Portrait Photography Tips

What is a Portrait?

Its a photo that shows a person (or occasionally an animal) in a way that communicates something unique about the subject.

If the shot communicates only the fact that the subject has a head and two ears and can look expressionless or embarrassed then you have FAILED. Pursue a career in passport photography.

A photograph is supposed to communicate something arresting, interesting or attractive about the subject. The camera can’t do this for you. You have to do it.


Here are some Portrait Photo Tips if you want to make your subject look good:

1. LOOK at your subject.

What’s worth photographing about this person? Do they have a great smile? Thoughtful eyes? Great facial planes? A mischievous expression? What? What do you want to communicate?

Most people really do have a ‘good side’ or a more photogenic side. Check it out.

2. Use a tele lens.

Wide angle makes the person look… weird, like a forceps birth gone wrong. Tele is more flattering and it softens the background so the subject stands out clearly. Check your shutter speed because you may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on something.


3. Use available light. Flash lighting makes for a very clinical (boring) look. Put the person near a window or a light source.


4. Prepare.

Unless you are shooting the subject in a candid mode, or in his or her native habitat, get them dressed up a little. Dark colors are best because they contrast well with most skin tones. V necks work better than round necks. Lose the glasses.

5. Put the subject in a chair.

This helps the person relax and allows you to ‘direct’ the scene more easily. Also you are higher than the subject which is more flattering and makes the eyes open wider.

6. Direct your subject.

In Portrait Photography you’re directing small movements or changes of position. Get the person to turn a shoulder toward the camera. Drop the shoulder a fraction. Adjust the head angle. This is almost right…


But if you get the chin down a fraction… Now if you want a pleased or happy expression tell your subject ‘Think about something happy, or something you really like…’ Got it!


Portrait Photography Tips continued…

Portrait Photography Tips p.2

Here are some Portrait Photography Tips if you’re shooting on location, or in the subject’s native habitat.

7. Make the picture communicate something.

Probably you’re not trying to make the subject look good but you want to communicate something else.

Here’s a shot that communicates… something. But the subject probably won’t be showing it to any girlfriends.

Portrait Photography Big Ears

8. Find the best angle.

You may not be able to direct your subject so YOU have to move.

Shoot from different angles, different heights, keep an eye on the background so it isn’t cluttering up the scene. Use the tele zoom as possible. Sometimes flash, and the subject looking into the camera, works well:

Portrait Photography Novice

Portrait Photography Pigeon

Sometimes it’s better to wait until the subject is looking away:

Portrait Photography Girl

Portrait Photography Monk

Sometimes it’s better to catch the subject unawares:

Portrait Photography Native Habitat

9. Keep shooting.

The difference between a so-so picture and a stunning picture can be a fraction of a second. Digital is cheap so shoot lots and work out what to keep once you have uploaded the files and viewed them on a big screen.

If you really want to learn how to take great photos, portrait or otherwise, and get good at this stuff we highly recommend Beginner Digital Photography as a resource.

It covers everything you need to know from beginner to pro in an interactive format you can study or refer to at your own pace and at your level of experience.

Click Here to See Beginner Digital Photography for Yourself