Life hack

How to take a good portrait photo


Do you want to improve your portrait photography?

Today I spent time digging through the Digital Photography School archives (there are now over 600 tutorials and articles) and noticed that we’ve covered the topic of Portrait Photography from a large variety of angles. I thought it would be useful to list some of the more popular portrait photography tips all in the one place.

I’ve chosen 19 of our most popular portrait photography articles and have assembled them below.

So if you’re interested in improving your portrait photography – grab a cup of coffee, set aside a little time and enjoy. If you enjoy these make sure you subscribe to get more via email or RSS.

How to Take Portraits – 19 Portrait Photography Tutorials from Our Archives

This recent post (one of the most popular that we’ve ever published on DPS) gives 10 fairly general tips on how to take portraits with the ‘wow factor’.

It’s all about adding variety to your portraits by doing things like altering your perspective, adding a prop, experimenting with eye contact and getting your subject out of their comfort zone (to name just a few).

It picks up ideas found in many of the following tutorials and would make a great place to start if you’re looking for an introduction to the topic.

In this followup to the last tutorial we extend the idea of adding variety to your shots.

It explores framing, wide angle lenses, backgrounds and experimenting with focusing.

All in all this post takes this mini series to 20 portrait photography techniques that have been read by hundreds of thousands.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you’d have on other techniques that you use to add variety to portraits in the comments on this post.

This technique is basic but can have a real impact upon your shots.

Framing your portraits so that your subject has room to look into gives a shot balance and helps draw the eye of those viewing the image into the image.

Try it for yourself – but don’t forget, sometimes ‘rules’ like this one can be broken with great effect also – so experiment with that too!

I Love picking the brains of professional photographers and this is what I did in this post in which a portrait photographer shared with me four parts of his shooting workflow.

The tips are simple yet effective – I particularly like the way that he shoots from slightly under the eye line of your subject – a technique that causes a little interesting debate in the comments of this post.

By learning how to take a good photo portrait, you will be able capture images that transcend a single moment.

Anatomy of a Good Portrait Photograph

A good portrait photo projects emotions that draw in viewers. The key to capturing an outstanding portrait is to focus on your subject. The image should reflect the subject’s personality, style and interests.

In order to document your subject’s true colors, it’s important to get him or her to relax. This can be achieved by placing your subject in a comfortable environment and carrying on a lighthearted conversation. While you are chatting with your subject, study his movements and mannerisms. Remembering what triggers a certain smile or facial expression will allow you to snap multiple frame worthy photos during the course of a single shoot.

Learn How to Take a Good Photo Portrait

Capturing high quality portrait photos is an art that takes patience and practice. However, it doesn’t require being a professional photographer. Everyday shutterbugs can learn how to take a good portrait by following these simple tips:


The most important part of a photo portrait is the subject’s face. Consequently, it is important to choose the right background. Pick a neutral background that doesn’t draw attention away from the subject. For example, a soft, solid colored background is much better for a portrait shot than a busy street filled with people and other moving objects.

You can further enhance your photo portrait by blurring the background. Doing so will help emphasize your subject instead of his surroundings. The easiest way to blur a shot is to use a shallow depth of field. This can be accomplished by employing a zoom lens and shooting just a short distance away from your subject. Another way to blur the background is to shoot with a wide aperture manual setting. If your camera does not feature manual settings, which allow you to modify the depth of field, you can always blur the background later using photo editing software on your computer.


A good photo portrait should contain excellent lighting that accentuates the subject. You should aim to incorporate as much natural lighting as possible in your portrait shots. Natural lighting helps to capture the full color range and warmth of a person’s skin. Indoors

If you are shooting indoors, try to include light from a window. However, be careful not to position your subject directly in the sunlight. Harsh lighting can create shadows and cause a subject to squint. If you are just photographing the subject’s face, have her hold a piece of white paper beneath her chin. The paper will act as a reflector to bounce light and reduce shadows. Finally, if you have to shoot indoors using artificial light, make sure the light source illuminates the entire room instead of shining directly on your subject.


Never take a photo with the sun directly behind your subject. Doing so causes overexposure and distorts a person’s natural skin tones. When shooting outdoors position your subject in a way that the sunlight hits her from the side. If some shadows appear on her face, use a soft fill-in flash to get rid of them.


