7 Quick Tips for Portrait Photographers

Some great quick tips for portrait photographers looking to improve their craft.

Taking portraits is simultaneously one of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences you can find as a photographer. On the one hand, it is incredibly fun to take photos of people as they exist in various environments and scenes. On the other hand, it is quite challenging to take those truly captivating portraits.

Though, with the right practice and patience you can vastly improve your work.

In this article, we share some quick tips for portrait photographers. From small adjustments like your settings to larger, compositional tips, we’ve got something for everyone.

Portrait photographers! Please leave a comment below with additional tips, we’d love to continue building on this.

1. Understand the Settings

The first thing you need to do is understand your camera settings for portrait photography. Almost every DSLR camera has many options including ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, aperture, lens, etc. If you are newbie try to check the settings and learn about it. This will help you properly expose and shoot in all kinds of different environments and locations.

2. Shoot in Manual Mode

Get comfortable shooting in manual mode. Shooting in manual mode on location is one of the best choices for photographers. Why?

It works great in all situations. On-location portraits, newborn photography, wedding photography and more. It’s very flexible!

The biggest benefit of shooting in manual mode is that your result is always successive and different. You can experiment much more and truly begin to understand how exposure works.

3. Try Aperture Priority Mode

Take a second and try aperture priority mode. If you don’t know anything about it read this great article on Wikipedia.

Most of the cameras have ‘A’ or ‘Av’ icons. It helps automatically assign a shutter speed, based on the aperture you choose. If you like to take 10-15 shots of one picture to catch the right moment, this could be a great setting to try.

4. Focus on the Eyes

Eyes are the “windows to the soul”. This makes them a great focal point for your portraits. To catch the perfect photo try to focus on the pupil and the white of the eyes. Or focus in between someone’s eyes to really center in on their face.

This will drastically improve your shots and help viewers see the important aspects most clearly.

5. Use the Right Lens

When it comes to portraits, having the right lens for the job is extremely important.

The wider the lens the better for capturing an entire scene and getting better depth of field. For these kinds of portraits photographers typically use 18mm, 22mm, and 35mm lenses. If you want to capture more closely or specifically focus on an aspect of your subject narrower lenses are better. For these kinds of portraits photographers typically use 50mm, 70mm, and 85mm lenses.

6. Create a Background

Creating a scene in the background of your portraits is one of the best ways to make them stand out. Experiment with texture, color, shape, size, location, and more. You’d be surprised how much a background can affect the portrait itself.

With a background you can create interest and add new colors that highlight a specific feature of your subject.

Have some fun with this one and see what you can come up with. Challenge yourself to build a scene around your subject.

7. Keep Learning

The last, but most important piece of advice is to keep learning every single day. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a professional. Take some time to reflect on past photos and think about what you would like to change and how you can accomplish more next time.

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14 Replies to “7 Quick Tips for Portrait Photographers”

  1. Samuel Olsen says:

    Interesting tips to understand things better. Camera lenses play vital role in photography especially when its for portrait. Great post.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks so much Samuel! Appreciate the comment, and totally agree. Upgrading to a 35mm 1.8 helped improve my portraits so much.

  2. Liam says:

    I really struggle with the lighting aspect of portrait photography. Do I really need to invest in an external lighting setup? my camera flash is not brilliant.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks Liam, I personally don’t think flash or external lighting is necessary. I recommend shooting in open shade and natural light or window light as often as possible. Try to keep a low enough aperture to get great detail, but adjust the shutter to compensate for how bright it is outside. Usually when the light is cast on the subject naturally at the right times and in the right conditions, it will look best. These are between about 4-10 AM in the morning and about 4-10 PM at night depending on where you live. Hope this helps. Best of luck.

  3. Clicking a perfect photography is also an art. One must be perfect while capturing photos. These tips will be proven helpful for visitors.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks for the comment Elena!

  4. Hello,

    Nice Post.

    I totally agree with all the points above, and I have found that you need to keep things super high energy, especially with the toddler crowd. That has probably been the hardest thing for me because it’s exhausting and you have to be sincere.

    A huge congratulation on all your success. This is an amazing and helpful website.

    Thanks for the tips..

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks so much Chloe. Appreciate your support and totally agree. I’ve found that keeping a conversation going is also really helpful when working with models of all ages.

  5. Alice Jones says:

    I’m trying to learn more about the art of photography so I appreciate reading through these suggested tips you’ve given to potential and existent photographers. I think for me your tip about understanding the different functions of a camera’s settings is pretty important. I hope to understand my camera soon so that I can take some cool portrait shots.

  6. Portraits seem like the hardest photos to take. I appreciate the information you have to take them, so now I can be sure the photographer knows what he or she is doing! I didn’t realize the background was so important, but it makes sense.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks for the comment Ridley. Portraits are definitely challenging. It took me a long time to understand aperture, depth, harsh lighting, emotion, and some of the other facets of portraiture. Glad this post was helpful to you. :)

  7. Heather says:

    Great tips! I especially like that you pointed out focusing on the eyes – this will definitely get you the best portrait out of your shoot. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Mike says:

      Appreciate the kind words Heather! Thanks. :)

  8. I found it interesting that you state that the background of a photo is so important. My daughter has been learning how to take portraits for her friends and wants to make sure they look good for them. I will send her this information and help her look into some custom designed photography backdrops to help her with her new hobby.

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