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How to photograph indoor and outdoor portraits: shooting options and techniques
How to photograph indoor and outdoor portraits: shooting options and techniques

Portrait today is one of the most common genres of photography. People are photographed by both professionals and amateurs. The only difference is how they do it right. In this article, you can learn more about how to photograph portraits.

Idea, plot, mood

First of all, it is worth noting that photographs should carry an emotional or semantic charge, tell a story. As for portraits, in this case, such shootings are no exception. The photographer must not only convey the appearance of the model, but also tell about this person, about his character. At a minimum, the photo should show the mood at a particular point in time. That is why it is important to know how to photograph portraits so that they can convey it all.

photography portrait


A very important fact is the distance at which the photo is taken. How to photograph portraits? Whichdistance is it necessary to do? As a rule, it is recommended to focus on the focal length of your lens. For portraits, a focal length of 85mm is used. However, you should pay attention to the fact that different cameras with a focal length of 85 mm will have a completely different scale due to the crop factor. For example, if a distance of 85 mm is ideal on a full frame, then on a crop, the scale of the photo will be completely different. But what about a person if his lens has parameters of 18-55 mm? This question is a sore point among beginners looking to master portraiture. And how to take pictures in this case? In this case, experienced professionals recommend taking portraits at a distance of at least 2 m. All the shortcomings of the scale can be compensated by zoom.

If you shoot from a long distance, but at the same time close, it will give the following advantages:

  1. A familiar and calm perspective. If you try to take a photo with a wide-angle focus, you will get a portrait where the person does not look like himself. The perspective that distorts the proportions of the face will be to blame for all this. The further you move away from the person, the less the perspective effect will be, resulting in a more correct portrait. However, do not go to extremes, do not photograph the model from a distance of 30 m, while stretching your lens to the fullest.
  2. If you are photographing from a distance, it will be much more convenient for you to work with the background. First of all, you will easily remove all unnecessary objects from the frame that distract attention. Exceptthe longer the focal length, the stronger the background will develop.
portrait with blurred background

Suitable technique

So, we continue to consider how to photograph portraits correctly. Above, we figured out that the focal length plays a special role in the portrait. However, not all cameras have this feature. A long focal length will require a large aperture value. Thanks to this, the background is blurry, and the model is clear. Good portrait lenses, while not very expensive, are currently offered by a variety of manufacturers. Not bad proved themselves: Canon EF 85mm F1, 8, as well as Nikkor AF-S 85mm F1, 8.

Camera Setup

How to photograph portraits correctly? What else needs to be taken into account? First of all, you need to properly set up your camera. You need to start with patience. People are quite a difficult subject to photograph because they move, so you need to choose the fastest shutter speeds of 1/125 second or even less. Otherwise, even a slight movement of a person can cause an image that is too blurry. When lighting is poor, you can increase the ISO sensitivity and use the flash.

In this case, special attention must be paid to the speed of flash synchronization. This refers to the fastest standard shutter speed when the flash is on. If the flash duration is shorter and the flash does not support high-speed sync, the photo willa black stripe is visible, which is a shadow from the shutter curtain. If you want to achieve a blurred background on the wall, then you should open the aperture all the way.

portrait of a man

Preparing for a photo shoot

If you are wondering how to photograph a portrait with a SLR camera, then special attention should also be paid to preparing for a photo shoot. First of all, it is necessary to plan it in advance, while explaining to the model how the whole process will go. You should agree on all the little things in advance, for example, on various teams, so that the model understands immediately what you mean.

It is necessary to rehearse all difficult moments in advance, the model must be asked to portray various emotional states, which will depend on the main goal of the photo shoot. Ask her to show her sadness, arrogance, thoughtfulness. If you have a lot of time, then take 2 shots in a row, otherwise it will turn out that the model blinks in one portrait, and the whole photo will deteriorate. Speaking of how to photograph a portrait with a SLR camera, you should pay attention to the fact that professional photographers usually make a sketch of the photo in advance, where they depict the model's pose, facial expression, and lighting setup.


Special attention should be paid to such an important aspect as light. If you are learning how to photograph portraits, then you should also learn how to properly set up the lighting in a photo studio. A small light source, such as the sun, a system flash, produces a very hard light that onlyemphasizes the shortcomings of the appearance of the model. Try experimenting with artificial lighting by using light diffusers like a softbox or a studio umbrella.

girl on the background of snow

For hard light, you can use reflectors such as a beauty dish or a simple reflector. You need to choose according to your taste. When shooting outdoors, the sun will give the best light in the evening or late morning. The photo shoot can be done in daylight, but it must be done in the shade of a tree, directing the lighting with a large folding reflector. This is very important if you don't know how to take a portrait outdoors.

Correct framing

Artistic portraits give much more freedom for creativity. Classical portraits are mostly shot in a vertical format. However, the horizontal format is also not prohibited in this case. With it, you can best show the background in the photo.

