Capture the Moment: A 10-Minute Technique Guide to Portrait Photography

Tips on How to Photograph Beautiful Portraits

In this day and age, almost everyone you know probably owns a DSLR camera, not just the professionals. If you’re thinking about studying to become a great photographer or just simply hopping in on the bandwagon, there are certain things you need to know before you head to the nearest camera shop.

portrait photography

One of the popular types of photography is portrait photography. Most photographers have found people to be their favorite subject for many reasons. One is the diversity in facial expressions. Another is a person’s capability of being instructed to act or pose in a certain way. And the list goes on and on.

A lot of people adore traditional portrait pictures, but some also prefer the creative and unconventional ones. What kind of portrait photographer do you want to be?

Before you answer that, take a look at this checklist.

What you need:

1. Camera

This is self-explanatory. However, you must know that it is advisable to get a camera that allows you to change lenses, especially if you’re serious about photography. Research on what camera model suits your needs best.

portrait images

Take control of your camera’s aperture to create more powerful images. Follow this guide and learn how to compose your photographs.

2. 50mm lens

There’s an appropriate lens for every type of photography. As with photographing portrait images, the best lens that you can start with is the 50mm lens. It’s inexpensive, which makes it a good choice for beginners. However, despite its affordability compared to professional lenses, it doesn’t discount the functionality.

the rules of portrait photography
Photo credits: richardland via

3. Light Source

Light is important in photography, regardless if you’re shooting outdoors or indoors. When shooting portraits, it is important that your subject’s face is well-lit. That’s one of the rules of portrait photography. If you opt to go outdoors and shoot with natural light, it’s best to set the shoot after sunrise or before sunset. It is easier to take photos during these hours when the sun is low, compared to the overhead lighting during midday. If you’re planning to shoot in a studio, gear up on the right lighting equipment: camera flash, lights, light modifiers, light meters, etc.

After you’ve completed your gear, you should start mastering how shooting portraits work.

How to take awesome portraits:

1. Look for the direction of the light.

Once you’ve found a light source, check where it is directed at. Make sure that the light illuminates your subject’s face from a higher angle. You’ll know that you got it right when there’s a catchlight, or ‘sparkle’, in his/her eyes. If your subject has deep-set eyes, however, you would need a light source from a lower angle. You can instruct your subject to tilt his/her head to capture the catchlight if you’re shooting outdoors. If you’re shooting in a studio, you can do the same or adjust the position of the lights.

2. Focus on the eyes.

The eyes are the window to the soul, after all. Avoid using auto-focus when photographing portraits. Set your camera’s focus to manual and toggle the focal point on your subject’s eyes. This way, your photo will become more compelling. It can make the viewers connect with the photograph’s subject in an emotional level. Also, position your subject towards a light source to get that ‘sparkle’ in his/her eyes.

3. Choose a good background.

In portrait photography, the focus should be, of course, on your subject. It would be best to choose a background that is clean and simple, to avoid the viewers getting distracted or confused on where to look. Stay away from busy and bright-colored backgrounds because they’ll take away attention from the person in the portrait. Also, the background should be appropriate for your subject – his/her personality, clothing, and facial expression. Even a plain wall would do just fine.

4. Shoot with the right aperture.

In most portraits, you’d notice that the backgrounds are mostly blurred to a point. To do this, you must tweak your settings to get the right aperture. The best setting for portrait photography is f/1.4. It blurs the background completely, urging the viewers to focus their attention on the subject right away. You can also set your aperture to f/2.8 or f/4, if you want a minimum depth of field. Aperture settings higher than these will just put everything in focus. However, if you’re taking a close-up shot, the f/1.4 setting might only focus on the eyes and blur out the rest of your subject’s face. Set your aperture higher bit by bit to get everything that needs to be focused in focus.

portrait photography tips
Photo credits: via Wikimedia commons

And that wraps up the basic portrait photography tips you must know before you get started. However, there’s a lot more to learn. Keep doing your research to get more ideas on how to improve your photography skills!

P.S. Once you’ve sharpened your skills and have built a collection of beautiful photographs, you can create a photo book and earn money out of it! Check out this article on how to turn your photos into a book.


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