How to Take Portraits - 19 Portrait Photography Tutorials

How to Take Portraits – 19 Portrait Photography Tutorials

Do you want to improve your portrait photography?

Today I spent time digging through the Digital Photography School archives (there are now over 600 tutorials and articles) and noticed that we’ve covered the topic of Portrait Photography from a large variety of angles. I thought it would be useful to list some of the more popular portrait photography tips all in the one place.

I’ve chosen 19 of our most popular portrait photography articles and have assembled them below.

So if you’re interested in improving your portrait photography – grab a cup of coffee, set aside a little time and enjoy. If you enjoy these make sure you subscribe to get more via email or RSS.

How to Take Portraits – 19 Portrait Photography Tutorials from Our Archives

Stunning-11. 10 Tips to Take Stunning Portraits

This recent post (one of the most popular that we’ve ever published on DPS) gives 10 fairly general tips on how to take portraits with the ‘wow factor’.

It’s all about adding variety to your portraits by doing things like altering your perspective, adding a prop, experimenting with eye contact and getting your subject out of their comfort zone (to name just a few).

It picks up ideas found in many of the following tutorials and would make a great place to start if you’re looking for an introduction to the topic.

Stunning-22. 10 More Tips for Stunning Portrait Photography

In this followup to the last tutorial we extend the idea of adding variety to your shots.

It explores framing, wide angle lenses, backgrounds and experimenting with focusing.

All in all this post takes this mini series to 20 portrait photography techniques that have been read by hundreds of thousands.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you’d have on other techniques that you use to add variety to portraits in the comments on this post.

Space-To-Look-Into3. Give Your Subject Space to Look Into

This technique is basic but can have a real impact upon your shots.

Framing your portraits so that your subject has room to look into gives a shot balance and helps draw the eye of those viewing the image into the image.

Try it for yourself – but don’t forget, sometimes ‘rules’ like this one can be broken with great effect also – so experiment with that too!

Quick-Tips4. 4 Quick Tips for Portraits

I Love picking the brains of professional photographers and this is what I did in this post in which a portrait photographer shared with me four parts of his shooting workflow.

The tips are simple yet effective – I particularly like the way that he shoots from slightly under the eye line of your subject – a technique that causes a little interesting debate in the comments of this post.

Drop by and tell us what you think!


Children5. Photographing Children – Composition

This is a topic we have always been asked a lot about and so it was one of the earliest tutorials that we included on DPS (it’s one that we are planning to update in the coming month). Photographing children can be a lot of fun although is also challenging (if only they’d sit still).

We look at photographing babies and older children – but if you’re looking for more tips on photographing babies you should check out this more extensive photographing babies tutorial. Also on a related note – check out How to Photograph a Children’s birthday party.

Travel-Photography6. How to Photograph People When Traveling

Travel photography is something of a passion for me and I find that filling my travel albums with pictures of local people adds a lot of interest to those I show my shots to.

However photographing people in a foreign land can be challenging – there’s language issues, cultural challenges and more.

In this tutorial I share 8 tips that I’ve found helpful in getting great travel portraits.

Permission7. Asking Permission to Photograph People

This tutorial came out of questions people asked in response to the last one on travel portrait photography.

There’s different schools of thought on how to approach photographing strangers – some just take shots of people without asking – but in this tutorial I talk about how I’d much rather get permission first.

I find that in most cases people are willing to pose if you’re polite and friendly.

Environmental-Portraits8. How to Take Environmental Portraits

Environmental Portraits are those where you take the portrait of a subject within the context that they live in (work, rest or play).

I love this type of portrait because it gives you subject context, adds interest to your shot and can give some sort of insight to your subject. I also find subjects tend to relax more when you photograph them there.

Take some environmental portraits and then drop by our forum’s portrait area to share them with us.

Mona-Portraits9. What the Mona Lisa Can Teach You about Portraits

This post arose out of a visit of mine to Paris where I saw the Mona Lisa.

This little painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most famous portraits in history – but why is it so famous and can we as portrait photographers today learn something from it?

In this tutorial I’ve pulled out a number of things that I think Leonardo does with the Mona Lisa that could inform our own portrait photography.

Depth-Of-Field-210. A Fresh Look at Depth of Field

Depth of Field is something that applies to all types of photography but it’s something that can have quite a profound impact upon a portrait if you know how to us it.

In this tutorial Natalie shares a range of ways that Depth of Field can be used to add variety, create interest (or remove distractions) in your portrait work.

Also on a similar topic – Overcoming Depth of Field Problems in Portraits.

Posing-Shoulders-Portraits11. Posing Tips – Shoulders

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that have the biggest impact upon a photograph.

When I was compiling this list I almost left this one out as at a first glance it can seem a little trivial – however it is something that I’ve used again and again when posing portraits.

It’s also something that I noticed a pro photographer doing with me when I was sitting for a portrait session recently. If it’s good enough for the Pros – it’s good enough for me!

Thighs- Bustline12. Posing – Waistlines, Thighs and Bustlines

While we’re on the topic of posing for portraits – here’s another group of quick posing tips – this time taken from the posing that we see on the ‘red carpet’ of any event with celebrities.

