5 Tipps on shooting better portraits

Photography has always been a mystery to me. At the beginning I thought it was all about the camera, but as time has gone by I realized that you can achieve great things with any camera if you focus on the composition and settings. It took me quite a few years to figure out some basic strategies and tipps on how to make better portraits and today I want to share my favorite ones with you.


Btw I'm not a professional, but I've come to a point where I actually like my portraits and that's why I want to share those tipps with all the other people that have the same struggles as I used to have back in time. I'm definitely not done with learning, so if you have any other tipps please share them in the comments.


Also, if you are already an advanced photographer these tipps might be simple and nothing special to you, but remember we've all started somewhere and I want to easily help people who just struggle with photography a little.

How I take my portraits

#1 choose the right aperture

The aperture is one of the three basic settings when shooting in manual mode. (Btw if you don't know a lot about manual mode, I've got a basic tutorial here.) So, the aperture actually controls the amount of light entering your lens. Meaning that if you have a higher aperture your image will be lighter and (and that's the interesting part when shooting portraits) the background will be blurred. I for example like to keep the aperture as low as possible, so my models are in focus and everything behind and before them is blurry.

#2 create a nice surrounding

Most of the time when shooting a portrait, you don't want to only care about your model, but also about the surroundings. Make sure the colors blend in nicely, and there are no distracting things in the background. I also really like to have some light-sources or other interesting things in the back (e.g. water, leaves,...). Furthermore, I most of the time love it when there is also something going on in the foreground. I believe that adding layers to your portrait basically makes them stand out a little more and creates a beautiful scene and character. That tipp was probably quite a lot for you, so I actually added some exemplary pictures in the gallery.

#3 don't cut anything off in the wrong way

Do you know that feeling when you crop a picture and it just feels wrong? Well, you might have just cropped it on a wrong place. Certain body parts just don't look good when you crop them, so let's give this a little closer look. The first rule is that when shooting a person, never crop directly on their knuckles. If you want your model to be shown to the hips, already crop the tummy. If your model should be shown until to the knees, crop their upper leg. If you want to show her face, crop below her shoulders and so on and so on. These aren't really rules, but basic breakpoints, they don't always have to be followed. A lot of great pictures have been done breaking them, but they could be the reason your portrait looks kind of off.

#4 try out new angles

Ok, so this tipp is actually quite a basic. In every single article about photography people say that you should try new angles and I totally agree, but as simple as this tip is, it may actually be hard at the beginning. Whenever I do a photoshoot, you'll see me laying on the ground or climbing anything at least once. Trying out new angles is not only about the easy movements, but also about the more extreme ones. When you try out new angles, try some you would usually not see the scene from. Also, there are so many more breathtaking angles than you might think of, so don't stop exploring. (I did, for example, create a Pinterest board solely about angles to keep me inspired.)

#5 explore Lightroom

To me editing is not a way to destroy or completely manipulate a picture, but to enhance it. For a lot of people editing actually doesn't count as photography anymore, but it is an essential and powerful step when shooting portraits. However, editing is so misunderstood. Due to the filters and magazine covers that alter our appearance we see in the media, we think of editing as something bad that actually completely distorts the image, but most of the time it isn't. Adobe Lightroom, for example, is an application that showed me how much you can enhance an image solely by altering some light and color parameters. It can help you when you want to attract attention to a certain part of the image, or if you just want to changes the colors up a little to fit your style. In every way Adobe Lightroom is a huge game-changer and I personally love using this application. It may seem a little overpriced at the beginning, since the computer application starts at approximately 12€ per months, but it's totally worth it. If such an investment isn't affordable to you, you might instead download the mobile app. You don't have all the functions the main application has, but you got the main functions on the go. 

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Joyce Lawrence (Wednesday, 02 January 2019 23:18)

    Your blog post is very informational for someone like myself who isn't a photographer. I enjoyed it. Your written English is very good!

  • #2

    Carina (Thursday, 03 January 2019 10:56)

    Thank you so much! @Joyce

  • #3

    Yvon van den Berg (Sunday, 06 January 2019 18:39)

    Hi Karien, I really liked this post, I'm always struggling with my own pictures and most of the tutorials or explanations are so complicated! Yours are in a simple but understandably language, thanks I will try to follow your advice next time I make pictures!
    Oh, and of course I'm following you now!
    Regards, yvon