The Beginner's Guide to Portrait Photography

Photography is an art, and like all art forms, it possesses various genres and niches. Among the most captivating and telling is portrait photography. This form speaks to our human essence, capturing emotions, nuances, and stories that are inherently personal. Let's delve deeper into the world of portrait photography, exploring its essence and how to perfect this craft.

Jeff Fried portrait photography work with Wilhelmina Denver

What is Portrait Photography?

The art of taking pictures of people

At its core, portrait photography is about capturing individuals. Whether it's a single person or a group, the essence remains the same: to highlight the subject.

Capturing the human face and form

While some portraits might focus on a person's face, others encapsulate the entirety of their form, telling a more complete story.

A way to express emotions and tell stories

A successful portrait conveys emotion, revealing tales of happiness, sorrow, contemplation, or any of the myriad feelings humans experience.

Types of Portrait Photography


Usually tight-cropped, focusing on the face. Commonly used in professional settings.

Full-body portraits

As the name suggests, these capture the entire form, giving a sense of place and time.

Environmental portraits

These showcase individuals in their natural or chosen surroundings, adding depth to their story.

Lifestyle portraits

A candid style, often showcasing everyday activities or routines.

Boudoir portraits

Intimate and often sensual, these are typically set in bedroom-like environments.

Wedding portraits

From candid shots to posed group photos, these capture the essence of the special day.

Family portraits

Highlighting familial bonds, these can range from formal to candid.

Pet portraits

Because our furry friends also deserve their moment in the spotlight!

Equipment for Portrait Photography


From DSLRs to mirrorless options, choose one that fits your needs and budget.


Prime lenses, especially in the 50mm to 85mm range, are popular for portrait photography due to their sharpness and depth of field.


Natural light is beautiful, but studio lights can offer more control and consistency.


These can range from natural settings to colored backdrops in a studio.


Use props judiciously to add context without distracting from the subject.

Posing for Portrait Photography

Find the right pose

Research and prepare a few poses based on the subject's comfort and the intended message.

Compose the shot

Consider the rule of thirds and background elements when framing your subject.

Direct the subject

Clear communication can help in achieving the desired look and emotion.

Create a natural and relaxed atmosphere

A comfortable subject results in genuine photos.
in this example of studio portrait photography you see a photograph taken by jeff fried of a female Chinese citizen with many visible tattoos on her arms, chest and neck, using hard light

Editing Portrait Photography

Cropping and resizing

Ensure the subject remains the focal point while adhering to desired dimensions.

Adjusting brightness and contrast

Enhance the mood and feel of the portrait.

Removing blemishes and unwanted objects

A clean image focuses attention where it's meant to be.

Adding color and effects

While subtlety is key, the right effects can elevate your portrait.

Tips for Beginner Portrait Photographers

Practice regularly

Like all skills, frequent practice refines your technique.

Experiment with different techniques

Diversity in approach can yield unexpected and delightful results.

Get feedback from others

Constructive criticism can spotlight areas for improvement.

Don't be afraid to fail

Each misstep is a lesson in the making, guiding your journey to mastery.

In essence, portrait photography is a dance of technical prowess and human connection. As you embark on this journey, remember the soul of portrait photography: capturing the genuine essence of the individual. With the right tools, techniques, and passion, you're well on your way to crafting memorable stories, one portrait at a time.

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