These tips are all about getting the most flattering looks for different parts of the body (waistlines, thighs and bust lines)

Try them – they really do work!

Looking-Portraits13. Where is Your Subject Looking & Why it Matters

When it comes to where to ask your subject to look there are a number of options open to portrait photographers.

You can have them look directly at you, you can ask them to look at something outside the frame of your shot or you could have them look at something (or someone) within the frame.

Each of these options can work well – but each will have a different impact upon your shots.

Hands-Portraits14. How to Pose Hands in Portraits

I was chatting with a portrait painter recently and he told me that for many painters ‘hands’ are the most challenging part of the body to paint.

As photographers we might look at hands as something we have little control over – however the way they appear in shots can reveal a lot about our subject (and how they are feeling). As a result it’s worth paying at least a little attention to the hands of our subject when doing portrait work.

This tutorial gives a few hints as to how to work with hands.

Clothes-Portraits15. What Clothes to Wear in Portraits

What Should I wear?

It’s a question that most portrait photographers get asked a lot by clients and in this tutorial I give a number of tips from my own approach (my approach is to keep clothes relatively plain and allow the focus to remain upon the subject themselves) and then invite readers to share theirs.

Read this tutorial on clothing in portraits here.

Bypass-Portrait-Mode16. How to bypass the Portrait Mode

Many digital camera owners rarely switch their camera out of one of Auto mode and when they do it’s usually to one of the other semi-automatic modes (like portraits, sports, landscapes etc).

While there’s nothing wrong with these semi-automatic modes – there’s a real satisfaction in venturing into manual mode where YOU call the shots rather than your camera. In this tutorial I share a few starting points if you’re up for the challenge of getting out of Portrait Mode.

Natural-Looking-Portraits17. 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits

In this tutorial one of our regular contributors (Natalie, a great portrait photographer) shares some great tips on getting your subjects to relax and look comfortable in their environment.

She talks ‘hands’, ‘stools’, ‘distractions’ and ‘respect’.

I think you’ll agree that the images she shares in the tutorial are pretty special too and show just how well the tips she shares work.

Catchlights-218. An Introduction to Catchlights

A “catchlight” is simply the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye.

This highlight adds depth and dimension to the eye, and gives the eyes life in a portrait or snapshot.

But how do you get them?

In this tutorial one of our forum members puts together a great tutorial on the topic of catchlights – enjoy.

Candid-119. 11 Tips for Better Candid Photography

Sometimes the best portrait is one where your subject has no (or little) idea that you’ve taken the shot at all – because you’re shooting candidly.

The 11 tips for candid photos in this tutorial range from the obvious (long zooms and shooting lots) through to tips on framing images and shooting ‘people with people’.

A quick note – I find that often shooting candidly works well before or after a more formal portrait shoot.

These Tips just scratch the Surface of our Archives

We’re producing new tutorials on portrait photography and other types of shooting every day – the best way to keep up with them all is to subscribe here.


Read more from our category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Arjun December 4, 2012 08:09 pm


    this is a great help


  • Joe Klein - Sydney Wedding Photographer February 2, 2012 11:52 pm

    As a wedding photographer, I'm always looking for new ideas. Thank you for sharing!

  • Toleen Bkeerat October 22, 2011 08:11 pm

    I am a biggener &i love photography , i would lovee to learn about it , and i am 16 years old , but i cant help but ask , how do you do this focus ?

  • Tom Dwyer October 2, 2011 11:31 am

    Like everyone said, this page rocks! Loads of information, almost too much to take in. Bookmarked and Favorited (Is that a word?) I'll be sharing this amazing photo site with others

  • Portrait Photographer May 15, 2011 03:17 am

    Agree with everyone here. Usery useful photography tips. Thank you for sharing

  • Bryan Grant October 26, 2010 01:46 pm

    great website... very usefull

  • Peter October 16, 2010 05:31 am

    Wow, some great information here. I find it amazing that - as a photographer - I can read all of this, use the information, change my approach, and shoot well. Then I'll come back, re-read it, change my approach more, and continue to improve.

  • wyeth ross June 2, 2010 12:27 pm

    hi darren: i've come across several other of your pages very irregularly and i liked them, but this is definitely an eye-catcher for me. i've always thought i take mediocre people shots, and i'm ecstatic to have come across this one. i'll definitely try these out. thanks a bunch!

  • kashif March 19, 2010 11:24 pm

    i am bigner in wedding photogrphy,pls guide me.

  • Geeta March 4, 2010 03:13 am

    A very interesting article. I have learnt some tips from a great portrait photographer. His name is Chinmay Oza and his website is

    I thought his portraits showed uniqueness, intimacy and tons of emotion. Check out his website if you want to contact him.

  • david February 27, 2010 02:48 am


  • Aspen Wedding Photographer December 20, 2009 07:33 am

    Great tips. I think depth of field is one of the most important elements of a good portrait

  • Curtis Copeland December 8, 2009 11:31 pm

    Fantastic tutorials! These are quite practical tips for better portraits and will be helpful for us when shooting weddings. Thanks for the inspiration!


