8 Portrait Photography Tips

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We all know a brilliantly shot photo when we see it, but how can we capture those moments ourselves?

What are the actual tricks of the trade? If you’re a newbie looking to break into the craft, or a professional who wants to brush up on some essential skills, there’s no need to pay for a class.

portrait photography tips

Here we break down all the best and most efficient things to watch out for when taking a portrait, so each shot – even a selfie – is a winning photo

Portrait Photography Tips

When you’re photographing others, these are the three essential factors to take into consideration.


Depending on the style of camera, you may have dozens of options to choose from or you may be running with basic features. In either case, there’s one setting you can’t live without – exposure.

What is exposure? That’s the amount of light in the area you are photographing, which is why you classically imagine a photo shoot involving dozens of massive lamps and spotlights.

However, these props aren’t necessary for every shoot – because playing with your exposure settings can turn natural lighting or even simple overhead lighting into your willing servant.

This will take some practice, but if you’re not sure, try taking the same photo several times with different exposure levels; you may surprise yourself with which becomes your favourite!


When you take a photo and the background is blurred out, that’s known as aperture – or focus, for the newbies.

This helps the main subject of the photo stand out against a larger background, drawing the eye exactly where you intend it as well as providing beautiful contrast.

Make sure to crank up the aperture if your subject is against a landscape, but perhaps soften it if a building behind them is relevant to the picture.

portrait photography

Portrait Posing

How your subject poses can be vital for the shot. Having them slightly off-centre can provide a casual tone to the photo, while front and-centre is important for business-related pictures.

Facing the camera entirely shows confidence, but a slight angle is often more flattering.

They should put their chin up, tilting their head back slightly, if the lighting around them is dark – which highlights more of their features – while the head should be tipped down to create shadows if the lighting is bright.

Before you begin the shoot, be sure of the story you wish to tell with the final photo – and then have your subject pose accordingly.

Self-Portrait Photography

Self-portraits are not just glorified selfies. They are an art – and here are the tips you need to make them artful.


In this case, we’re not referring to aperture, but instead how you focus. Where are you looking? What are you looking at?

If you prefer not staring directly at the camera, instead of looking off into space, find an object and then lock your eyes onto it.

This will create subtle variations in your facial expression and how your eyes dilate, making you look certain rather than dazed.

If you want to face the camera, don’t lock onto your own eyes, but rather on the camera lens itself. While it may feel silly, that will mean staring at the viewer who later sees the photo.

Though beware; if your expression or the angle of your face is off, this can look intimidating. As mentioned above, be sure your pose is sending the right signals.

portrait photography


When you stand in a corner, you can appear more comfortable in your self-portrait photograph.

When you’re surrounded by something that keeps you safe – like walls do – you can look more self-assured.

It also gives you some help with the backdrop; you won’t have to worry about a green screen or some elaborate props behind you.

Senior Portrait Photography Tips

Senior year is time to look fabulous.

As the photographer, you’re not only taking a portrait, but one with very specific needs and requirements.

Here’s what to watch out for.


The environment should reflect the subject’s personality and likes, while not being too out of character.

For example, if they live in San Francisco and love the Hard Rock Café, you might want to call ahead of the shoot to get permission to photograph there.

That big guitar in the background is a surefire way to make any teen’s senior portraits stand out.

portrait photography tips


Choose poses that make your subject look comfortable. A forced pose is hard for some people to pull off, so you really don’t want to overwhelm them.

Rather than commanding several different angles and positions, plan in advance how many you’ll request and how complicated they’ll be.

Then keep it simple and fun. If the subject is stressed, their smile won’t be real, and believe us – it’ll show!


In photography, you should work with the weather, not against it.

On a cloudy day, there is room for so many different angles and ideas to photograph your subject in. You won’t regret climbing down a hill because you saw the perfect puddle to catch a reflection in!

Portraits are hard. But they don’t have to be. With these tips, you’re on your way to being a self-taught pro or a professional who’s mastered those trade secrets.

Do you have any extra portrait photography tips?


1 Comment

  1. I just got a new camera and I would love to be able to take some great portraits with it. Thank you for all the great tips about taking portrait photos. I really liked your tip about using the aperture to make the subject stand out against the background. If the background was blurred, that would help a lot.

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