How to photograph portraits of people in this case? The success of a portrait will depend on 99% of the correct focus. It is always necessary to focus on the person's eyes, or on the eye that is closest to the viewer. The main rule is that you can not change the aperture value until you are satisfied with all the indicators. Since this parameter will depend on the situation, focal length and distance to the model, it is impossible to give exact advice on a specific value. Just try to experiment. In the end, you will understand howtake portraits indoors or outdoors.


Much will also depend on the model itself. A special role in the success of the portrait is played by the posing of a person. At the same time, it is very important to know what pose to choose for a portrait in the dark, how to photograph a model in a particular environment.

portrait of a guy

Most often, inexperienced photographers shoot novice models who do not yet know how to pose. However, this factor is one of the most important in conveying mood and plot in a photograph. Speaking of posing, here it is necessary to take into account several requirements, which are as follows:

  1. When you picked up the camera, started shooting, you should already understand what you want to get and show the audience. Posing in this case plays an important role. For example, the hero is thoughtful, joyful, he is cold. In everyday life in such situations, people tend to take a certain position. It is these poses that should be used when photographing a portrait. The viewer must understand what specific emotional state the model is in. A closed pose, such as with crossed arms, is ideal for a dramatic story. The most open ones are suitable for positive photos. It will not be superfluous if you learn sign language so that you can independently lay the necessary emotional background, advising the model of this or that pose.
  2. Some people cross their arms over their chests, others try to keep them in their pockets. Please note that this or that position mustbe familiar to the person you are photographing. Otherwise, there will be tension, as well as unnaturalness in posing.
  3. The so-called magazine poses are suitable for experienced models and magazines. Such people for a long time learn to control their own body in order to look beautiful in the photo. If you are shooting for a portrait of an inexperienced person, then most likely you will not be able to take such a photo as in glossy magazines. That is why choose the most vital, simple poses.

If you are doing a portrait of a beginner model, then some difficulties may arise. To avoid them, check out common posing mistakes:

  1. Don't hide your hands behind your back or in your hair, otherwise they look cut off. The same applies to pockets: at least the thumbs should be visible.
  2. The neck is an expressive part of a woman's body. Do not cover it with strongly raised shoulders.
  3. If the model will rest her face on her hand, then you need to make sure that the facial features are not distorted.
  4. Don't smile with half your mouth as it looks very ugly.
  5. When taking a full-length portrait, you need to make sure that the foot that is closest to the camera does not overlap the other. Otherwise, the person turns out to be one-legged.

Winter photos

Now let's take a closer look at how to photograph a portrait in winter. Indeed, it is during this period of time that novice photographers have some difficulties withphotography. In general, in general, the rules will be the same as in the summer. The model needs only to be protected from the cold. If possible, regular respite in a warm room should be given. Take a thermos with a hot drink with you. As for the snow on the background, it can be either white or gray, bluish. Everything will depend on the camera settings, as we talked about above. On the other hand, the weather also plays a special role here. If you want snowdrifts to be as white and shiny as possible, then it is best to take portraits in sunny weather.

winter portrait

It is also important to observe some technical points. In particular, you should not allow snow to get into the camera, more precisely into its body. Do not change the lens during a snowfall. Condensation, frozen fingers can harm your equipment.

To phone

And how to photograph a portrait on the phone? To do this, you must follow very simple principles that professionals use. What will be the ground rules?

First of all, don't skew the horizon. In some cases, a skewed line on the horizon creates an unusual effect. But if you do not have advanced knowledge of composition, it is better not to use this tool. We must try to straighten the frame. To do this, activate the "grid" on your smartphone. You can easily align one or another object in the frame along the lines, which is located both in the horizontal and in the vertical plane. This is necessary if you are photographing a model against some difficult background.

The most important criterion is also lighting. It is best to take pictures in diffused soft light. As a rule, such lighting happens on the street in the late afternoon or in the morning. However, there is another extreme. Sun exposure that is too bright can be a problem for your phone's automatic exposure metering. The result is a strong overexposure either on the face or in the background. If you are photographing your model in the middle of a sunny day, it is best to do so in the shade. To do this, you can use trees, a wall near the building.

The right shooting angle also plays a big role in taking a portrait with a smartphone. The main problem with the wrong choice of angle is the deformation of the proportions of the body and face. For example, if you shoot from above, you end up with a too long face with a disproportionate figure. And if you shoot too low, it will add a second chin to the model, as well as a too heavy jaw. That is why it is necessary to take photos from the level of the chest of the model or from the level of the belt. You can also take pictures at eye level, but this maneuver is best used when the portrait is at waist level or slightly higher.

black and white portrait

If you are photographing a person on a smartphone, it is recommended to use the additional features of the gadget. To do this, you should carefully familiarize yourself with the functions offered by your smartphone. If there is a double optical zoom, then this is a definite plus. After all, it is not always possible to get as close as possible to the model. ATin some cases some small river or fence separates the person from the photographer. The same should be said about other functions. Before you go to a photo session, you should carefully study all the possibilities of your mobile camera. Consider in what specific situations they can be applied.

You can talk endlessly about portrait photography. Much more information you can get from the book "How to photograph people. Beyond the portrait" by B. Peterson.

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