Portrait Photography Tips

Portrait Photography

Capturing an image of a person’s face, their entire body, or even a group of people is most commonly referred to as a portrait photo, or portraiture. There are different ways a portrait photo can be shot, whether it is at setup shot with the subject looking into the camera, or in a more documentary style when they are expressing a certain emotion or mood in relation to something other than the photographer. You don’t need professional models or famous people to practice portrait photography, a family member or friend can be the subject of the photograph.

There are many ways to make your portrait photography stand out and not seem like just a regular a snapshot of a person. With the help of some particular photography equipment and a few special techniques, creating a vivid and well-composed image can be achieved.

Equipment for portrait photography

In addition to your DSLR, the correct lens is the first thing to think about when preparing a portrait photo-shoot. The wide consensus is a lens with an 85-135mm focal length range is best suited for portrait photography, but using a lens with a 24-70mm, 50mm, or 70-200mm focal length range are all suitable. It depends on if you are taking group portraits, full body portraits, or head-only portraits. For group shots you need a wider focal length, and for single person shots a shorter focal length is fine. Use a wider angle lens for images that need to include the foreground and background.

Portrait Photography Equipment


The other two things you will need to get the most out of portrait photography are a flashgun and reflectors. A flashgun will help you to fill in shadows present in the shot. If you can get hold of a flexible cable this will help you to take shots with side illumination. Reflectors are commonly used in portrait photography to bounce light off the subjects face. A plain white reflector is fine for soft light results, but a double-sided reflector with both gold and silver surfaces will give you more options. A gold reflection will add a glow the face of the subject, while the silver will make the details of the face clearer. Reflectors also allow you to control catchlights.

Using catchlights

Catchlights are the highlight of the light source you are using reflecting off the surface of your subject’s eyes, seen on the photograph as white dots on the pupils of the subject. Learning to use catchlights in the most visually pleasing way is very important to creating the best portrait photographs. Catchlights can be used in many different ways. For a large, more obvious catchlight you should use a large, round reflector disc, but for a more subtle catchlight just use a small portable flash. Catchlights can be removed and added with the help of software like Photoshop, but to save time and become a more professional photographer you should learn how to manipulate them during a shoot. It all depends on the positioning of your lights in relation to your camera lens. A common and flattering place to position the catchlight in your subject’s eye is in either the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock position, within the top half of the subject’s pupil.



Tips for capturing the best portrait shot

One of the main things to remember when capturing portrait images is to not get too close to the subject. You may want to fill the entire frame with the face of your subject, but don’t be tempted to move forward and get the camera close to their face. Doing this will make certain areas of their face exaggerated, thing like their nose and ears, and they may also start feeling uncomfortable. Instead, keep your distance and use you zoom to fill the frame with your subject.

Portrait Photography

Portrait Photography

Also, talk to the person you are taking photos of, and tell them how to position themselves for the best possible shot. They cannot see through the viewfinder, so it is up to you to direct them to create the best results. If you capture a stunning photo of them, they will thank you for it.


One Response to “Portrait Photography Tips”

  1. Yucel says:

    Nowadays many of us use crop sensor cameras… This shifts the range of usable portrait lenses down in focal length..

    For instance, the 17-55mm f2.8 Nikon DX is an excellent portrait lens.

    Interestingly though, even on a DX (crop camera) I still like 85mm and the 70-200 is a fav also.