Portrait Photography: The Ultimate Guide

Portrait Photography: The Ultimate Guide

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography (or portrait photos), are photographs that capture a person (or group) while capturing their personality with effective lighting and/or backdrops.

While the definition is good, knowing or learning the different techniques to achieve great portrait photos, is a lot more difficult than some may realize.  From lighting to posing, there is a lot that goes into each portrait.  That’s the reason I’ve decided to create this ultimate guide.  To share what I have learned over the years, and pass that knowledge onto you!

I currently run JnRPhotoVideo (along with my wife), where we specialize in single subject, couple, and family photography.  Take a look at our work to better strengthen the trust in what we are saying in this article (along with others).  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Let’s dive into our first main topic, types of portraits or environments for portraits.

Portrait Photography

A photo shoot we did for a local photographer!

How this guide is structured…

Instead of having an 8000 word article, I thought I could organize it better by having branching articles off of this one.  This article, specifically, is a general overview that links to other informative articles below it.  

Any link you click from this point forward, will be a deep dive into that specific topic.

This should make the reading experience (as well as the learning experience), better overall.

Let me know your experience with a comment below this article.

There’s two types of portrait photographs

When you hear someone talk about portrait photos, what immediately comes to mind?  Is it studio headshots? Maybe it's just a photo of someone's face.  Or do you get flashbacks to grade school when you would take class photos (mine were dreadful haha).

Regardless of whatever it may be, there are two main types (or environments) for portrait photos.  Those two are:

Indoor portraits are just that.  These are portrait photos that are taken indoors.  This could be a professional studio, a mobile style studio (where someone comes to your home and sets up lighting), or even just natural portraits taken within a home (such as by a window for natural lighting).  Pretty straight-forward, right?

Portrait Photography

An example of a moody studio shot we did!

Outdoor Portraits

Outdoor portraits are obviously taken outdoors.  There are many different styles of outdoor portraits.  One would include some-what of a “staged” type of shoot where you plan for lighting and composition.  This style is very common for shots during sunrise or sunset.

There are also outdoor portraits with flash (in any lighting condition) - and without flash.  Using no flash leaves you with completely natural light. It can offer some of the most creative images because you have to rely solely on the sun and ambient light.  

Portrait Photography

An example of a family outdoor photo shoot

Your own style is the most important

I can only assume that you stumbled across this post because either you’re a beginner, or you are thinking of starting to shoot portraits.  You have made a great choice and I encourage you to stick with it over the long-term.  You’ll be amazed at where you’ll be years from now after all the craziness and critical learning has settled.  I think back to the first year I was taking portraits… it was hectic, but such a great learning experience for me.

But aside from the gear, the perfect poses, or even the perfect lighting…  figuring out your own personal style and what you have to offer that others don’t - is the number one aspect that makes a great portrait photographer.

You wouldn’t want to be the one that takes great photos, but those photos look exactly like all the others in your area.  

An example of out brown/green tone style (used sparingly).

An example of our natural/detailed look (used most often)

Warm/earthy tones (used sparingly)

Take inspiration from those you look up to.  Maybe you love the way a youtuber or blogger shoots and edits their photos.  Use their knowledge and what they teach to apply to your own work.  But, over time you will want to create your own style.  This could be your composition, posing, colors, or the way you edit (or even a combination of those 4).  

Whatever it may be, you will want to stand out from other people.  You wouldn’t want to blend in.  Stand out.  You’ll get more clients, which builds more practice, and you’ll continue to perfect your craft.  

The articles that branch off of this will give you a great idea or starting point to stand out!

Warm/sunset shot.  This is a style we strive to get most of the time throughout the year.

Let's wrap this up!

Let’s wrap this up…

I know this article is a bit short, but this is the way I have designed this guide.  Be sure to check out the other articles that branch off of this one.  Who knows, maybe you’ll get suched into the wormhole and end up on a gear article, or how to best pose a couple.

Regardless, be sure to check out the other articles that are linked through this article.

As always, thank you all for reading, and keep shooting and creating!!

I have been taking photos and film since I was a child. Now that I'm in my mid 30's, I want to share with the world what I have learned over the years. I attempt to live every day to the fullest and share that with you through my blog. I am an electrician by trade and photo and video lie within the "hobby" aspect of my life at the moment. It's what I'm truly passionate about.
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