10 Portrait Photography Tips for Beginners

Today I’m gonna write about portrait photography for the first time. I had not been very fond of this genre of photography because I used to feel it’s a bit complicated and requires a lot of expensive gear, soft boxes, prime lenses, and what not. But no, it is possible to click good portraits with what you have. And that’s what I am gonna show you today.


The first thing you need for portrait photography is a model. So you can ask your family members or friends to model for you. I’m sure they may all fancy having a professionally shot Facebook profile picture. If no one is around, you can click some self portraits. But whoever your model is, make sure she/he is comfortable while shooting. People can get pretty conscious in front of the camera. Maybe you can take them through your ideas and let them share their preferences too.


I’m gonna shoot with my 18-55mm kit lens at 50mm, and 70-300mm kit lens at 70 to 100mm. You can use any camera guys. Nowadays, mobiles also have a portrait mode that is pretty smart. I’m gonna set the least aperture my lens allows me to. If you have a fast lens, you may go to f/1.4 or f/2.8 but if you are a beginner shooting at such a wide aperture can be tough. So first start shooting at f/4 and then as you get confident lower your f-number. ISO will be the least 100. I’m gonna use a tripod. If I have to capture movement like the model walking, and my images are turning out blurry, I may increase my ISO to 400 or 500.


In portrait photography the background is just as important as the subject. A busy or distracting background will take attention away from the person in your photo. You can start with a plain colour background. Or textured ones like a curtain, rugged wall, or wood panel. Another technique is to include an object in the background to provide added interest or context. eg A shopkeeper in his shop, a chef in the kitchen, or a photographer with a camera.


Generally speaking, natural daylight is the most attractive light source for portrait photography – especially if you don’t have dedicated studio lighting. However, you will not always be shooting in the sun. If you are indoors, you can start near some nice window light and create a portrait using just natural light. You may also consider investing in an external flash that can be used to create nice dramatic lighting. You can also consider making a reflector at home using some white paper or aluminum foil or white sun board.


The model should dress as per the background and lighting. eg if the background is black, wearing black may not complement the photo. So you can pick red or yellow, anything that may add contrast. Also try to wear plain colours and not have funky designs or big logos on the shirt because the attention will then be averted from the subject’s face.


Get your subject to pose in a way that complements them while keeping in mind the lighting, camera angle, and background. Try out various combinations of poses and angles to find the best options for your shoot. Before the shoot, google and make a gallery of some cool and creative poses for you to try out.


In addition to poses, play with emotions too. Get your subject to experiment with different moods and emotions in your image. Make sure that you avoid fake smiles and blank looks.


Use single point focus (not zone or multiple points). Do not let the camera choose what to focus on. Almost always focus on the subject’s eye. If one eye is closer to the camera than the other, focus on the near one. If you are shooting a wide shot, focus on the subject’s head. You could have the perfect composition and exposure, but if the eyes aren’t sharp, the entire image suffers.


Bear in mind the various rules of composition that you have learnt like the rule of thirds, rule of space, etc. eg You can try to fill the frame with the subject, to capture the attention of the viewer. Also try out implied leading lines to emphasize where the subject is looking in the photo.


You can also try some creative portrait photography hacks, like changing the shape of the light, using light of different colours, trying various props, depicting a story through your portrait etc.

So guys I hope my tips for portrait photography give you some ideas and many great photographs!

Also Read – Rule Of Thirds


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