To get the most attractive angles, shoot from eye level or slightly above. Positioning your camera below your subject and shooting up won’t yield frame worthy shots. Also, try to find unique angles that incorporate other body parts besides the face. Hands and necks show off a subject’s mood and personality as well.

For a superior photo portrait, try to capture your subject in her natural state. Avoid posing your subjects in awkward positions. Allow them to be themselves and continuously snap while they move around.


The center of good portraits should be the subject’s eyes. The eyes tell the story, and offer a glimpse into what makes your subject tick. When taking a photo portrait, focus on the eyes. Aim to snap the shot when your subject is looking straight into the camera or when she is focusing on something slightly out of the camera’s range. Having your subject smile is also recommended unless you are looking to capture a more somber or contemplative mood.

Practice Makes Perfect

Capturing an outstanding photo portrait takes practice, practice, and more practice. Fortunately, in this era of digital photography, the cost of taking additional shots is practically nothing; so don’t be afraid to experiment with different exposures, depth of field, or lighting. The more willing you are to try new techniques, the better your chances of getting an exceptional shot.

With your digital SLR, you can provide your family and friends with treasured portraits of themselves and their loved ones. You can take formal portraits for a passport or professional uses as well as a variety of casual and artistic portraits.

When taking portraits, you’ll want to to create a rapport with the subject to put him at ease, get him to strike a pleasing pose, and compose the image creatively.

How to take a good portrait photo

A photo looking up at a person imbues them with authority; a shot from above diminishes their power.

Camera settings for portraits

Shoot a portrait in Aperture Priority mode and use a large aperture (a small f/stop number) so that your subject is the star of the show and isn’t overwhelmed by the background. An 85mm focal length gives you a portrait photo that has a pleasing, undistorted rendition of the person you’re photographing. If you’re doing head-and-shoulders only, your range should be 80mm to 100mm. You want a narrow range that won’t distort your subject’s features.

Never use a focal length that’s the 35mm equivalent of less than 50mm to take a portrait. The very close distance would make the feature closest to the camera — the person’s nose — look larger than it actually is.

An ISO setting of 100 gives you a noise-free image and, in good lighting conditions, a shutter speed of about 1/125 of a second. If your camera or lens has image stabilization, enable it; otherwise, your slightest movement produces a blurry photo. Don’t forget that you can use a tripod as well.

Position the auto-focus point over the eye closest to the camera. If the eyes are in focus, the entire picture appears to be in focus.

Portraits and lighting issues

Getting the lighting right so that people look natural in portraits can be challenging. You want a soft, diffuse light such as light through a window or outdoors on an overcast day. Overhead lights are fine, but incidental lights can cast shadows and create uneven lighting effects. Ideally, you want multiple light sources, such as several flash units including a diffused flash.

To prevent a portrait with shadowed eyes, use a white sheet or T-shirt to bounce light into your subject’s face.

Types of portraits

Different types of portraits require essentially the same camera settings, but slightly different approaches and techniques:

Formal portrait: Find a solid-colored background. You can use a wall, just make sure your subject is a few feet in front of it so that the portrait doesn’t look like a mug shot.

How to take a good portrait photo

After you take the picture, review it to make sure that the image is properly exposed and your subject looks relaxed. You’ll probably have to take several pictures before the subject relaxes and you get some good images.

Candid portrait: The key to getting great candid portraits is to always carry your camera so that folks get used to seeing it around your neck and let their guard down around you and go about their business.

How to take a good portrait photo

Outdoor portrait: Schedule your photo shoot for early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun provides a golden color and casts soft shadows. Overcast conditions are perfect. Make sure that the background doesn’t compete with your subject — no brilliant flowers or distracting power lines.

Self-portrait: A chair or other prop can be a valuable stand-in, helping your position the tripod or other stable surface you’ll put the camera on and helping get the focus, which you have to do manually, right. Delay the shutter opening to give yourself time to get in the picture, and arrange yourself for the shot.

How to take a good portrait photo

Portrait of a mature person: An aperture range between f/3.5 and f/7.1 gives you the option to create a soft, dreamy focus or to highlight every detail. If you’re going for a softer look and want to eliminate some lines and wrinkles, invest in a soft-focus filter.

To minimize the appearance of sagging neck skin, ask your subject to raise his chin.

How to take a good portrait photo

Branding has become quite important for a business nowadays. Businesses are concentrating more on business image for their branding than anything else. They want a professional portrait of all the employees of their business with a uniform look.

