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Portrait Photography Tips

11 Most Useful Portrait Photography Tips for Beginners

Last updated on Oct 23, 2018 by Waseem Abbas

Are you interested in improving your portrait photography? As a photographer, you may understand the basic concept of portrait photography, but there are a lot that you can do to capture the best portrait. In this article, we share the 11 most useful portrait photograph tips for beginners.

These are the methods we’ll be teaching you.

  • 1. Camera Settings
  • 2. Plan the Pose
  • 3. Introduce Props
  • 4.Β Change Shooting Angles
  • 5. Frame the Portrait
  • 6. Clothing & Environment
  • 7. Kids Are Artists
  • 8. Take Help
  • 9. Be a Magician
  • 10. Communicate But, KISS!
  • 11. Photo-walks Are Amazing

The goal of portrait photography is to capture the soul of your model, and show their originality in the portrait. Our hope is that these portrait photography tips will help you do just that.

1. Camera Settings

A man smiles at his camera

First thing you need to do is to understand your camera settings for portrait photography. A professional DSLR camera has many options including shutter speed, exposure compensation, aperture, ISO, lens, etc.

You should check the exposure and composition to make sure that the object is bright enough. We recommend that you use reflectors for best results.

2. Plan the Pose

A photographer helps to pose a man

Planning the pose is extremely important for portraits. The biggest challenge you will face is camera shyness.

You should choose a pose where your model is comfortable, so they can fully express themselves.

In my experience, kids are easy to work with as they are always full of energy, whereas you have to work a bit harder with elder folks.

3. Introduce Props

Overhead shot of a boy surrounded by toy cars

Often people are afraid of making mistakes while in front of a camera. To combat their nerves, it’s helpful if you can introduce a prop.

A prop can be anything such as chewing gum, toys, keys etc. It will distract them from the big camera lens between you two, so you can capture their best moments.

4. Change Shooting Angles

A photo of people kissing at a tilted angle

The angle you shoot the photo can make a huge difference when it comes to the quality.

You should consider lighting as an important factor when moving around. If you are using natural light, then you should adjust your angles accordingly.

If you are shooting kids, then we recommend you to go down on your knees for the best portrait.

Always try to move around and take each shot from multiple angles to give you plenty to work with when editing.

5. Frame the Portrait

A portrait framed by the inside of a park bench's arm rests

If at all possible, you should try find an angle which can add a frame in your portrait.

Having your subject in the middle of the frame with a good background makes a stunning portrait.

It allows you to put your model as a primary focus while offering tons of scenery around them.

6. Clothing & Environment

Smiling family in varied clothing

If you’re doing a family portrait, then we recommended taking multiple shots in different environments.

The more you plan in advance, the better it is. If you can get your clients to change clothes between shoots to add more variety, then it will help you get better results.

7. Kids Are Artists

A boy grinning at the flower his mother is holding

If you have ever shot a session with kids, then you know that most kids don’t like staying at the same place.

That’s why we recommend asking the parents to engage with the kids in an activity. While they are distracted in the activity, you will be able to snap some of the best shots of the day.

8. Take Help

A woman holds a lighting prop over a baby

As a professional photographer, you must know the ups and downs during the shoot.

Holding the reflectors, moving the lights, and other things have to be checked. You should take someone with you on the shoot for help.

Having a second opinion is also helpful in brainstorming ideas for poses and can make your life a lot easier.

9. Be a Magician

Ballerinas dance on a sunken ship

Do you know your model thinks you are a magician who can make every shot a perfect one?

Well, you can be a magician. We recommend you not to talk about the technicalities of photography with your client.

Miracles do happen, but to leave everything on luck is not a good habit. You should edit the photographs before returning them to your customer. Check our list of 9 best photo editing software for photographers.

10. Communicate But, KISS!

1 + 1 = 2 in 3D numbers

KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The formula works in all professions. In photography, you must make sure that you keep the communication simple with your model.

Let them ask you questions, and do your best to be polite in your answers. It will help you better understand each other, and you will be able to capture the best portraits.

11. Photo-walks Are Amazing

Four photographers silhouetted against a sunset

All experts were once beginners.

Just like you, there are others who are trying to learn and get better at portrait photography.

We recommend you to join photo-walks and local photography meetups to learn from others and help each other get better.

We hope this article helped you get started with portrait photography. Don’t forget to share your experiences with us in comments below. Also you may want to check out article on how much it costs to start a photography business, or tips for the first-time wedding photographer.

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  1. Hi guys,

    So I have been in the market for a new camera. Been looking at Canon’s, but and torn between that and a sony. Do you guys have any input into which may be better suited for me? I wont be doing ‘professional’ photgraphy, but it is a possibility down the road. I saw on http://www.bestcamerahq.com that it had the EOS Rebel T5i rated pretty high, and after reading some reviews I think it may be a good choice. My budget is around 1,000$, my last camera was. Do any of you have any experience with the EOS T Model? Thanks for any input.

    1. Hey Sarah,

      I’m Chris, the lead developer on Envira. I also happen to be a photographer πŸ™‚ I’m a Sony shooter, but have shot with friends’ cameras of all brands. In the grand scheme, all companies have some solid system, so it’s more about what you prefer. I suggest also looking at the lens line up, so when you invest in glass as the years pass by you can buy a body that has the same mount. That way you won’t have to re-invest in new lenses. The Canon t5i is a good camera and Canon has a great lens line up. With Sony, for that budget you’d be with the a6000-a6500. If you don’t need 4k video the a6000 is still a great camera and you can find that for a really good price currently. Try to find a store locally that has both models on display, hold them see if they feel comfortable in your hands. That will give you a good idea what camera feels better to be carrying around.

      Cheers, Chris

  2. I love portrait Photography. I like taking wide portrait Photographs. Canon works tremendously for portrait photography. Some of your tips are very helpful for me to try those with my DSLR camera using lens.

  3. Nice and awesome tips man! I love capturing photos/ subject. It helps me a lot on what should i do on my next photograph

    1. Hey Maui, I’m glad you like it. Why don’t you Tweet your photos using our hashtag #EnviraPOTD and we will share it in our Photograph of the Day section. πŸ™‚

  4. The best part of your article is when you talked about how you must consider moving around in taking each shot to make sure that you’ll be able to come up with plenty of work with when editing. My son is interested in photography, and I want to help him in pursuing his passion. Since he’s a beginner, it will totally be great for him if he has a place where he can move around and do some practice shots. This is to make sure that he’ll be able to understand the basics of photography. It’ll be great for him to join a photography tour to practice his skills. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Great stuff! It can really help at the beginning. Like you said, moving around is necessary for good photo, along with patience and little luck! Also, like KISS tip!

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