to create professional results is outlined, and the unique role that each element of the lighting setup plays in the studio is explored. Photographers learn how color, direction, form, and contrast affect the final portrait. The concise text, photo examples, and lighting diagrams enable photographer...

The Art of Children's Portrait Photography
The Art of Children's Portrait Photography

Contemporary photographs that cleverly capture a child’s mood or personality—whether that’s a big, toothy grin or a teary tantrum—are easily created with the tips and techniques explored in this in-depth handbook. Often called “lifestyle photography,” modern techniques such as tightly cropped close-ups, vignettes, wide angles, and shallow depths produce images that are markedly less stiff and more expressive than traditional portraitures. From capturing great expres...


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent effort in explaining! For readers interested in learning how to light portraits with portable speedlights, here's another website on portrait lighting.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome tips for the newbie and more experienced photographer.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 

      7 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Great info...I willl be back here for referencing often.


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