These images will get used in professional business profiles like LinkedIn, Company websites, Portfolios, etc. It increases the rate of branding. Many marketing materials used by a business such as digital posts, banners, brochures, and etc use such images of the business portraits.

This is the reason a company hires a corporate portrait photographer to do a photography session of the business. That shows the corporate environment and headshots of professional employees’ of the business.
In this article I’ll talk about the things you need to keep on your checklist for business portrait photography. This will tell you the correct ways of how to photograph a business portrait. It will also provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about corporate portrait photography tips.

Before you start reading out these points you better consider reading this article for better knowledge about business headshot photography

So let’s start the guide to proper company portrait photography tips.

How to take a good portrait photo

What is a business portrait?

Basically a business portrait is simply a portrait image the only difference is that here the subject is wearing a formal official uniform. There is a minor confusion among people between a corporate headshot and a corporate portrait. For clearing out such confusion a simple difference between a headshot and a portrait is that in a headshot only the head and shoulder area are in focus on the frame. In a business portrait more portions of the body appears on the frame so that it can be shown that the photo is of a business employee or founders.

How to take a good portrait photo

How do you take a good business headshot?

Now this is another question people ask professional photographers the most. The answer is quite simple. To take good business headshots make sure that the lighting is perfect. And the expression of the subject is blending with the main theme properly.

How to take a good portrait photo

What should I wear to a business portrait?

In a business portrait session it is necessary to look formal and be with the theme of your business. If you’re a corporate employee dress like one, if you’re a factory engineer dress like one. Make sure you dress like the profession you’re in.

How to take a good portrait photo

Should you smile in a headshot?

To be honest yes Smiling is the best way to make sure your client can trust you. But sometimes for official and professional purpose you shouldn’t smile in the photo. But I prefer smiling because it helps you gain trust.

How to take a good portrait photo

Business portrait background

Focus on the background, since this will assume a huge job in your corporate representation. Ensure there is nothing diverting out of sight that will remove the concentration from your subject, regardless of whether you will concentrate on them and obscure out the background. This is one more of the most crucial corporate picture photography tips. The background can likewise have a major effect in how the last photograph turns out. There are various choices to consider, from plain white to an office setting that is somewhat out of core interest. Simply ensure that the background doesn’t divert from the fundamental point of convergence of the picture.

How to take a good portrait photo

Business portrait lighting

As any picture taker will let you know, appropriate lighting is basic to any great picture. With regards to taking representation photographs, you’ll need to either have regular light from windows on various parts of the bargains or an expert lighting arrangement.

How to take a good portrait photo

Business Portrait Concept

As we are talking about business portrait photography, the photography will only look professional if you add a concept while doing business portrait photography. Use different business properties to make the photo looks like a business portrait. You can add files, business books, laptops which may work. You can also create a concept such as a person working or doing a meeting. This will add a professional feel on your business portraits. In a business portrait you have to make the model look like a professional businessman/business woman. And that will be helped by adding such kinds of concepts.

How to take a good portrait photo

Various angles and Multiple Shots

While clicking business portraits, you may not get the perfect photo at one shot and from one angle. The people who are getting shot might not be the professionals. Hence, getting the perfection may not be possible at one shot. When the people with be posing for the business portrait, take the photos using various angles. Doing that, you may get some amazing business portrait photos. One shot is not either enough for a good photo. So click multiple shots so that you can get at least one perfect business portrait photo.

How to take a good portrait photo

Business Portrait Photo Editing

Photo editing has become a part and parcel of photography industry. A business photo editing might be tough. But to make the photos look professional, you need to get the photos edited. If you know the photo editing by yourself then it is well and good. But if you do not know photo editing, you can hire different photo editing companies to edit your business portrait photographs. There are different photo editing techniques which you may apply while editing business portraits. So edit the business portrait photographs and provide something phenomenal.

How to take a good portrait photo


A good business portrait photographs helps to reach in a high graph of your business. At the same time, there is scope to be famous as well. Every business organizations should have their professional business portraits which add more recognition to a business organization. Without great business portraits your business organization may not look that professional. That is the reason people are using business portrait photographs these days. So if you are thinking what to do to get great business portrait photographs, apply these business portrait photography tips and techniques to help you out.

Abel Wong – Mar 06, 2019

How to take a good portrait photo

“Do I look fat in this photo?” That’s probably one of the questions that your friends, family, or even yourself asks after taking a photo shot. Well, that’s also probably why you’re here looking for tips on how to take a good portrait shot and in this article, we will be using the latest Samsung Galaxy S10+.

