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Portrait Photography Ideas for a Beginner

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Published on: 22 Jul 2021

Anybody can take a photograph. Not many can capture a stunning portrait.

Many people can play with manual controls. Not many can control a subject's emotions.

Many people can take fabulous pictures of a model. Not many can transform their subjects into a specimen of photographic excellence.

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Ideas on portrait photography for beginners have always been a much-debated topic among photographers. The angles, the lenses, the poses, the backgrounds, the models, the lighting, the camera all have a significant impact on the end result of portrait photography. But, more than anything else, it is an art developed over time. The most sophisticated gadgets in the world won't make you a better photographer. You have to build the skill, the eye and the approach towards portrait photography. However, that would be a matter of another blog post.

Today, we are introducing you to the highly competitive and enriching world of portrait photography. We will take you on the legitimate road to success. Fasten your seatbelts!

Try these ideas to make your next portrait photoshoot stand out.

Use frames

Being a photographer, you already know the importance of framing. It is one of the essential elements of a beautiful picture. Why not use them outside of the camera? Frames will provide a unique and euphoric look to your subject. It will enhance their facial expressions and give a creative feel to your photographs. You can use small frames or doors, or windows to provide symmetry to your composition. The frame's look can match your subject's clothes or be a complete contrast of their looks. It all depends on your vision as a photographer.

Portrait Photography Ideas - Use frames


Use reflections

A mirror will be your best friend in a portrait photoshoot. It allows you to come out of the realm of singularity with superb effects on your photographs. You can use a small, big, round, rectangular or small piece of mirror to highlight your subjects' emotions. Even a broken mirror can be used in endless ways. You can also jump into extreme makeup and background formatting to create an epic photograph. You can get numerous reflections and lighting effects from an irrelevant household mirror. Surprisingly, something so simple can create complex photography effects.

Portrait Photography Ideas - Use reflections


Use lights

Wasn't it obvious? Portrait photography involves both excessive and subtle use of lighting. Apart from using the traditional three-point lighting technique, you can go for some new-age experimental lighting. You can use LED lightings to give an exceptional edge to your portraits. Remember the poster for the movie "Moonlight". You can create similar effects in a room with few LED lights right beside your subject.

Modern photography is heavily dependent on creative lighting for setting emotions and abstract moods. You can also start with street lighting and play around with some solid colour screen savers on your phone. It's all about using makeshift techniques till you get the perfect shot.

Portrait Photography Ideas - Use lights


Use eccentric angles

The idea can only be realised by a few Bravehearts. It is easy to take a front face shot, but things get nasty as you start moving your camera. However, it provides some powerful and bizarre but attractive photographs. Take a photo from up above or deep down, from the side or from the centre. It all comes down to your creative abilities. The use of uncommon angles is a great way to do some statement photography. A beginner photographer will surely get a lot of attention and appreciation for thinking out of the box. You can also get help from the models to get the best angle possible.

Another aspect of playing with unusual angles is an inspiration. The dimension of experimentation is so large that you can feel overwhelmed with creative impulses. Don't worry! Get in touch with incredible photographers from around the world to kick start your journey with unconventional photography. Visit KoolStories for smart micro learning now! 


The lying pose

How many times have you seen a model lying on grass? The method is heavily used to create beautiful and relaxing imagery because it works wonders. You can ask your model to lay down on a field or among flowers to give a special touch of romance to your photograph. It will provide more intensity to the picture and help your model use their eyes more dynamically. You can also create an artistic background or play with lights and shadows for more details.  


Using pets

You can change the dynamics of your portraits with the help of your cats and dogs. Not only them, but you can also use any animal to add some spice, texture and details to your photographers. The use of these animals totally depends on your discretion. However, they can also create serious issues for you. It is hard to control an animal that to in a staged photoshoot. Make sure you carry few treats to keep them happy and sane.


Go monochrome

Nothing looks more visually appealing than a black and white portrait. It is subtle, clean, simple and very impactful. You can take superb black and white photographs in a staged set or even with your cell phone. However, you will have to spend some time and creativity mastering this art.

