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Portrait Photography: The Complete Guide for Beginners

Photography is an art, just like making a painting. You are capturing a moment and sealing it for a lifetime. Portrait photography is when you are capturing moments of a person or people. And with that capture, you bring the beauty of the person or people at that moment. 


Photography can be a passion, a hobby, or a skill that you want to learn. You can learn to take a perfect portrait photograph with just the proper technique and tips. The blog will help you learn the basics of portrait photography and techniques to start taking portrait shots like a pro.

What is Portrait Photography?

One of the very famous styles of photography is portrait photography. And there is a good reason for it because who doesn’t want to capture the beautiful moments of their life. Therefore, portrait photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing a subject, often a person or a group. 

What is Portrait Photography

A portrait photo can tell stories and bring out the emotion and personality of the person in the photo through a camera lens. It also tells a story about the time it was taken, the culture, experience and definitely about the place.

As a portrait photographer, you can click portraits as a passion and also earn through it. You can capture your own family and friends on different occasions, or become a full-time professional photographer. In addition, you can be commissioned for taking pictures of important events in peoples’ life. For example, you can shoot for weddings, graduation ceremonies or even corporate events. 

Moreover, as a portrait photographer, you can shoot for fine art photography, photojournalism, and many other reasons. Also, as a portrait photographer, you have to use and know different techniques, light exposure, backdrop, composition, styling, and you need to have a great idea about poses.

Approaches of Portrait Photography

In the field of portrait photography, you can take 4 kinds of different approaches. Moreover, these 4 approaches can be divided into different types of photography. The types will be discussed in a while, but for now, let us look at the 4 approaches of portrait photography.

Approaches of Portrait Photography

In the field of portrait photography, you can take 4 kinds of different approaches. Moreover, these 4 approaches can be divided into different types of photography. The types will be discussed in a while, but for now, let us look at the 4 approaches of portrait photography.


The constructionist approach is the earliest kind of portrait photography. Here the photographer mainly focuses on the subject. First, you, as a photographer, have to ask your subjects to pose in certain ways. Then, by clicking your subject in different poses, you have to bring out the meaning or vibe you want to achieve.


Some examples of this constructionist approach are: 

  • Advertising photography, 
  • Fashion photography, 
  • Some studio portraits, 
  • Headshots, 
  • Stock images 


In this approach, the concentration is more on the environment around the subject. The environment is likely something close to the subject. For example, where your subject lives or work.


In the environmental approach, the photographer uses the surroundings and the subject to tell a story. The story is often related to the subject. You can capture them when they are working or busy with something and when the subject looks directly at the camera.


In the candid approach, photographers click people when they are behaving naturally. The portraits don’t require any prior preparation, most of the time. The subject is clicked in their natural poses. Mostly they are unaware that a camera captures them. 


Therefore, it involves photographing people without their prior consent or knowledge. A major example of a candid approach is street photography. Here, people wandering in the public domain are clicked in their most natural and pure form. The candid can tell more profound stories of mundane life and be controversial as it may capture images of individuals in compromising situations.

Moreover, many times candid shots are taken when the subjects are aware of photographers around them. But the subjects can be moving around doing their work and do not intend to pose when the shot is taken. Some of the most iconic pictures of the world are candid. A lot of photographers can explore and bring out their imaginations and creativity through candid photography.


In a creative approach, you can experiment and bring out the artist in you. Here you can set up your stage, adjust lightings and take other post preparation to give artistic quality to your portrait photos.


The creative approach for taking portraits often go beyond taking a single frame approach within a camera. Mostly, photographers combine the image with other elements to design a final result. It is also known as composition images. The creative approaches also imply the images, which are heavily edited to achieve a visual effect. 

Before digital photography was here, photographers used darkroom techniques like dodging, burning, and masking. These techniques used to make creative manipulation of images. But now, creative manipulation of images is referred to as “Photoshopped”. This means the quality or characteristics of the image is somehow changed by using photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. Here is how you can learn how to edit your image through Online Adobe Lightroom Course and give pictures a creative touch.

Do you know the History of Portrait Photography?

Okay, now please do not go running after seeing the “history”. It is going to be interesting because it is photography. Moreover, as an art form, photography comes from inspiration and what can be a greater inspiration than looking at the past! 