Yeah, we could have used other smartphones but the Galaxy S10+ is the real deal! Plus, the technique can be applied to most smartphones anyway. So just sit back, enjoy the photo samples and write down our tips on How To Take Stunning Portrait Shots (with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ camera).

Use the Portrait Mode (and always have the grids enabled)

Starting with the most basic tool, the Portrait Mode (it has other names too, or Live Focus, in Samsung’s case) is already at your disposal in the camera user interface. Most smartphones nowadays have that feature already thanks to the dual camera trend that started out since 2016, so use it! However, do note that you still need to know some camera composition (for example, the Rule of Thirds), or else the photo will be just like “meh”. So, always have the photo grids turned on (which you can find in every camera setting) for guidance.

How to take a good portrait photo

TIP#1 – To get a good feel of the Rule of Thirds, always place your subject near to the cross point (where the lines meet in the grid) before taking the shot

How to take a good portrait photo

TIP#2 – Alternatively, you can also turn on Shot Suggestion, a new Samsung camera feature to assist you in getting the best placement for your shot

How to take a good portrait photo

And now. our resulting Portrait Mode shots!

You can also use the normal camera mode, but it sure makes a lot of difference. Although all Portrait Modes are different on each smartphone, almost all serve the same purpose – to capture the subject as the highlight while blurring the background. Speaking of blurring the background.

Master the lighting

Lighting also plays an important role and to tackle that, some smartphones do have the power to control the aperture, which results in changing the overall lighting and background’s depth of field (a.k.a. bokeh effect) of your subject. On the Galaxy S10+, the Dual Aperture feature is very useful as it can change the outcome and “feel” of a photo.

Basically, the bigger the aperture (a small number like F/1.5), the more blurry it will be, whereas the smaller the aperture (a bigger number like F/2.4), the less blurred it becomes. Dual Aperture is a nice feature, but it doesn’t make that much of an impact during the day time and is best used in low-light environments.

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #4 – The difference between aperture F/1.5 (left) and F/2.4 (right)

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #5 – Light is an integral part of photography. On the left photo, it’s always best to use the natural sunlight against the subject. While on the right photo, a background with strong backlight is nearly never a good idea, unless you can find something that blocks some backlight around the subject like leaves, then it’s passable

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #6 – A small portion of backlight is still alright as long as it does not interfere too much with the subject, but sometimes it can be used as a silhouette shot just like the one we did in Broga Hill. On the other hand, you can also go nearer to the subject (right photo) and still take a nice shot

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #7 – Here’s a nice shot of our subject, but there’s too much space on both sides. How do we make it better?

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #8 – The answer is just go nearer. Alternatively, you can also crop the image vertically

Do note that controlling the aperture will also influence the amount of light entering the camera lens, which could make or break your portrait shot. And if your smartphone has a fixed aperture, you can learn how the bokeh effect and light works best, so do some experiments to know your smartphone’s camera.

Take advantage of the ultra wide-angle lens

Ok, so let’s say you don’t want to use the Portrait Mode, there must be another way of taking a portrait shot, right? Of course, there is. But not all smartphones will have this, as having an ultra or a normal wide-angle lens has just started to roll out and surprisingly, it can also be a useful tool for your next Insta-worthy photo.

Taking a portrait shot with an ultra wide-angle lens requires a different technique, though. Since the ultra wide-angle would likely capture the whole subject within the frame, the best angle is either from the top or bottom and of course, a fabulous pose to make it work. For example.

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #9 – You can see the difference of using an ultra wide-angle lens (left), or if you want to be closer, just go nearer or use the telephoto lens (right)

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #10 – The ultra wide-angle lens can be utilized in any situation like the photos above, near (right) and far (left)

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #11 – You can also take a normal ultra wide-angle shot. Once again, you can see the subject placed nicely near the Rule of Thirds spot

Put Some Filter On It

Lastly, if you feel your portrait shot needs more “OOMPH”. This is where filters come in. Instagram has plenty of those, even from your smartphone’s default filters, but the Galaxy S10+ has four decent ones that are available in the Live Focus editing feature. These are blur, spin bokeh, zoom bokeh and colour point.

Personally, the colour point is one of the best ones I’ve seen in a smartphone so far, as other smartphones don’t really have an accurate colour filter when edited.

