The Complete Guide To Portrait Photography [Updated 2020]

The Complete Guide To Portrait Photography [Updated 2020]

Portrait Photography , portrait photos

What is Portrait Photography?

Whether you are an amateur photographer or a professional one, there are moments when your photography skills get tested. One of those moments is when people ask you for portrait photography.

Being the one with a camera, you are supposed to click the most “social media worthy” pictures. It’s easier for a professional photographer to live up to the expectations but for beginners, not so much. From getting a hold of the camera and its settings to owning a unique style, the journey for a beginner "Portrait Photographer" is long.

Portrait photography is one of those types of photography genres that demand a totally different approach towards camera and light setting when compared to other genres such as product photography, landscape photography and abstract photography to name a few.

Even though it sounds a little scary but in reality, it’s much more fun and learning. This guide will tell you exactly what you need to know about mastering the art of portrait photography. At the end of this guide, we will tell you how to build an online portfolio where you can attract customers.


Easy Tips For Mastering The Art of Portrait Photography

1. Basic Camera Setting for Portrait Photography

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While using a DSLR for portrait photography, there are some camera settings that you must be familiar with. Some of these camera settings are Exposure, Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed. This is the first step towards mastering portrait photography.

Portrait Photography

International Standard Organization (ISO) is the setting that affects the smoothness of your photograph. Higher the ISO, grainier the image. Now, this feature is mainly useful when you move a lot of the subject moves a lot.

portrait photography

Now, in order to overcome this obstacle and to prevent capturing the blurry images, ISO is increased. In order to bring balance to your photograph, it becomes important to adjust the Shutter Speed. Faster shutter Speed with the right ISO setting helps in avoiding photography blunders.

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Now, when you are doing portrait photography or family portrait photography in a good amount of lighting then low ISO can work but if you are shooting in low light then don’t hold back from shooting on high ISO. Also get familiar with other camera settings such as shutter speed, and aperture.

2. Decide where to shoot

Portrait Photography studio

The thing about portrait photography is that one can do anywhere as long as there’s a source of light. You can do self-portrait photography under the sun or inside a studio, under the table or over the table or maybe not but you get the idea right?

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Just have ample light so that your subject doesn’t get dissolved in the background and you’ll be able to capture amazing portraits. Now, there are ways to enhance self-portrait photography if you are shooting inside a studio. One of the ways that we would like you to get familiar with is three-point-lighting.

Self Portrait Photography , portrait pictures

Three-point-lighting is when light is imposed on the subject from three different points. One of them is hard to light to illuminate the subject, second is soft light to cancel out the shadows and the third one is the background light which differentiates the subject from the background. Three-point-lighting is amazing for self-portrait photography inside a studio set up.

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In the wilderness, it becomes much harder as one has to depend on natural light but clicking the pictures from the right angle and at the right time of the day can give you some really magical professional portraits. One of the examples is Golden Hour Photography where you basically click pictures during sunrise and sunset when light falling from sky turns everything Golden.

3. Master the Bokeh Effect

If you are familiar with the iPhone and other smartphone’s new camera updates then you must be familiar with the Bokeh effect. It is basically the effect where the background is kept out of focus. In order to capture the magic, you have to keep the widest aperture. This way, the focus is on the subject, giving you a Bokeh effect.


Bokeh Effect is popular for a reason. Soft out-of-focus background in self-portrait photography or product photography makes the subject powerful. The best part about practising Bokeh Effect is that as a photographer you get to experiment a lot. You can choose the background of your choice. We would suggest you use something illuminating.

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If the background is lit up, the Bokeh Effect becomes prominent. The same is with a colourful background. A colourful background, if blurred, can set the mood of a professional portrait. So, if you are a beginner and want to master portrait photography, we would totally recommend you to try your hands on the Bokeh effect.  

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4. Experiment

Now, this is where you have to work to be different. It is a well-known fact that every professional portrait photographer has a different style. Even though most of the professional portraits look the same but not all of them are worth appreciation. This is because it’s not the camera but the photographer behind the lens who decides how the photographs will turn out.

Portrait Photography

So, don’t be afraid to experiment because often you do it, the closer you will get to generate a style of your own. Use props, play with lights or change the background. Portrait photography is all about bringing something unique to the table.

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Beginners, who are looking for making a career in portrait photography or any other genre of photography, should aim towards mastering the basics and breaking the rules. But in order to break the rules of photography and create something amazing, one should know those rules first. So, make sure that you know what goes behind outdoor portrait photography.

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10 Best Tips for Stunning Portrait Photography

1.The Subject Preparation

Portrait Photos

You ought to start by preparing your subject for outdoor portrait photography. In order to get the perfect picture or the kind of picture you want, you have to prepare beforehand. Subject prep gives your photoshoot a direction and makes the entire process whole let simpler. When we say ready, we mean that you have to make your subject comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera. If there’s any posing then act as a director and help the subject in catching it right.

2. Pick the Right Background

When it comes to self-portrait photography, one has to pick the right background. The background is what decides whether your portrait will turn out good or not.
Now, for a good background, you can either go with something simple like a solid colour backdrop, something creative (like graffiti) or you can go with nature.
Sometimes the background can play a huge role in deciding the theme of your photoshoot.