Also, you will have to consider your camera's settings, or the final result will be nothing better than a lame edit over a coloured photograph. 

Portrait Photography Ideas - Go monochrome


Never forget these aspects before taking the snap

So, you have some portrait photography ideas, and you might be really excited to take your first portrait photograph. But, make sure you go through the entire post for a reality check.


Connect with your subject

The first and foremost thing you should be worried about is developing good communication with your model. Try to understand their psychology and their outlook toward photography.  It is always good to crack some jokes and gel with your subject before clicking their picture. Not only will it make them comfortable, but you will also feel a bit relaxed and focused. Human connection is a major driving force in any photoshoot. A bad repo with your model can land your project at a standstill. Talk with them often, so you guys are on the same page and work to achieve the same results.

You can meet them before the actual photoshoot to break the ice. The majority of people are willing and want to give their best output, yet any negative vibe can harm their morale. Do not try to impress anybody or boast about your skills, and do not flash your gadgets. Be respectful and kind to your subjects.


Connect with your camera

You can capture fantastic photographs with any camera. Although there can be limits regarding the quality of the picture, the photo itself can be spectacular in its own right. You have to understand your camera's settings to click the best shot possible. Also, you should get familiar with your camera's operations before planning a shoot. You won't look good having troubles with your camera's features in between a photoshoot. 


Portrait photography techniques heavily depend on the camera type

Choose the right camera and lenses according to your set and photography vision. Nevertheless, there are no perfect settings for portrait photography. Everything is subjective, and you have the liberty to experiment with your gadgets. Also, you can look for beautiful photography places in your city to make the most out of your photography projects.



Editing is an essential step towards fantastic portrait photographs. Apart from ideas, creativity, props and lighting, you should also invest in sound editing software. Follow successful photographers and use their photography techniques to develop your unique photography style. Remember, portrait photography becomes better with time. The photos you click now will not be a match for your future photographs. Stay consistent, shoot with different models and do not forget to enjoy. It's time to boost the shutter speed.


What is considered a portrait photo?

Typically, a portrait is used for enhancing the facial expressions of a person. A portrait photo must not cover more than the shoulders of an individual. With adequate lighting and backgrounds, we can create highly impactful portrait photos. Make sure that you aim for delivering emotions through a portrait. Also, use the correct technical measures to capture a perfect picture.

What is the best time to shoot outdoor portraits?

Use the "Golden Hour" to capture stunning outdoor portraits. The natural lighting just an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise beautify photographs like nothing else. However, you can also use other times to capture great portraits. Stay away from capturing outdoor images when the sun is right above your subject's head. Remember, you have to create emotions through shadows.

What F stop is best for portraits?

Keep your aperture between f/2 to f/2.8. It provides more exposure to your photographs. Keeping the f stop as low as possible will also help you to indulge in low-light photography. Also, it creates an incredible depth of field, which is necessary to boost your subject's visual appeal. Make sure that your machine supports lenses with extreme aperture possibilities. Never use more than f/6, or your portraits will blend with the background.

Where should I focus in portrait photography?

The eyes. As a portrait photographer, you have to keep the focus on the eyes of your subject. Everything else is an add on while the eyes are the most impactful part of your image. Remember, portraits should be as engaging as possible, and eyes are your best bet. You can always experiment with your photography angles but try to use the rule of thirds while doing it.

Why is portrait photography interesting?

You are capturing the emotions of your subject while intensely focusing on their facial traits. It brings out the very best and worst among people. Also, there are a lot of creative ways to enhance portrait photography making it more interesting. The human face echos endless sorrow and desires, something that is captivating, to say the least. If possible, let your subject be as expressive as possible.

What are the four types of portrait lengths?

The four portrait lengths are head and shoulders, three-quarter length, full length and full length with wide-angle lenses.

What's the best ISO for portraits?

For better quality portraits, do not exceed the 400 mark on your ISO. Make sure there is ample lighting to back up the low ISO setting.