TIPS #12 – You can also choose Beauty Mode which almost every phone has. Don’t feel bad, it’s art

How to take a good portrait photo

TIPS #13 – Sometimes, you don’t always have to use the Rule of Thirds. If you look at the left photo, the subject is placed perfectly in the middle, also the right side picture is using a spin bokeh effect

TIPS #14 – This is the colour point filter that I was talking about, bringing out a noir feel. Perfection


How to take a good portrait photo

Family Portrait by chemisti

We are told family comes first, so grab your camera and let’s get snapping… some great family portraits

10 Tips for Family Portraits

1. Be a Director

If you want that ‘traditional’ family photograph you are going to need to work the role of director to ensure all eyes and faces are on you. Working with a large group of people can be a bit trying so prepare to be patient and assertive will help in getting a handle of things.

When you’ve got everyone ready don’t be afraid to reel of a dozen or so shots or use the burst mode to ensure you have at least one frame with everyone is paying attention.

Eye contact isn’t always essential though and some shots which intentionally lack it can be more intriguing and relaxed. So rather than force the subjects to look continuously at the camera get them to look in a variety of directions to spice things ups.

2. Put Your Subjects at Ease

The ‘traditional’ shot isn’t for everyone so flex that creative muscle and engineer some fun, personality fused frames.

Putting your subjects at ease is the first step so fire a few pictures in a comfortable or familiar environment. This will help to lend character and narrative to the piece.

3. Lighting is Key: Indoor Tips

As with all photography lighting is key. If you are shooting inside and can’t afford expensive lighting use the most flattering and cheapest form of light there is – sun light! Position your group facing or parallel to a large clean window, if it is a particularly bright day cover it with a thin veil of material, such as a net curtain or peg a white cotton sheet across to act as a diffuser for softer, more flattering light.

If you decide to use flash indoors, perhaps employ a diffuser to soften the effect and avoid bleaching skin or flattening textures.

How to take a good portrait photo

Family Portrait by Dustin Diaz

4. Lighting Outdoors

You can really let your imagination run wild when it comes to photographing family portraits outside. Remember your light – as the sun can cause unflattering shadows to fall across the face.

With the sun behind the subjects you’ll get a creative silhouette or you could add a spot of fill in flash to bring back the details and generates a halo of light around the subjects, separating them from the background.

5. Avoid Squinting Subjects

Avoid having the sun behind you as the models will be pictured with odd squinting expressions, instead take a look around the vicinity – is there somewhere that offers some shade?

A porch, a beach umbrella or even a white sheet tied above their heads. For this last suggestion you may need to peg the corners of the sheet to four chairs and ask the group to sit underneath but this could convey a summery relaxed portrait.

6. Clothing and Props

It may sound cheesy, but as well as bearing a similar resemblence; you may want to include other elements to tie the members of the portrait together – to say ‘yes we are a family!’.

Suggestions include: matching splashes of colour, props or even aspects of the environment around them.

If you want to style the shot in a more traditional or relaxed fashion then ask the family to wear natural or pastel shades. Opt for bright, bold or clashing hues for a more energetic, frivolous shoot.

How to take a good portrait photo

Family Portrait by Kevin N. Murphy

7. Mix Up the Poses

As well as shooting the family sitting and then standing, experiment by having half the group stand and half sit.

By splitting the group onto different levels: the viewer is offered a more dynamic image forcing the eye to jump around the scene. Incorporate props, especially if you have children in the frame.

Not only will this again diversify the arrangement but it can help to reveal children’s personalities. For example a chair is not just for sitting, one could stand on it, crawl underneath it , lean on it, you could pose several children on it at one time etc.

How to take a good portrait photo

8. Experiment

Ideally for traditional group shots a wide angle lens is great for framing the entire family.

If it’s more relaxed candids you want then use a zoom to switch between wide angle shots with back drop and close up spilt-second emotive portraits. Dial in a wide aperture of f5.6 or less and throw out the back drop. This offers the chance to play with whom and what is in focus.

9. Alter your Perspective

Forget boring head on shots, be original and look for more inspirational angles.

Climb a ladder or chair and shoot shooting downwards. This is great if you have a large group or want to get more creative with positioning.

Alternatively hit the deck and lie with you back on the ground and shoot straight up into the middle of huddle. Even slanting the camera at a jaunty angle can produce exciting options. Profile portraits can be quite creative too.

