Don’t you know the situation when you want to shoot a good portrait but somehow all the portraits you shot are pretty standard?
and you feel like something is missing?
I had the same problem when I started with portraits and it took me a month to figure out what was wrong.
But when I did I found some things that can spice up every portrait and make it a uniquely powerful picture.
So I though in order to make your life easier, I make a post about portrait photography tips for beginners.
That will offer you some ideas and guidelines you can hold on to for your next portraits.
So Let’s Go! 🙂
My first tip for a beginner is trying to use catchlights on purpose.
It might be just a small thing in the picture, but it gives a lot of depth and dimension to the eyes and makes them look alive instantly.
What is a Catchlight
Ok, this is only a quick explanation. If you want to read more about them click here.
Catchlights come from a light source near the eye.
This could be a window, a light, a softbox, a reflector or just simply the sun.
Of course, the size of the catchlights depends on the size of the light source.
How to use Catchlights
Catchlights are usually applied in the 10 or 2 o’clock position.
Because those positions look most natural to us.
Since the sun wouldn’t shine from a 6 o’clock position.
Just keep in mind that, like always in photography, this is just a rule of thumb and not a 100% law. 🙂
The second tip for portrait beginners is to use layers and what I mean by that is put things in front of the subject like a branch or some leaves.
But you can also shoot through a window or along a wall literally everything that creates depth.
But make sure that the model keeps eye contact with you.
If you don’t the picture can very quickly look like it was shot by a stalker. 😛 and you probably don’t want that.
Portrait tip number 3 is, try different perspectives.
Some people like to shoot slightly from below and some people like to shoot slightly from above.
Even if you move your lens just a few inches it can change a lot.
Also, try perspectives you would think they are rubbish for portraits like from straight above or straight below.
Interesting facts about perspectives
Shooting a subject from below makes it seem powerful.
Shooting a subject from above makes it look more vulnerable.
The bigger the person is inframe the more powerful the picture gets.
Use The Rule of Thirds, But Also Brake it.
Portrait beginner tip number 4 is trying to use the rule of thirds as often as possible.
Of course, it’s not a law and you can shoot different ways too.
But when I started out, it helped me a lot to get a feeling of what looks good and what doesn’t.
So use it to develop a feeling for the good stuff.
Use the Right Light
This is one of my BIGGEST portrait photography tips for beginners.
If you only use one tip from this list use this one.
This is so super important and you will be really super amazingly amazed how much of a difference it makes.
Use the right light when you go outside.
Try to shoot in the morning or in the sunset, golden hour, blue hour or whenever the light is not coming from straight above.
Here is a free app where you can see when best light is.
Use a Reflector
Portrait tip number 6.
Use a reflector. They are super cheap on Amazon (like 10-20$) and super portable.
Use them to create catchlights or just as fill light you will be amazed what you can do with such a simple thing.
Just go and experiment with it.
Depth of Field
Try to use a wide aperture to create a nice bokeh and isolate your subject from the background.
If you want to know more about the depth of field and how to create a nice bokeh click here.
Tip number 8. This one is a big one.
The eyes are the most important piece of a portrait.
Just think of it that way the eyes are the window to the soul.
(somebody famous said that just don’t remember who if you know it tells me in the comments) 🙂
Double check after you took the shot and zoom in to see if they really became as sharp as you wanted them.
On the other hand, putting sunglasses on your subject can also tell a story.
My experience is that 9 out of 10 times you want to shoot with focused on the eyes.
But as always it’s not a 100% rule just use it as a guideline.
Choose a Background
Beginner portrait tip number 9.
Often people just shoot where they shoot and that’s cool.
But you know what’s also cool? A pre-organized background.
Think about what kind of portrait you want and then think about what kind of background would be nice to have.
The background really plays a big part in a portrait even if you blur it all the way.
I mean imagine a Pirate of a ship… that would make a good portrait right?
A Pirate in front of a concrete wall would be weird.
And not because a concrete wall is a bad background, it’s because you need context.
Little tip: Don’t tell yourself like I did that there is no good background in your area.
It doesn’t need to be big or fancy it just needs to be big enough for your viewfinder and fit your portrait idea. 🙂
Isolate Background or Integrate
Portrait tip number 10.
When you shoot against a solid background or any background, move your subject a little bit away from it.
You can isolate from the background.
This helps to separate for the viewer the important stuff from the rest.
And of course as always not 100% 😛 Because it can be also very cool when you let your subject interact with the background.
For example when you have a tree let him or her climb up on it or when don’t put her in front of the bush put her right inside it.
Beginner tip number 11.
When I started I always tried to get the whole head from neck to the top into the picture.
Which actually would make sense if you try to shoot a pass photo. 🙂
try to get just capture what’s important for your portrait idea.
If you want to show how beautiful her eyes are, get close even if you only get half her face in the picture.
(I personally really love these kinds of pictures).
Don’t Try to Pose Too Hard
Portrait beginner tip 12.
Models know how to pose because it is there job to look unnaturally natural in every way.
“Normal” people usually don’t know how to pose or only have one pose.
What I do when I shoot with non-model people I just start a conversation with them while I’m shooting so they concentrate on the conversation and don’t start to try posing.
When I want them to laugh I say something funny and when I want to cry I hit them.
NO JUST KIDDING DON’T DO THAT. That’s gonna land you in jail. 😀
but I hope you get the method.
Also always tell them how good they look and what an awesome job they are doing, so they relax and act natural.
That’s already it with my portrait photography tips for beginners I hope you liked it and that it was helpful for you. If you have any questions or opinions, ask me in the comments and I will get back to you as fast as I can. Until then have an amazing day. 🙂
If you liked this post you might want to have a look here: