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Portrait Photography Made Easy With These Top Tips

Learn tips from the pros and see just how easy portrait photography can be once you apply a little bit of knowledge to your portrait shoots.

|  Portraits and People
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Marc Newton from The School of Photography is back sharing some top tips to help you better your photography and this time, it's all about portraits. 

In the photography video tutorial, you'll see there are 6 tips which include:

  1. Practice on a model that wants to be photographed
  2. Share your vision with the model
  3. Think about the location
  4. Have a colour scheme in mind
  5. Camera setting advice
  6. Lighting tips


Portrait Photography Tip 1 - Practice on a model that wants to be photographed

If your model is used to being photographed it will make your life a lot easier in getting good looking portrait poses but if you can't find an experienced model, ask friends, family and other photographers - someone who will be willing to work with you. 


Female model outdoors



Portrait Photography Tip 2 - Share your vision with the model

Talk through your ideas with your model (you could even show them poses you've found you want to use) so they're not going in blind and both of you know what you want to achieve. 


On location portrait shoot



Portrait Photography Tip 3 - Location

This is more about figuring out how you'll use your chosen location rather than the location choice itself. Treat the location as a set of lines and shapes that will help you create interesting compositions to frame your portraits. Add foreground interest, use lines to create dynamic compositions, frame the model with background interest etc. As with all photography, you need to think about the whole frame not just the pose of the model.

"It’s not about where you go but how you use the place to enhance your photography," Marc Newton. 

Female model outdoors



Portrait Photography Tip 4 - Colour Scheme

Think about colours which compliment each other which in portrait photography, tends to be oranges and blues. You can ask your model to wear tones that compliment your surroundings and then in Photoshop or other post-processing programs, you easily add some colour grading to harmonise the colours further.

"Planning a good colour scheme before you do your shoot is really important. Try not to use colours that clash. If you are a beginner sticking to the orange and blue look is a really good tip," says Marc.


Colour schemes for portraits



Portrait Photography Tip 5 - Camera settings

There are no hard and fast rules for portrait photography settings but as a general guide, you could use the following: 

  • Focal length - 85mm (Full-frame), 50mm (Crop sensor), 40mm (Micro 4:3)
  • Aperture f/2.8  (use aperture priority as long as there is enough light)
  • ISO set to 100
  • White balance set to AWB 


Nikon Z7 II



Portrait Photography Tip 6 - Lighting

If you're working with natural light, the middle of the day isn't the best time to capture portraits as the light is too harsh. If you can, sunrise/sunset is a good time to shoot portraits or you could just capture your images where there's some shade to soften the light. When working in shaded areas, you're going to need a reflector to bounce light onto the model's face and to add catchlights to the eyes to breath life into the image. 

"The importance of lighting in portrait photography cannot be underestimated and you don’t need expensive lighting equipment to achieve a good effect," Marc Newton. 

Portrait with and without bounce light

Portrait without reflector and Portrait with silver reflector


For more portrait photography tips, take a look at our Features section of the site where you'll find tutorials such as: 'Top Tips & Tricks For Portrait Photography' and '7 Top Tips For Capturing Creative Self Portraits'.

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