Portrait Photography For The Beginner

So, you’re interested in learning the ins-and-outs of portrait photography. Well, you’re in luck because in this post, I’ll share with you some of the most important elements that you need to keep in mind in order to succeed in portrait photography as a beginner. But before we get down to tips and techniques, let’s understand first what portrait photography is…

Portrait photography is the art of photographing a person or a group of people with the goal to effectively display their personality, expression, and their mood. Typically, the person’s face takes centre stage but the background and entire body or context may also be included.

Portrait Photography

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If you’re ready to learn the basics of taking a portrait, first understand that there are quite a lot of elements that you need to comprehend and master to perfect this craft. These include ISO, lighting, aperture, exposure, etc.

Tips to keep in mind:

  1. Set your aperture – Aperture is one of the three most important elements of photography (the other two being shutter speed and ISO). This element is responsible for photos where the subject is distinctively in focus; aperture adds dimension by blurring the background. In portrait photography, you’ll want to use wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field in your photos. This helps your subject stand out in the frame by effectively blurring the background and eliminating distractions. Just ensure that your aperture isn’t too wide that it blurs the edges of your subject’s face.
  2. Know and master ISO – ISO is basically the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. Higher ISO means increased sensitivity of the camera while lower ISO numbers means less sensitivity to the light. As lighting is one of the secrets to creating great portraits, this is something that you need to master in order to succeed in the field of photography. Higher ISO settings are typically useful when there is not much available light like for indoor photoshoots. There are certain situations when you want to push ISO to higher settings and these include when there’s a limited light available, your subject is moving too fast, for no-flash zones, concerts, etc.
  3. Shutter Speed – This element is responsible for creating dramatic effects to your portraits. Before I continue discussing shutter speed, let me explain what a camera shutter is. This is a curtain in front of your camera sensor, which doesn’t open until you take a shot. Once you hit the button, the shutter opens to explore the sensor to the light, which pass through the lens aperture. Shutter speed is basically the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. If the shutter speed is fast, it freezes the action completely. If it’s slow, it creates a motion blur making your portraits look more dramatic.
  4. Lighting is important – If you’re just starting out, buying expensive lighting equipment might not be possible. But do not fret because you can use natural lighting. What I suggest is that you schedule your photoshoot either before the sun rises or before it sets and you can be assured of glorious portraits. Also, using window light is also popular in the field of portrait photography as the light is subtle rather than vivid.
  5. No Flash please – Personally, I think that a camera flash is a no-no for up close portrait photography. Unless you are using a diffuser, never use a flash as your primary source of light as this will make your photos look amateurish or uninteresting.
  6. Be creative – Perhaps, this is the best tip that I can give you as a beginner in portrait photography. Your creativity will help you stand out from the crowd therefore consider how to make a portrait creative rather than just taking a photo – Instead of taking the same cliché shots, explore and think out of the box. Make your photos look more artsy, bolder, and by all means, more dramatic. Be sure that they tell a story and that they can captivate one’s emotions. Never be afraid to try something new and most importantly; never stop learning, there’s so much to learn about portrait photography! Expand your knowledge and you’ll only get better and better.


Portrait photography isn’t something that most beginners learn and master right away. It requires certain knowledge, enormous practice, guidance, and of course, creativity. But if you’re really passionate about it and willing to learn the craft, I am sure that you’ll be able to make this happen.

If you have question about portrait photography or you’re interested in hiring Little Orange Photography for this service, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’ll be happy to answer any enquiries.

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