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3. Set the Frame right

While doing portrait photography, the most important aspect is setting the frame. Since you are photographing the profile of a person, you have to see if you are capturing the right areas. Whether you want just the face or upper body, you have to make sure that you are doing justice to the picture by setting up the frame right. To get the perfect picture you can either put your subject at the very centre (true not to though) or you can use the rule of thirds which is putting your subject at the intersection point of the grid.

professional portrait photography

4. Tilt your Camera

Another thing you can do to level up your creative portrait photography is that you can tilt your camera to change the angle. This adds a little mystery, a little extra appeal, and energy into the picture. So you can tilt your camera a little in order to get such kind of pictures. It will be great for creative portrait photography.

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5. Capture the Expressions

Do you know what sells in a portrait? The Expressions! While doing portrait photography, make sure that you capture the detailing of the expressions on your subject’s face. It can really make or break your portrait.

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6. Blur out Your Subject

Yes, you read that right! You can blur out your subject and still get some really great pictures. Just make sure there’s a certain element between you and the subject you can focus on. In order to do that, you have to open the aperture at the highest. This helps in regulating the depth of field according to the way you need it.

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7. Capture the Subject in Motion

Still, creative portrait photography is fine but you can always put your photography skills to a test and try to capture the subject while in motion. You can make your subject walk in a crowded place or you can keep your subject still while the crowd or something else in the background in moving. This can give you some really good and aesthetically pleasing pictures that would really enhance your portfolio.

professional portrait photography

8. Fill in the Frame

If you don’t want to worry too much about the background and want to capture the best expressions then you can try to fill the frame. Filling the frame not only makes it more symmetrical, but it also looks just right. Such kinds of pictures are rather popular on Instagram as they attract a whole lot of attention.

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9. Wide Angle Lens for Better Portraits

When it comes to doing self-portrait photography, a wide-angle lens can do wonders. One can even say that a wide-angle lens is a must while doing such photography. This can help in building the perspective and fooling the eyes of the viewers in believing the photo is bigger than it actually is. Wide-angle leans work towards adding a little bit of drama to your portrait photography.

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10. Lastly the Lighting

This should be the first point but we kept it for the last as a reminder that you need to keep your subject well lit throughout the portrait photography. If you are doing it in studio light then you won’t have any problem doing that but while doing it under natural light, you have to take care of a few things. Firstly, see if the sunlight is enough to kill ay shadows on the focus features of your subject. Also, if you want some godly or mystical pictures, go for golden hour photography (sunset and sunrise). Natural light can really intensify the appeal of your portrait and give it an edge over regular portrait photoshoots.

portrait shot


As we said in the beginning, we would like to tell you in simple steps, how you can gain customers for your photography business.

1. Establish a portfolio website

A portfolio website is to attract traffic so that people can know about your work. You can upload your photographs, videos, and blogs.

girl portrait photography

2. Digital Marketing

Unlike offline marketing, digital marketing is about increasing your online presence and expanding your reach. There are various techniques in which you can perform digital marketing to bring traffic to your website.

digital marketing

3. Post Blogs

Regular blog posting can increase your online visibility and create a loyal readership. Those readers can become your customers in the future if they really like your work. It is also a great way of creating good-will.

Post blog

4. Aim for that Google Ranking

Use relevant hashtags and keywords to rank high on google search so that if somebody is looking for a topic of interest on the Internet, he/she lands on your webpage.

Google ranking

5. Work on building references

References are a great way to attract a customer base. In fact, the best of business for photographers come from referrals of existing customers, friends or family. There are ways in which you can optimize your website to generate continuous references.

face portrait photography

6. Collect reviews

Reviews are one of the best ways to gain authenticity on the internet over others offering the same services as yours. Always promote reviews on your work and mention them on your website. This way, people won’t think twice before going for your service.

collect reviews

Q. Which Is The Best Lens For Portrait Photography?

As portrait photography is all about capturing the essence of the subject, most of the time it requires the background of the subject to be out of focus. And this is something that is only possible with a camera lens that has a very wide aperture. So to achieve those shallow depth of field portrait shots, you need a Prime lens. These lenses have fixed focal length but they have very wide apertures that help you get those Stunning and Razor Sharp Portraits Shots.

Portrait photos, lifetouch portraits


Q. What are the Characteristics of Portrait Photography?

1. This genre of photography is all about the face of the subject. 

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2. The photographer here tries to capture the identity, personality and attitude of the person with the help of the camera. 

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3. In portrait photography, the background is most of the time blurred so that it is clearly distinguished from the subject.

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Still can't get enough of these stunning and true to life images? So here are some more charming portrait shots that you should definitely check out.

Portrait photos, How to do portrait photography

Portrait photos, How to do portrait photography

portrait photos, portraits pictures

portraits pictures, portrait photo

famous portrait photography, portrait photos

self portrait photography, portrait shoot

famous portrait photography, portrait photos

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black and white portrait photography, fine art portrait photography

To know more about building a website and establishing a photography business, check out Spyne. You can also contact our experts on 08644864461.


Written By - Ramnish on 17 Jun, 2020