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.
Drop by and tell us what you think!
5. Photographing Children - Composition
This is a topic we have always been asked a lot about and so it was one of the earliest tutorials that we included on DPS (it’s one that we are planning to update in the coming month). Photographing children can be a lot of fun although is also challenging (if only they’d sit still).
We look at photographing babies and older children - but if you’re looking for more tips on photographing babies you should check out this more extensive photographing babies tutorial. Also on a related note - check out How to Photograph a Children’s birthday party.
Travel photography is something of a passion for me and I find that filling my travel albums with pictures of local people adds a lot of interest to those I show my shots to.
However photographing people in a foreign land can be challenging - there’s language issues, cultural challenges and more.
In this tutorial I share 8 tips that I’ve found helpful in getting great travel portraits.
This tutorial came out of questions people asked in response to the last one on travel portrait photography.
There’s different schools of thought on how to approach photographing strangers - some just take shots of people without asking - but in this tutorial I talk about how I’d much rather get permission first.
I find that in most cases people are willing to pose if you’re polite and friendly.
Environmental Portraits are those where you take the portrait of a subject within the context that they live in (work, rest or play).
I love this type of portrait because it gives you subject context, adds interest to your shot and can give some sort of insight to your subject. I also find subjects tend to relax more when you photograph them there.
Take some environmental portraits and then drop by our forum’s portrait area to share them with us.
This post arose out of a visit of mine to Paris where I saw the Mona Lisa.
This little painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most famous portraits in history - but why is it so famous and can we as portrait photographers today learn something from it?
In this tutorial I’ve pulled out a number of things that I think Leonardo does with the Mona Lisa that could inform our own portrait photography.
Depth of Field is something that applies to all types of photography but it’s something that can have quite a profound impact upon a portrait if you know how to us it.
In this tutorial Natalie shares a range of ways that Depth of Field can be used to add variety, create interest (or remove distractions) in your portrait work.
Also on a similar topic - Overcoming Depth of Field Problems in Portraits.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that have the biggest impact upon a photograph.
When I was compiling this list I almost left this one out as at a first glance it can seem a little trivial - however it is something that I’ve used again and again when posing portraits.
It’s also something that I noticed a pro photographer doing with me when I was sitting for a portrait session recently. If it’s good enough for the Pros - it’s good enough for me!
While we’re on the topic of posing for portraits - here’s another group of quick posing tips - this time taken from the posing that we see on the ‘red carpet’ of any event with celebrities.
These tips are all about getting the most flattering looks for different parts of the body (waistlines, thighs and bust lines)
Try them - they really do work!
When it comes to where to ask your subject to look there are a number of options open to portrait photographers.
You can have them look directly at you, you can ask them to look at something outside the frame of your shot or you could have them look at something (or someone) within the frame.
Each of these options can work well - but each will have a different impact upon your shots.
I was chatting with a portrait painter recently and he told me that for many painters ‘hands’ are the most challenging part of the body to paint.
As photographers we might look at hands as something we have little control over - however the way they appear in shots can reveal a lot about our subject (and how they are feeling). As a result it’s worth paying at least a little attention to the hands of our subject when doing portrait work.
This tutorial gives a few hints as to how to work with hands.
What Should I wear?
It’s a question that most portrait photographers get asked a lot by clients and in this tutorial I give a number of tips from my own approach (my approach is to keep clothes relatively plain and allow the focus to remain upon the subject themselves) and then invite readers to share theirs.
Many digital camera owners rarely switch their camera out of one of Auto mode and when they do it’s usually to one of the other semi-automatic modes (like portraits, sports, landscapes etc).
While there’s nothing wrong with these semi-automatic modes - there’s a real satisfaction in venturing into manual mode where YOU call the shots rather than your camera. In this tutorial I share a few starting points if you’re up for the challenge of getting out of Portrait Mode.
In this tutorial one of our regular contributors (Natalie, a great portrait photographer) shares some great tips on getting your subjects to relax and look comfortable in their environment.
She talks ‘hands’, ’stools’, ‘distractions’ and ‘respect’.
I think you’ll agree that the images she shares in the tutorial are pretty special too and show just how well the tips she shares work.
A “catchlight” is simply the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye.
This highlight adds depth and dimension to the eye, and gives the eyes life in a portrait or snapshot.
But how do you get them?
In this tutorial one of our forum members puts together a great tutorial on the topic of catchlights - enjoy.
Sometimes the best portrait is one where your subject has no (or little) idea that you’ve taken the shot at all - because you’re shooting candidly.
The 11 tips for candid photos in this tutorial range from the obvious (long zooms and shooting lots) through to tips on framing images and shooting ‘people with people’.
A quick note - I find that often shooting candidly works well before or after a more formal portrait shoot.
These Tips just scratch the Surface of our Archives
We’re producing new tutorials on portrait photography and other types of shooting every day - the best way to keep up with them all is to subscribe here.