History of Portrait Photography

In the beginning, portraits and portraiture were about painting. A portrait painting was a statement to show power, nobility and status, and it was generally reserved for rich people. But around the late 19th century, the first Kodak camera was invented. As a result, portraiture became popular.  More people got access to take their pictures. Portraits and self-portraits took the place of painting, as it was less tedious.

Taking a DSLR camera on hand and clicking away pictures as long as the memory isn’t full is typical these days. But photography has a long history and went through lots of evolution.

 So here, let’s look at the timeline of portrait photography.

History of Portrait Photography

What kind of Camera, Camera Settings and Lens do you need for Portrait Photography?

Did you get your camera ready yet? If not, we can give you a few ideas of what kind of camera you should select to begin portrait photography.

What kind of Camera

There is no one size fit camera for all kinds of situations. But you can always have your personal favourite camera for clicking your portraits. Good portrait photography always keeps its subjects in sharp focus and keeps the background a bit of blur. But it doesn’t always have to be like this. 

You can easily focus on the subject and make the background blur through a mobile phone through the “Portrait Mode” setting. But nothing can beat the finishing that an excellent digital camera can give. Moreover, the file will stand out and be much better for enlarging, further editing and printing when clicked through a camera.

Everything depends upon what kind of portrait photography you want to do. When you use wide apertures with your camera, it creates shallow depths of field. As a result, you can separate your subject from the background.


DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are the best options for doing good portrait photography. DSLR’s are traditional and have different kinds of compatible lenses. However, mirrorless bodies are starting to outrank them in features.


It is essential that you know what type of portrait photography you want to do. Depending on that, lights and settings will be different, and there are a few things your style will require. Your main focus has to be on image quality and resolution. For instance, as a studio photographer, you will need a good burst rate than for nature. When you are shooting in a studio, you will need to have higher resolution images.

Here is a list of the best cameras for portrait photography that you can do your research on to start portrait photography:

1. Nikon D3500

2. Canon EOS Rebel SL3/EOS 250D

3. Sony A6100

4. Panasonic Lumix G100

5. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

6. Nikon Z 7

7. Fujifilm X-T4

8. Sony A7R IV

These are just a few camera models, and there is a wide variety of them out there. So make sure you properly go through all the features and specifications before buying the camera you want.


You will get a Kit lens when you buy your camera, which can be enough for you to get started with portrait photography. But if you are serious about creating better and professional portrait photography, you need to consider buying dedicated portrait lenses. To enhance the depth of field, any aperture from f/4 and wider will help you click your subject.

Camera Lens

The ideal lenses for portrait photography are between 50-85 mm. They do not make severe changes to the scene, which helps the subject as natural as possible. 

For the wide aperture, a fast prime lens is best. These work best when you use the lens in low light and create beautiful bokeh with a shallow depth of field. Moreover, prime lenses have fixed focal lengths like 35 mm, 50 mm or 85 mm. As a result, they are great for taking portraits and astronomical photographs.

Camera Settings

Camera setting will depend upon the situations and setup you are taking your images on. Here are three different situations that you may choose or come across during taking photos. These basic settings are suitable for taking all types of portraits.

Camera Settings

1. Camera Settings During Capturing Individuals

Turn on the focus mode to Spot or One-Shot when you are working with one subject. It helps the camera focus on the subject’s eyes, which makes the portrait more interesting. Remember to reframe your composition after focusing. Because you do not want your subject’s eye to be in the centre of the picture on every shot.

2. Camera Settings when Photographing a Group

When you are working with a group of people, use a Subject Tracking mode. It is an AI Servo or continuous focus way to capture your subjects, who will most likely move.  

Moreover, you can find a portrait mode on your camera, which will help you take better portrait images as a beginner. You can explore through the camera user manual and the setting and carefully take the best shots.

3. Camera Settings when You are Shooting Outdoor

When you are shooting outdoor, you may have to invest in off-camera flesh. If you want to get creative with your photo shoot, you can purchase a wireless remote that goes with your flash. You can take pictures from a different angle, which will make your light distinctive.

What are the Important Things for Portrait Photography?

Now let us gear up a bit so that you take all the best shots you can. While you can start portrait photography with any kind of camera, it is always wise to stock your own things to practice taking better pictures. So here are some essential things that you need to do while doing portrait photography.

