Tips and Techniques for Portrait Photography

The tips and techniques on this article can help you start taking good photos, yet it is only applicable if both the subject and camera is not moving and the photographer has full control of lighting and the lighting is constant.  Portrait photography is considered basic compared to other photography types, but you can still play around with it and come up with great photos.

The right lens to use

For portrait photography, using sort telephoto lens is an excellent lens to use to flatter your subject. Considering 85 – 100mm is good enough, yet if you opt to use full frame camera, 135 – 150mm is worth trying.

Using a telephoto lens can help you compress the perspective, not distorting your subject’s face and throwing the background out of focus. Although using wide angle lens is not as bad, unfortunately, it may distort the subject and make faces look misshapen and oddly proportioned.

If you plan to take an environmental portrait, shooting a group or full-length pose photos, using a normal to slightly wide angle lens can be a perfect choice.

Use a tripod

Most photographers are hesitant in using a tripod for portrait photography since they thought they are being limited to what they can do it is the other way around. This is highly recommended due to many reasons like:

  • It forces the photographer to slow down a bit – this is ideal especially that checking on settings, analysing the light and doing a short test can perfect a portrait photograph
  • Instead of the photographer staying behind the camera, he or she will get the opportunity to keep an eye to eye contact with his or her subject, hence building rapport and giving the subject the chance to relax and be more comfortable in front of the camera

Just to give you a better sample, ask someone to pose for you, try to take few shots while holding your camera and using a tripod after. See the difference yourself.


For portrait photography, using the highest possible image quality is recommended, hence setting your ISO to lowest to avoid too much noise in photos is recommended. Best to go somewhere between ISO 400 and 100.

In accordance to that, you must maintain a usable speed on the shutter. If the portrait image is blurry because of camera or subject movement, it will defeat the purpose of noise-free photos.

Focus mode

It is highly recommended that you stick with single point focus than multiple points or zone. Never allow your camera to choose which point to focus, as most of the time, if not all the time, it is wrong. Focus on your subject’s eye, always focus on the eye that is nearer the camera if eyes are not aligned.

Use manual mode setting

The mode of your camera is another decision critical in portrait photography. The modes differ though depending on the situation:

  • If the photographer is using a tripod, manual mode is recommended
  • If handheld, best to use Aperture priority mode

Manual is best recommended since it will give you the opportunity to have full control of the settings and the settings will not change even lighting and all other factor change. Meaning, you will get consistent exposure from start to finish, from the first frame up to the last.