If you have read my personal photo essay on my website, you know that I found my love for photography as a child. You also know that I connect my artistic expression to my emotional intuition which has allowed me to see the world through a fine-tuned lens. Whether you are just finding your calling or picking up a hobby as an adult, writing your own story starts with an understanding of photography. As I noted in my bio, I am not a hoarder of trade secrets, so here is a beginner’s guide to portrait photography to help you on your way.

1. Know How To Use Your Camera Settings

As your focus is on portrait photography, you must understand your camera’s settings. Beginners typically start out with digital single-lens reflex cameras which comes with extensive settings like exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and lens.

  • Exposure Compensation – This technique adjusts the exposure as indicated by the built-in exposure metering system that adjusts it based on factors like lighting, camera settings, filters, processing, and exposure conditions that secures optimal exposure results.
  • Aperture- Aperture works much like the human eye as it pertains to the hole within your camera’s lens in which light travels. Just as your iris adjusts your pupil when light enters, so does aperture which adjusts the amount of light present in the camera lens. Aperture Priority uses a wider focus by blurring the background. The more you learn about your camera settings, the more professional your photos will be.
  • Shutter Speed- Your shutter speed should typically be higher than your focal length to ensure that the focus is on the subject. It also ensures that your image is sharp. You should also use your camera’s anti-shake system to elevate your imagery production.
  • ISO- The ISO setting controls the brightness of your image. Balance is critical, so too much ISO will produce grainy photos. Movement is always an issue as it leads to unusable photos which are why shutter speed and ISO will overcome the obstacle.
  • Lens- Your choice of lens is a vital component to imagery. To take portraits, you generally want a wider-angle lens. For more flattering photos, some photographers prefer a telephoto lens for its focal length. Research the lens for the type of portraits you intend to take as it will define your photography capabilities.

2. Setting The Stage

The presentation is a key determiner in how your portraits come out. From the props to the poses, you need to understand your subjects as well as how best to bring out the best in them. From camera shyness to comfortability, artistic expression is not easy to attain without introducing some external components to portrait photoshoots.

  • Posing Your Subject- Some people think that good photos happen all on their own. You would be surprised at just how much time photographers spend planning for a shoot. By researching subjects, you learn about imaging strengths as well as poses that work well for a subject. When you think about facial expressions, body positions, and mood, they greatly affect the finished product as you have more poses to choose.
  • Using Props- When you have clients who are camera shy or stiff from inexperience, props can be an ideal item to introduce into a photo shoot. Having something for your subjects to engage with will help them refocus their energy so that they forget about the pressure of reacting to your camera lens for the perfect portrait.
  • Develop Good Rapport- When your clients trust you, it comes across in the finished product. When you fail to make them informed about what you want to do, the lack of clear and concise communication will also affect your photo shoot. Speak to your clients and direct their poses and positioning. Also take the time to show them great shots so they are more confident about your abilities as a competent photographer.
  • Use A Variety Of Camera Angles- Playing with angles can have a significant impact on your creativity as it enhances the quality of images you produce. When playing on angles, you should also consider your lighting as it will affect the portraits you produce. If you are using a natural light source, try taking an image by using a lower angle than your subject. You should also work with various angles to gain a variety of different images.
  • Use Reflectors- Lighting is always a tricky thing to master as a beginner. It is also an area that will get better with camera knowledge. While the sun does not play well with photography, reflectors are just the thing to brighten up any situation. Use gold reflectors outdoors while utilizing white or silver to brighten up darker rooms.

3. Use An Assistant

Professional photographers will advise you that shoots are hectic when you are solo so a good piece of advice is always to have an assistant to help with lighting, reflectors, and props. Whether on set or in the field, hire someone as it makes it easier to accomplish.

4. Change Up The Environment During A Photo Shoot

Whether you are taking singular portrait shots or shooting with a family, it can be helpful to change up the environment during a photo shoot to produce a variety of interesting portraits. The more you plan for each shoot, the smoother it will go. Plan on bringing extra attire, hats, shoes so you can coordinate the color palettes with the right landscape.

5. Play On Composition

Beginners tend to think a portrait is a top side, facial shot. They are ideal for business photos, but you should try to diversify your images by taking on more of the body’s composition. Use your zoom in and out, play with the angles, and capture the subject in a variety of ways that build on what is not obvious rather than what you can see.

Lastly, be creative. Take the time to enjoy each subject of your photo shoot by remembering why you fell in love with photography from the start. To gain more insight into working as a commercial photographer, please visit my site for more read more about it in my book here.