How to take a good portrait photo

Family Portrait by Roberta Taylor

Have some fun!

Unleash the enthusiasm and ask your family to run, jump, spin, give each other piggybacks, dance, play fight and in general – laugh!

Get them doing things that will dispense with any rigidity or formality. Incorporating motion into group shots develops interest and instantly relaxes your subjects and therefore viewers. To freeze action shoot between 1/125 to 1/500, you may need to crank up ISO in low light or use flash if necessary.

Alternatively to incorporate a creative blur and reflect the connotation of movement use a speed of around 1/8 to 1/15. Employ Continuous AF if your camera has it and pan with the movement to keep the subjects sharp.

How to take a good portrait photo

How to take a good portrait photo

Portraits are one of the most powerful kinds of photographs. A great portrait can last for decades, memorializing a person’s entire life, or just a single instant. The difference between a snapshot and a good portrait is more narrow than you’d think. It just requires a little bit of thought.

What Makes a Good Portrait

Portraits are about one thing: the person in them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shooting a tight head shot or an environmental portrait; it’s all about the subject.

So with that in mind, what makes a good portrait?

First, a good portrait draws attention to the subject. This is normally achieved through some combination of a shallow depth of field, composition, color, and lighting. When it’s done right, as soon as a viewer looks at the portrait, their eyes instantly settle on the subject.

How to take a good portrait photo

Second, a good portrait tells you something about the subject. It shows some element of their personality or their life. You should be able to look at a good portrait and know something about them. The best portrait artists can tell a whole story in a single image.

Outside of these two things, there is very little rhyme or reason to what makes a good portrait—you have a lot of room to be creative.

The Technical Stuff

RELATED: Get Out of Auto: How to Use Your Camera’s Shooting Modes for Better Photos

You don’t need a dedicated lens for portrait photos, but there are dedicated portrait lenses which take flattering images of people. They have a wide aperture of at least f/2.0 and tend to have a focal length between 50mm and 100mm. The wide aperture gives you a really shallow depth of field which makes it easy to pull attention to the subject, while the focal length is long enough to minimize distortion without being so long that you have to stand 50 metres away to keep the person in frame.

A perfect portrait lens is the 50mm f/1.8 “Nifty Fifty”. Canon’s version is available for $125 while Nikon’s costs a little more at $215. If you have a DSLR and want to take great portraits, they’re well worth picking up. I shot the image below with one.

How to take a good portrait photo

When it comes time to shoot the photo, you want to put your camera in aperture priority mode. Set the aperture to a value of between f/1.8 and f/2.8. If your lens doesn’t go that wide, just use its widest aperture. You need a shutter speed of around 1/100th of a second. Faster is okay, but it’s better to have a lower ISO.

If you get the technical details right, you’re a long way towards capturing a good portrait. When you have a shallow depth of field, it’s hard to look anywhere but the subject.

Other Tips and Tricks

RELATED: How to Remove Acne and Other Blemishes in Photoshop

A portrait should flatter the subject. You want to reflect the best version of them. This rule should guide every decision, from the framing of your shot to the removal of acne and blemishes when you edit.

For portraits, you want the camera to be level, or slightly above, the model’s eyeline. No one looks good when shot from a low angle!

The two easiest portrait compositions to get right are the head shot (a close up of the model’s head and shoulders) and a waist-up shot. If you stand so that the subject fills the frame in either of these compositions, your portraits will look good.

How to take a good portrait photo

When you’re framing your shot, be careful not to cut off any of the model’s limbs. You want to crop at major joints like the waist, rather than at their fingers.

How to take a good portrait photo

One way to take your portraits to the next level is to use really good lighting. Don’t just shoot a portrait anywhere. Instead, find somewhere with nice, flat, even lighting. A great place to shoot a portrait is somewhere shady, like under a tree or in an alley, on a sunny day or in a room lit by a single large window. I used a window for the photos below.

How to take a good portrait photo

Portraits, more than any other kind of photography, require you to engage with your subject. If you step back and just take photos while your subject stares at the camera with a fake grin on their face, you’re going to end up with very cold, uninteresting portraits. Instead, you need to be constantly chatting to them, making them laugh, and getting them to just act like themselves.

How to take a good portrait photo

For every good portrait I take, I get about 50 shots where the model is laughing, smiling, talking, sticking her tongue out at me, or making ridiculous expressions. The best portraits happen at the in-between moments. When the model poses, you say something, and their pose cracks into a smile. Press the shutter button then, and you’ll have a great shot.