    Wedding Photography

  • Yaeko Boudoir August 14, 2009 05:18 am

    Thank you for the tutorials. I appreciate your work. Lot's of very useful tips / information. Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to read more. Natascha

  • Curtis Copeland June 17, 2009 03:12 am

    Great practical insight into portrait photography. Thanks for the tutorials!

  • Yoga Pants March 26, 2009 10:02 am

    This is never easy.

  • grafix master October 12, 2008 07:46 am

    Hey this tutorial is awesome, got to bookmark it!

  • Stefan Tell September 25, 2008 12:10 am

    Great list, I will include this on my blog soon. Always nice to have somewhere to point when interested visitors ask me for links. Thanks.

  • Me September 4, 2008 05:15 pm

    Uggh, Canon even.

  • Me September 4, 2008 05:14 pm

    Fascinating. I am wondering if a Cannon or a Nikon is the better camera?

    Uhh, neither if you're talking SLR. They both make good stuff. For work we shoot Nikon, but we're going to try out Cannon in a couple months to consider a switch. My personal camera is a Pentax K10D and I wouldn't trade it for a Nikon D80 or D200 (I have Pentax lenses from the late 70's and early 80's).

    If you have good Minolta lenses Sony actually makes a decent SLR. If you've bought into lenses for Nikon or Cannon you should probably stick with the brand. Really, your first consideration with any SLR should be your lenses, then features for the price...Nikon has more low end SLR cameras (although they tend to be somewhat crippled), Cannon has some amazing cameras in the $750-1,250 range. Cannon tends to dominate the sports market with high shot speed, but Nikon is very solid.

  • ArrGee August 19, 2008 06:39 pm

    Great stuff. I've just started doing more portrait work and this will help greatly. Thanks for sharing.

  • Martha Lipson August 6, 2008 01:41 pm

    Wonderful collection of pictures and great info.

    Thanks for shareing

  • Your Learning Tube August 5, 2008 06:10 pm

    Nice tutorials, perhaps you could post them on Yobler as well

  • The Baldchemist August 3, 2008 04:47 pm

    Nice one. Thanks. You know, there is something about knowledge.
    But at the end of the day the one who has vision and can interpret will always be in demand. Breton, Man Ray et al had only limited equipment. Shot exclusively with film; and bloody expensive also. Used often only a 55mm lens. But look at the drama, passion, love hate even they created when making their pictures.
    No Photoshop. No fancy tricks. Just pure vision, passion and knowing what the subject has in mind.
    Thanks for the article. Very interesting. The Baldchemist

  • Jason August 1, 2008 02:11 pm

    It's a wonderful compilation.
    Could I translate it to traditional Chinese and post to my webblog ?

  • bobbie August 1, 2008 10:19 am

    how to put a picture in a picture, or combine 2 diffrent pics into one

  • Julie Harris Photographers August 1, 2008 06:33 am

    Great information! Thanks so much for taking the time to compile all of this info!

    I'll be bookmarking and checking back!

    Julie Harris

  • Photochick July 30, 2008 05:29 pm

    I'm totally bookmarking this list! It's filled to the brim with a wealth of wonderful information.

    I look forward to more lists like this in other subjects as well! Thanks for another great post!

  • Furious Photographers July 30, 2008 04:02 pm

    Wow nice set of tutorials! I do portraits all of the time in my wedding photography, so this helps a lot! Thanks! -Lawrence

  • Bill July 30, 2008 03:13 am

    I StumbleUpon-ed and bookmarked your page. excellent tutorial

  • Pete Langlois July 29, 2008 11:38 pm

    Great compilation of articles. I've bookmarked this blog entry to come back to as a refresher.

    @Jim the one that feels better in your hand. I use Nikon.

  • Jim Jones July 29, 2008 09:49 pm

    Fascinating. I am wondering if a Cannon or a Nikon is the better camera?


  • XIII July 29, 2008 09:12 pm

    Sweet collection of tutorials, thanks!

  • Sangesh July 29, 2008 12:10 pm

    First of all I found you on on the first page, so congrats on being on the first page of

    About me: Powered by the Nikon D80 I am also quite interested in taking photographs. I love taking photographs. You can check out my photography on my site as well.

    I've bookmarked this page for my reference. Thanks.

  • Rosh July 29, 2008 10:06 am

    This really is an excellent list. I also enjoyed the post on 10 Tips to take Stunning Portraits.

    Of course being good with people is also very helpful. Even with a great list like this, it's hard to teach.


  • Joe | A New Band A Day July 29, 2008 07:36 am

    These are really good tutorials - I personally think that switching your camera out of 'Auto' mode and sneaking a bit to take candid photos is a simple way to get really good results. Thanks for compiling this list!

    Joe -

  • Christof.lapd July 29, 2008 03:35 am

    Wow, what a great compilation! Got to save it...

  • Scott Fillmer July 29, 2008 02:54 am

    What a fantastic list... it will take me a while to go back through everything but a great bit of information about a subject that isn't always the easiest thing to shoot.

    Anyone can take a photo of another person, but it really takes some understanding of portrait photography to have one look great.