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What is Portrait Photography: 10 Important Tips to Remember

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There are different techniques by which a photographer can get the best portraitures. Tips of the Portrait Photography, in true sense, relies on the creative way of thinking. It is like running down an extra mile and work far away from your comfort zone.

Why we need tips of Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography is the most utilized and practised technique in photography industry. There are hundreds, if not millions, of good portrait photographers, but a handful of exceptional portrait photographers. The competition is tough, the market is real and tight. If you want to stand out as an exceptional portrait photographer, then, it is important for you to understand memorize these important tips of portrait photography.

The portraiture and the portrait photographer are more than what they are usually understood by the people.

But first, let review some of the important concept to refresh our mind. Let’s prepare ourselves to become an exceptional portrait photographer.

What is Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography is not just clicking some pictures of a person’s face. Similarly, the portrait photographer is not someone with a fancy high definition camera, but without any skills. The portraiture and the portrait photographer are more than what they are usually understood by the people.

The portrait photographer is not someone with only a camera, but a person with a keen observation, a critical and creative mind. So, one basic thing, or you may call it a baseline tip; it’s never about the camera, it’s about the skill and the creativity of the holder of that camera. Camera, on the other hand, is just another high functioning equipment that can take picture. It is a machine without any trace of life, without any emotions or feelings. It works solely on photographer’s behest; it’s you who are responsible to bring your work of art to life. Capture emotions and the feelings and show them in your portraitures.

Another baseline tip is, follow the examples of the portrait photography. You can visit unsplash to clear your concepts regarding the important feature of the portrait photography.

In addition to that, there are a number of definitions that explain the basic concept of Portrait photography. Following definition is included in this article because of its simplicity and conciseness to explain Portrait Photography.

According to Photo Focus,“Photography is about capturing the essence, personality, identity and attitude of a person utilizing backgrounds, lighting and posing”.


Approaches of Portrait Photography:

Generally speaking, there are for major approaches of the portrait photography. These approaches are important to understand. These will help you to become an exceptional portrait photographer. Developing an understanding about these approaches always helps in taking control of the surroundings in which you are planning to shoot.

a) Environmental Approach:

In portraitures, it directly corresponds with identity of the subject. This approach works in an environment where the subject wants to establish his or her own identity and wants the photographer to highlight his or her profession. For instance, if a client loves jets, its portrait must include hanger, working or operating one of his jets or something related to jets. His love for the jets become visible in the portraits using environmental approach.

b) Constructionist Approach:

As evident from the title, this approach corresponds to a deliberate effort in the construction of atmosphere, mood, expressions to capture certain feelings and expressive emotions from the face of the subject. Remember, that the portrait photography is all about the face of the subject and face is like a book to the eyes of beholder. In this approach, the portrait photographer, first, construct and then capture the portrait with his or her camera.

c) Candid Approach:

Though, the name suggest candidness but, in portrait photography, there are less chance to capture the people entirely candid. Portraits under this approach are made to look as if the portraits were taken candidly. However, in reality, the photographer direct his or her subject to act candidly while her shoot portraiture using candid approach. In portrait photography, almost everything is planned carefully.

d) Creative Approach:

Creative Approach is the artist’s own approach, the signature style of shooting portraits. Like very art in the world, portrait photography is also an art which speak the language of personalized hand like Picasso or Michelangelo. The personal style of the photographer becomes his or her identity by which people recognize the portraits. It employs the combinations of many things like amount of light, shutter speed, use of aperture, shadows and lights, backgrounds and foregrounds and many more.

Also Read: What is Pen Tool? Everything you need to know about.

Portrait Photography Important Tips:

Following are some important tips to remember if you want to learn or improve your portrait photography skills.

1 (Remember the Approaches)

Always remember the portrait photography approaches and try to work with them in order to improve your understanding about the needs and the requirements of your subject.