I love shooting portraits. They’re really social and lots of fun. To shoot a great landscape you need lots of gear, an amazing location, and patience. But to shoot a great portrait you just need someone who’ll stand in front of your camera and somewhere shady on a sunny day. A little technical know-how is all you need, because again: it’s all about the person in the photo.

Have you ever taken a picture outside only to realize afterward that the sky is white instead of blue? Or the subject of your image is too dark? Or that everyone in your picture is squinting because of the sun? These are common photography problems, but fortunately for you, there are easy solutions, following these few tips.

How to take a good portrait photo

The first thing to learn is that your camera—no matter how expensive it was!—is not as good as the human eye. We have the ability to look around us and simultaneously see the detail in dark areas as well as bright areas. This is called “dynamic range,” and our eyes have a lot more of it than any camera.

To compensate for this, your camera does something called “metering,” which means the camera picks a part of the image and tries to expose it correctly (not too dark and not too bright), and trusts that the rest of the picture will adjust accordingly. Sometimes this will work and sometimes it will not. But understanding your camera’s limitations and how it operates is the first step toward better pictures.

How does this translate into everyday use? To begin with, many of us ask too much of our cameras without realizing it. If you put your baby on a white blanket out in the sun to take an adorable picture, the camera might see the bright sun and that white blanket and say to itself,”Wow, this picture is WAY too bright—let me darken everything.” And then when you look at the picture later you realize that the blanket is properly exposed but your daughter’s face is too dark.

The solution to this problem is to make sure that everything in the scene is roughly the same degree of brightness. This is easier said than done, especially when out in the sun. So here are a few ways you can balance the playing field.

How to take a good portrait photo

  • Take pictures in the shade or on a cloudy day. This is hands-down one of the best ways to improve your outdoor photos. When sunlight is diffused by clouds or trees or buildings, there is still plenty of ambient light from the sky to light people’s faces, but without making any particular areas too bright for the camera to handle. (Bonus: using this method will also keep everyone’s eyes from squinting in your pictures!)
  • Use your flash. So many people only use their flash at night or indoors, but it can be a valuable tool outdoors during the day as well. Just make sure you’re close enough to your subject that the flash can reach him or her. Most pop-up flashes on cameras can only go a few yards at most.

More Tips for Improving Outdoor Portraits

  1. Place your subject facing AWAY from the sun. Yes, this means that the sun will be shining towards YOU. That’s okay. If the sun is behind your subject, their eyes won’t squint and they won’t have harsh shadows across their faces.
  2. When taking pictures of children (or pets), get down on their level instead of shooting from above looking down. This is a good tip whether you’re outdoors or indoors.

How to take a good portrait photo

  1. Don’t take outdoor pictures in the middle of the day when the sun’s out. I know this seems a bit unhelpful, especially if you’re trying to capture moments from your daughter’s pool party at 1 pm on a Saturday in June. But if you think creatively, you’ll see there are ways to do it. Take advantage of snack time, when they come up to the screen porch (shade!) for a break. Take more pictures toward the end of the pool party, like 4 or 5 pm, when the sun is lower in the sky and you can stand facing the sun and yell, “Look over here!” to take a shot so the sun is behind them. Or wait until the shadow of that huge oak tree is over part of the pool so there is some diffusion from the sun.

How to take a good portrait photo

  1. Although these tips will dramatically improve your outdoor portraits, you can get even better pictures if you really get to know your camera. Read the manual. Start using settings other than “Auto” (and no, I’m not talking about the pre-sets like “Sports” and “Portraits”). Try “P” to start with. You will gain much greater control over your camera and start to learn via trial and error about just how well your camera can take pictures.
  2. Most of all, keep trying! Nothing beats experience to teach you how to take great pictures.

About the Author:
Elizabeth Morrison is a self-employed business owner in the Charlotte, North Carolina area (elizabethmorrisonphotography dot com). Her photography studio, Elizabeth Morrison Photography, specializes in contemporary family portraiture.

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Corporate and business portrait photography is a profitable niche that many professional photographers strive to become known for. Businesses constantly need portraits of executives for annual reports, websites, and correspondence. One of the best ways to add personality to a company’s website and other business materials is with photos of the people from the organization. It adds a face to the brand name so the company’s clients can relate.