Important Things for Portrait Photography


If you want to take pictures at a studio or even at home, you will need a backdrop. The backdrop can be an easy way to add style and achieve a professional look for your portrait.


There are lots of different backdrops available out there. Take a good look at the material, size, patterns and few things of the backdrop, depending on your need.


Portrait photography requires a variety of lightings. But an on-camera flash helps you lit up your portrait in the right way. Off-camera flashes, like a set of studio strobes, can give you flexibility in producing the lighting effects you want.

Camera Flash

Light Reflectors

Light reflectors are best friends of photographers who take still shot. Therefore, it is beneficial for taking portraits, products, or food photography. The Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector is a handy and budget-friendly light reflector the offers a lot of flexibility. 

Light Reflectors

Continuous Lighting for Portraits

You will need a continuous source of light for the portrait image. Purchasing studio light will help you to get sufficient lighting for your clicks. In addition, it helps you observe your subject and if there is enough light as you shoot without requiring you to review your images after taking them.

Continuous Lighting for Portraits

Fun Fact: Form more lighting effects, and also, for backdrops, you can use fairy light, light balls and prism.


As you become more skilled, you can use different filters. You have to be picky while choosing the right filter. There is a wide range of lens filters that can help you take better portraits, but you have to choose the right ones. You can choose from a variety of polarising filters to cooling and warming filters.



One of the essential tools for portrait photography is tripods. Every photographer needs a tripod. It helps you to support your camera. When setting particular setups, with the help of a tripod, you can fix the frame on that setting. This will help you to take fixed and constant shots.


Apart from these essentials, you need to always carry with you an extra memory card, camera bag, an external hard drive and anything that makes your photos hooting experience effortless.

What are the Types of Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography focuses on capturing a person or people and their being in a particular moment. The moments can be planned or set up in a studio or crafted platform. It can also be in nature. Your portrait subjects can pose for your photo, or you can capture them enjoying themselves. 

What are the Types of Portrait Photography

Knowing how to capture your subject can help you to achieve high quality and professional image. Through the use of different techniques of light settings, backdrops, poses and other things, you have to click the picture. If you have a passion for photography 

Taking all of this into account, there are 10 different types of portrait photography. You can select any one of these types of portrait photography to begin with. Let us make you familiar with these 10 portrait photography.

Traditional Portraits

In a traditional portrait photograph, the subject looks directly at the camera. It is usually posed, and you as a cameraman have to take a picture of the subject when they look their best. Most of the time, traditional portraits are taken in a studio, and the backdrop is usually formal.

Traditional Portraits

Traditional portrait photography usually includes the subject’s head and shoulders rather than taking a full-body portrait photo. This style of portrait photography is what comes to mind when people talks of portraits. Moreover, this type of photo has been here for a long time. 

Because of posing and flattering studio lights, traditional portraits are popular among photography. In addition, people who want to click passport photos, professional portraits for resumes, portfolios and other official use usually ask for traditional photographs.

Lifestyle Portraits

Lifestyle portrait photography, though it is a form of portrait photography, but is the complete opposite of traditional portrait. In a lifestyle portrait, the photographer captures the person or people in a natural or everyday environment instead of a studio.

Lifestyle Portraits

During this kind of portrait photography, photographers usually don’t impose strict rules for posing. Instead, the images are supposed to display authenticity. Therefore, the photos are taken in the most mundane moments, like home, restaurants, outdoor places, and any social setting. 

The subjects can move around or be at ease and do ordinary things while the photos are shot. For example, a photographer may ask children to jump around on the bed or ask the family members to form a group hug while they take the shot. But photographers do not position or ask to pose the subject. Instead, lifestyle portraits are mostly about capturing memories.

Environmental Portraits

The environmental portraits apply the environmental approach. This genre of portrait photography highlights the personality of the subject in the environment dearest to them. It is a mix of both traditional and lifestyle photography and can also be formal and informal.

Environmental Portraits
The location of the photography and the pose technique of the subjects play a great role in portraying the photo’s inner meaning. Mostly, the location is something that is very close to the person being photographed. The place can also be natural, home, office, outdoor, or even a dance studio or art gallery. The person, their pose, background and lightning all play an essential role in the environmental portrait. 

