17 Portrait Photography Tips Everyone Should Master

by | Oct 1, 2021 | Portrait Photography

n order to get a good portrait, one needs a lot of light, a good pose, and a natural expression. This is a skill that needs time and practice. Here are some tips to get you started.

Taking great portraits is an art. It can be as formal as a Hollywood portrait or as candid as a photo of a pet. It’s a way for photographers to take a look at the personality of the object, whoever it may be. Portraits can be done of groups of people or even individuals.


Here are three tips to help you get the best photos from the first time you shoot your subject. We suggest that you try these strategies before taking on another portrait in the future, as they will make what you shoot much easier.

Placing your camera with a macro lens gives you an instant overview of the subjects’ features and gives you plenty of scope for a detailed head shot, shoulders shot, and even a body shot. It isn’t necessarily the best choice, but odds are if you know how to take great photos, other photographers can appreciate what you’ve got.

At larger events, microphones do come in handy. On short shoots, this is typically a backup focus for the photographer as they need something to focus on.

The simplest answer here is to use the lightbox. This the equipment commonly used by the National Geographic photo ofathlon team (in case you are interested). The lightbox allows you to shoot at a white auto-focus setting while keeping the subject more or less evenly lit.

Only specific head shots are caught by the white auto-focus, but in any other are caught by the flash with the camera’s built in flash. Look for flattering angles that showcase your models’ faces.

When photographing group shots, many photographers prefer a floor angle, i.e; standing, seated, swimming the swim, and walking the walk on the same backdrop. It takes a lot of space, but it makes the subject stand out.

Holding your camera higher up (i.e., a kneeling position) gives you a great view of the world while capturing important head shots.

Check out these detailed walk-throughs on just some of the basics of photography (from oriented framing to white balance).


In our first video, we used a spinning head to show how the camera works. In the next, we will try using pro mode so the example shoot stands out more.

Pro camera

To help you get started, we have created our anatomy of a great portrait and created a short video that takes the viewer through the step by step process. Please note that we are holding the camera from behind to help balance the subject and frame.

Kit: Canon EOS Rebel T6

Location: East London, UK

Date: 5th May, 2015

Shoots between 8am and 10:30am

Award winning photograph: 2,200 x 800

Making of photo: 1h 51m

Making of movie: 19.

Sometimes the subject wants to be left out (a rarity in business portrait photography), while other people like to be photoshopped in.

Because photographs are a form of communication, every philosophy has an etiquette to follow.

Etiquette of Business Portrait Photography

Tip 1: All you need is a camera and a set of good lighting, and you can get a good portrait with very little effort.

If you think you are going to be photographing lots of people, think again. Maintain a set of white, bedroom, in-the-flesh lighting that is clean, but not too bright or cool. Bring a compact, portable white camera and a wide angle lens (not too zoomed in). These photos will make a great variety from social media profiles right after the photo shoot.

Tip 2: No matter how many photos you take, try to get just one good one.

Find theCheeseheadMcSlug.com for pros and cons to various types of lighting and getting your perfect shot. Side note: many photographers practice photoshopping real photos before they take them, just in case they messed up the lighting or pose. (Woo hoo!)

Etiquette of Personal Portrait Photography:

Tip 1: Think of the people you are photographing as you would a friend.

Personal photos, what they lack in professional quality, make up in friendliness and friendship. Try to quietly speak with the subjects (no loud snapping or worried looks) and take a form of professionality. Save yourself for friends.

Etiquette of Business Portrait Photography for a Entertainment Tour:

Businesspeople are celebrities, sports figures, and studio celebrities. It is important for sports events to have a celebrity front and center, right next to the home court names. This keeps the fans on their team (no getting mad at the sports center for having a celebrity stairstaff). A sports arena sits on the outside of soccer fields, so in that context any ex-player or sports mascot is a celebrity (assuming they are still alive).

What a sports arena lacks in actual celebrity, it makes up for in attendance numbers. Movie theaters get millions of people showing up to see movies each week. Sports arenas usually get no less than tens of thousands to see each game, and by default they have celebrities front and center. For an entertainment event, it should be no different (assuming the celebrities are worth getting out in the cold to see).

Even celebrities need a little coaxing. At a Lakers/Kings game] Lakers guard Jeremy Lin dons a helmet and comes out onto the court (before the game) to take photos with the crowd at game time.

The key to success with a professional portrait is to get the lighting right and the pose correct.

To get the best photo of you or your pet, follow the tips below.

8 Tips for Taking Professional Portraits

1. Know where the camera is

To get great photos, the camera must be placed in the right location. With just a flash, you have to be careful not to overexpose the background which can make a wide angle lens problem. Set the camera on auto-focus before taking the picture and try to take as many pictures as possible using the same camera when possible. You can control the angle of the camera and get a rendering that’s similar to what you see in the mirror.

2. Create good angles

When taking photos of people, the best pictures are taken from behind or in front of the subject. Easy, right? The problem with this approach is the person in the back of the photo can look great in a setting with lots of natural light. And while you’re at it, make sure the person in the front is looking out the window. Most people are fascinated with their own reflection in a mirror. Try to capture this phenomenon. When the person in front is looking backwards at the camera, it looks like they’ve removed it.

3. Light is the key

As a photographer, you must always remember you are trying to light the subject in the right way to get the best shot. Use a properly exposed flash and pick the ideal room for the photo. Avoid coordinating color on the background because you never know when someone will change colors. And when lighting a subject, keep a finger on focus and use the built-in bracket feature. This not only makes the photo look more natural, but is an additional tool to help you line up your shot.

4. Avoid hand holding

Photographers have long used the practice of holding the camera by the subject’s elbow or wrist. This method makes time-consuming portraits easier to pull off. If you are a shy person, try to hold the camera by your shoulder or elbow instead. Holding the camera by your wrist can cause you to tense up, in alignment with what the other person is trying to show you. The key to this approach is to use the camera like an extension of yourself. If you look at the camera with your “head” looking through the viewfinder, you can capture that natural expression that makes people want to click..

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