How to take a good portrait photo

“Attorney (business portrait)” captured by PictureSocial member George Wester

To get great business portraits, you don’t need a fancy camera or expensive lighting equipment. All you need is a regular camera and the following seven steps.

1. Find a location

The location of the business portrait should be the first thing you figure out. First, you need plenty of light, but you don’t want to take the portrait in the bright sun either. Bright sun creates harsh and clearly defined shadows that can be unflattering on your subject’s face. For a flattering portrait, usually soft light is the best. Soft light creates a gentle transition from the lighter area to the shadow.

Outdoors on an overcast day is best. When the sun’s out, head for the shade and try to find a location where you can position your subject on the edge of the shade (closest to the sun).

2. Place your subject

Now that you know where the good light is, you can place your subject. When you find the location for your subject, be especially aware of the background. Make sure nothing in the background distracts from the subject (such as trees or poles that seem to come out from the top of the subject’s head). And make sure the background won’t distract from the portrait. Take your time to look around.

3. Figure out the exposure

With your subject in place, take time to figure out the proper exposure of the image. For a portrait, you are mainly concerned with the exposure of the person’s face. For an easy way to meter, fill the frame of the camera with the important parts of the image. You might need to move or zoom in to do this. Make sure there aren’t any really bright areas in the area that you are metering (for instance, if the background is really bright and you are in the shade, make sure none of the bright areas in the background are in the frame.)

After you’ve metered, take a note of the settings. Put your camera in manual mode and dial in those settings. Then take a test shot. Check the preview on the back of the camera to see how it looks. Is the face properly exposed? If it isn’t properly exposed, you can dial up or down the shutter speed or the aperture to get it to the correct exposure. You will probably only need to tweak it a bit to get it just right.

4. Reality check your settings

If you’ve had the camera determine the exposure and then dialed it in, you need to take a moment to make sure these settings are realistic. The first most important thing is that you need a shutter speed that is fast enough so that you can hold the camera without camera shake. How fast is that? Well, it depends on the lens that you are using, but you usually want a shutter speed at least 1/100, or a second or faster. Some cameras have vibration control or image stabilization technology built in, though, so you might be able to hold the camera at a slower speed. Check your camera manual to see if it has this feature and the speed it recommends. Then just make sure you are using a shutter speed faster than that.

How to take a good portrait photo

“Natalie Paradise” captured by Eleazar Paradise

The other factor to think about is your aperture. Usually for a portrait, you want the face in focus while the background becomes blurry. To do this, you want to pick a wider aperture. A wider aperture (such as f/4 or f/5.6) will give you an in-focus face with an out-of-focus background. (A narrower aperture, such as f/22, will have both the face and the background in focus.) You could pick an even wider aperture (if your camera has it), such as f2.8, just realize that getting the face in focus will be harder. An aperture such as f/4 or f/5.6 is easier to work with.

Next, is the shutter speed fast enough? If not, you’ll need to change your aperture to get a faster shutter speed. Or you could increase the ISO on your camera to get a faster shutter speed. (But don’t increase the ISO too much because images at higher ISOs have a lower quality.) Check your aperture with your shutter speed–is it what you want? You might need to tweak it a few settings, and remember that getting the right exposure is often about compromises: sometimes you need to use settings that aren’t perfect in order to make the image work.

After you’ve decided on your settings, take another test shot. Look at it again. Is everything okay? If so, you’re ready for your subject.

5. Get your subject ready

Now let your subject know that you are ready to start. Find a comfortable position for them where they look good and natural. For a portrait, having the subject look at the camera and smile is usually best. And talk to your subject as you’re working so they feel comfortable and natural.

6. Get in close

Since this is a portrait, the image is just about the person. The background really isn’t important. So get in close! Have the person fill the frame of the camera. You shouldn’t see much of the background, but have the top of their head at the top of the frame and the bottom of the frame crop somewhere around the chest. Or you can get even closer, trim the top of the head, and just show the face.

7. Wait for the good moments

As you’re taking pictures, keep looking. Keep your eyes actively engaged and look for the good moments. Watch your client for the times when their smile looks genuine and natural.

Finally, make sure you take plenty of images–the more the better. Get various expressions from your subject. If they get tired of smiling, have them relax a bit and then smile again. Then take more images.

A positive image for a business…

Great business portraits leave clients and prospects with a positive impression.

About the Author:
Cheryl Savan is a San Francisco Bay Area business photographer who helps professionals make a strong first impression through distinctive business portraits.

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