Candid and Street Portraits

We have already discussed above how the candid approach works. It is one of the purest forms of photography that captures the subject in their activities without their awareness. Instead, with perspective and imagination, the photographer captures the subject that reflects deeper meaning.

Candid and Street PortraitsStreet photography, which features people, are often candid, and you don’t need preplanning for it. This type of photography doesn’t require posing or setups. Street photographers take continuous snaps of images of people they come across in the street. You as a photographer gets inspiration from the natural position and surrounding of your subject. The subject can be reading the newspaper, carrying a load, riding a bicycle or just walking off to a sunset.

One can use the qualities of candid photography in other types of portrait photography. For example, you can use a mix of different poses, styles and prompts to encourage candid moments.

Glamour Portraits

Glamour portraits focus on beauty and charms. Fashion magazine covers, portfolios of models usually use glamour portrait photography to make fashion statements. Here, the main focus is on the wardrobe and professional makeup look. The beauty of the subject is the focal point, and the surrounding, pose and lighting are used to enhance it. 

Glamour Portraits

Glamour photography can take place in a variety of locations according to the theme you want to achieve. Therefore, you can choose indoor or outdoor to get your desired photographs. 

Glamour and fashion photography can be similar, but glamour focuses more on the subject rather than what they are wearing.

Fine Arts Portraits

Fine-art photography is a form of photography where the photographer has to be an artist. The photographer uses photography as a form to express their imagination, and their photograph is a medium of creative expression. The main goal of fine art portraits is to express or deliver an idea, a message or an emotion. 

Fine Arts Portraits

One can find qualities of conceptual and surreal portraits in fine art portraits. However, in order to do fine art photography, you need to explore your creativity more. Painting and artwork mainly inspire fine art photography. While many experiments with poses, makeup, lightings and surrounding to bring out an impactful image.

Conceptual Portraits

Similar to fine art photography, conceptual portraits works with an idea or theme and capture an image with reflecting them. If you want to deliver a powerful message, you can do so through conceptual photography.

Conceptual Portraits

You can bring out the message and capture it using different props, setups, or photo editing. You can explore endless ideas to make your conceptual portrait. Not only that, but you can try different wardrobes, makeup tricks, and costumes to bring out the meaning of your image.

Furthermore, you can also take the help of photoshop effects and changing the raw image is a part of conceptual photography.

Surreal Portraits

Surreal portraits are taking the images of your subject in a dreamlike environment. It also applies artistic and creative techniques to give the image meaning. Surreal portraits are often unrealistic, which cannot be achieved naturally. Therefore, it requires photoshopping.

Surreal Portraits

Most importantly, surreal portraits can demonstrate fantasy imagery. It portrays your subject and surrounding in and out of the world environment. This you can achieve through props, costume, special and later through lots of heavy editing after the image is captured. 

The wardrobe and makeup style of the subject can be an important part of the surreal portrait.


Well, we all know about this kind of photography. Sometimes we don’t even need a camera for it. A phone is enough for it. Selfies or self-portraits are photos where the photographer and the subject is the same person. But a professional self-portrait takes a lot more than that.


When you are taking a self-portrait, there is a lot of preplanning necessary for it. You have to plan your backdrops, get your lightings right, and make sure your position is correct and in alignment with the camera settings. Therefore, self-portraits need insight and planning.

In order to take a perfect self-portrait, you need to focus more on what is taking place in front of the camera and also the equipment you are using. A tripod is an essential tool here that you must consider. To make your adjustment easier while posing for the image and monitoring what is happening behind the camera, you can use a remote release or smartphone in a Wi-Fi connection with the camera.

Event Portraits

In Event portraits, subjects are captured while leaving their best moments. Couples, families, and groups of friends are usually captured when they are enjoying a holiday or important day. It can be wedding photography, a baby shower, Christmas or any kind of celebration.

Event Portraits

The photograph can be of a single person or a group interacting with each other. Event portraits photography can be used as use commercial business and have huge demands.

Start Clicking!

Photography is a passion or hobby, or a job. Doing portrait photography is easy, and you can start anytime you want. You just have to fiddle with your camera and take the shots of the people in front of you. With all these tips and ways, you can easily get started with portrait photography in no time. If you want to gain in-depth knowledge of the art of portrait photography, you can join our Online Photography Course for Beginners.

August 17, 2021

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