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Portrait Photography Ultimate Guide

Pictures of people pictures fall into two categories: portraits and candid. So, you can read this portrait photography ultimate guide to learn how to take portraits that capture your subject perfectly. Portrait studio photography can be a challenge. Thus, the ultimate guide to portrait photography aims to simplify the process with solid portrait photo guides. 

What is Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography is a photography subgenre that is all about people. It captures an individual’s essence, personality, identity, and attitude. An expert portrait photographer uses diverse backgrounds, lighting, and posing to achieve the perfect portrait. 

The challenge is how to present the person at their best. As a portrait studio photographer, you must know how to select the right gear, location, composition, lighting, and how to pose the model. 

Finally, the photographer needs a solid understanding of portrait photo editing to complete the shot. Or, they can get headshot photo editing services from professionals. 

Types of Portrait Photography:

  • Headshot Photography
  • Family Portrait Photography
  • Black And White Portrait Photography
  • Self-portrait Photography
  • Wedding Portrait Photography
  • Environmental Portrait Photography
  • Graduation Portrait Photography
  • Boudoir Portrait Photography
  • Outdoor Portrait Photography
  • Pet Portrait Photography

So, let’s cover the ultimate guide to portrait photography in the following sections!

Ultimate Guide to Portrait Photography

Want to learn how to take portrait photos? Then, you will benefit from knowing the following portrait photography tips: 

  • Engage Your Subject
  • Take Group Portraits
  • Take Casual Portraits
  • Choose the Right Setting
  • Get Closer to Your Subject
  • Take Environmental Portraits
  • Focus on Hands and Other Details
  • Take Portraits of Familiar Subjects
  • Approach Unfamiliar Cultures Carefully
  • Predicting Relationships Within the Frame
  • Take More Candids (While Being Unobtrusive)

Engage Your Subject

The first tip in this portrait photography ultimate guide is to constantly engage your subject.

By engaging the subject, you can work on overcoming the shyness or awkwardness that every inexperienced photographer feels. 

Approach the subject with your camera in the bag so you can explain your purpose and engage in conversation. 

The result? You become more confident and comfortable with taking portraits. 

Take Group Portraits

Group portraits are challenging to get right. It’s difficult enough getting the perfect person of one person. A group? That takes it up a notch. 

However, this portrait photography ultimate guide will suggest you take group portraits. Why? They tell a good story.

Photographing group portraits takes imagination, patience, and diplomacy. As a group portrait studio photographer, you must fully use your imagination. 

Take Casual Portraits

Casual portraits are just that; casual photographs of people. 

Take more casual portraits, they cannot be planned and often tell the most intimate stories. 

For example, if you are taking a portrait photoshoot, take some behind-the-scenes portraits of the subject when they are doing something casual. The casual portrait you click will be able to capture a moment challenging to manufacture artificially. 

Choose the Right Setting

The setting in which you click your portraits plays a large part in telling your story. 

Settings can include:

  • House
  • Street
  • Place of Relaxation
  • Workplace, etc.

Your setting will provide contextual information about people and their lives. 

Get Closer to Your Subject

The most common mistake portrait studio photographers make is not getting physically close enough to their subjects. 

Getting closer to the person helps give more meaning by focusing on the main subject. 

Take Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits are a special type of portrait photography. You can capture your subjects in their surroundings to give a full picture.

For example, you can capture an environmental portrait of a nurse going about their work in an emergency room (ER). That environmental portrait will tell a story about the nurse during the hectic moments of an ER. 

Focus on Hands and Other Details

The details of the human body are great photography subjects. Remember that you can improve your portrait photography by focusing on hands and other details. 

For example, you can include the hands of a baker, a farmer, or a pianist. Other details can include a ballet dancer’s feet, the bicep of a weight lifter, or fingers clutched in prayer.

Including these little details in your portrait photography plays a role in making the pictures display better emotion. 

Take Portraits of Familiar Subjects

So far, this portrait photography ultimate guide has given many advanced tips. However, the best way to improve at portrait photography is to take portraits of familiar subjects. 

Feeling nervous about approaching strangers? Then, start with those closest to you! 

Our family members are those we photograph the most. So, apply the techniques you use as a professional portrait photographer to taking photos of your family (or friends). It will go a long way to making you a better photographer. 

Approach Unfamiliar Cultures Carefully

Taking portraits of familiar people is easy. On the other hand, you must be careful when photographing people of different cultures. 

Do your research before taking portraits of unfamiliar cultures. Find out if there are any no-nos or taboos that you will do well to avoid. Be aware and sensitive to local customs and traditions so you do not breach the trust of the people you are photographing.

Predicting Relationships Within the Frame

A great deal of taking photos of people is understanding human nature and knowing how people normally react in given situations. 

Want some examples? 

A person will typically smile when they see a baby. Or, a crowd in a sports match will all rise as one when their team wins. 

These situations result in moments that you can only capture during fleeting moments. So, the portrait photographer must understand human emotions and behavior and be ready to capture that when it arises. 

Take More Candids (While Being Unobtrusive)

Candid portraits capture people going about their lives while unaware that they are being photographed. 

Always try to be unobtrusive when photographing candid portraits. Also, if a person asks not to take the candid, please comply. 


In conclusion, portrait photography requires a specific skill set and patience to get right. So, this portrait photography ultimate guide gave solid tips and advice for nailing your portraits. 

I hope you enjoyed this ultimate guide on portrait photography. Let me know if you have questions. Cheers!

Portrait Photography FAQs

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about portrait photography. 

What is meant by portrait photography?

Portrait photography, also known as portraiture, is a type of photography that captures the personality of a person or a group of people by effectively using lighting, backdrops, and poses. 

What are the rules of portrait photography?

Some rules to follow when taking portraits include:

  • Avoid shooting in harsh light with stray shadows on the subject’s face.
  • Get close, but not too close to shoot up through the subject’s nose. 
  • Always shoot at eye level of the subject. 
  • Apply the rule of thirds or a center composition to keep the subject in focus. 

What techniques are used by portrait photographers?

Some techniques used by portrait photographers include the following:

  • Use gels. 
  • Try using props. 
  • Use a longer lens.
  • Change the aperture. 
  • Bring your own lighting. 
  • Diffuse your light source. 
  • Find a different shooting position. 
  • Finish with photo editing and post-processing.





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