2 (Narrow your outcomes down)

Always narrow down the outcomes you are looking from your portrait photography. It helps you achieve whatever you are looking forward to.

3 (It’s all about Face)

Portrait Photography is all about the face of the subject, and the rest of everything is there to help. Always try to take advantage of the light, the shadow, the background, but the main focus should be on the face and what’s behind that face.

4 (Lighting)

In photography, generally, light is the most important feature when it comes to capture anything with the lens of your camera. It is very significant for the portrait photographers to take control of the lighting. It is highly recommended that they should not shoot in a direct or harsh light, too close to the source of light unless the project theme or the client wished to achieve some unusual effects.

5 (Rule of Thirds)

Rule of Thirds is one of the important rules in the photography because it is very viable to control the eye movement of the viewer. The concept, or the rule, depends on compositional and imaginary lines that dissects the image into thirds. Originally, making the image broke down into nine pieces. Now, if you want the eye of your viewer to focus on something that you want him or her to see, you place and position that part of the image along the grid lines.

Remember the Rule of Thirds to shoot better composition portraits. This is the only way to control the eye of the viewer. Always place or position the key element that you want to be the centre of the attention, alongside those dissecting line.

6 (Choice of lens can mess your things up)

You need to be very careful when it comes to choosing your lens for the portrait photography. Truly, it’s your choice, but it does affect the quality of the portraiture.

A “Telephoto” lens of 50 mm is an easy choice, but it does not yield the best results as it is one of the standard type of lens which is too common to shoot portraitures. Whereas, at the same time, longer lens can give the portrait photographers advantage to take extraordinary shots. Always try to use long rang lens for better results. A suitable range starts from 85 mm to 200 mm long lenses. It helps to get better compression and less distort with respect to the pixels of the portraitures. Another advantage of using long range lens is to induce the blur or bokeh effect, making the portraiture looks unique.

7 (Always rely on an Alternate source of light)

There are cameras available in the market which can produce a powerful source of light with their flash, no doubt in that, but you can’t always rely on the flash of your camera. It is important, especially when you are a portrait photographer, to bring your alternative source of light with you. As mentioned earlier, portrait photography is all about capturing the face and also what’s behind it in terms of feelings, emotions, and the character of the subjects. To achieve this rarity, always rely on your alternative source of light. The close-up shots require the more professional handling of light.

8 (Manipulate the Aperture accordingly)

Aperture is an opening in a lens through which light passes to enter the camera. This is the simplest definition of aperture, and it is analogous to the working of the human eye. The only difference is, a human eye perform this action automatically. Whereas, in the case of a high functioning camera, the portrait photographer can toggle or manipulate the aperture according to his or her will and the demands of the portrait.

If you work with wide aperture, it will produce shallow depth in the composition of the portraiture. The blur effect can be induced by using wide aperture while making the central image, the subject, the focus of the entire portraiture. This technique works best when working with one subject. However, on the other hand, if you are working with multiple subjects, it is important to use smaller aperture to cover and include everyone in focus in your portrait.

9 (Work with the GELS)

Simply, GELS in portrait photography are some transparent tints of colours films to give the picture more effects and help make it look unique. There are a number of GELS available in the market. Just choose which works for you and corresponds but also complement subject. It should also align with the theme you are following throughout your shoot. Try different GELS and pick the best from the wide range to make your portraiture perfect and unique.

10 (Post-processing is as important as Portraiture itself)

Editing and retouching the portrait photographs is equally important. Do not forget to edit and try to make the best out of your final product. For editing purposes, you can use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and other open source photo editing software like Gimp, Krita, Inkscape, and blender.


Portrait photography not as easy as it seems because it is very rare to get the exact amount of expressions from the face of the subject. It’s not about clicking the hundreds of images of a same subject and then select from them, hoping to get the best out of them. Sure, this is one of the many methods of shortlisting the best portraits. But it always comes down to the hard work, commitment and following the above-mentioned important tips of Portrait photography.

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