Portrait Photography Tips (Improve your Portrait Skill)

Last Updated on April 4, 2021

As a professional portrait photographer for the last fifteen years, I’ve learned more than just a thing or two about taking great portraits. I dabble in both photography and videography, which gives me a slightly broader sphere of knowledge in this field than most. One of the big parts of my work is talking to clients about what they want from their portrait session.

How to Take a Good Portrait

photographer shooting a portrait in studio

Here are some tips I have learned over the years for taking a good portrait. Not every tip will work for everyone but some of these tips might be something you haven’t thought of before so try them out and see how well they work for you. Some of these tips below are also great ways to help with your indoor or outdoor pictures in general, not just portraits.

Scouting A Location

There are many factors that go into getting great portraits, and one factor that can make or break your photo session is location scouting: the place you take your pictures can make all the difference. You need to have a space that gives all the subjects of your portraits the best opportunity to look their best. One of my biggest pet peeves with portrait photography is when people don’t take advantage of locations that will allow their subject the opportunity to look great and really show off their personality. If you want an outdoor location, just make sure it is a place where there isn’t heavy traffic; this should be common sense but traffic tends to stir up dust, making everyone windblown and less than attractive. If you want to take pictures indoors, make sure that the lighting is good for everyone. And one more thing, make sure the place that you choose has a background that will be easily edited into your photo.

Arrange the Scene

I’m always looking for interesting backgrounds when I am taking pictures. I think this makes a big difference in my work. I look for things to use in my portraits that are not so common, like flowers, statues or artwork on the walls. It can be something simple like a plant on your windowsill or something more intricate, but it all adds to the whole picture and takes it up a notch.

If you are having a hard time finding things to use in your pictures, then look on the websites of local photographers because they will have a ton of ideas. These photographers often attend art shows and will have some amazing things to use. Another place to look for ideas is Pinterest or even Facebook where lots of people post their pictures.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know what will make a great picture so you might want to try something you’ve never done before. If it works out well, then that was probably the best idea you had so far.

Shoot with a Neutral Color Background

You don’t want to have anything in the background that will distract from your picture and ruin it for your viewers. This is why you should try to shoot with a neutral color background so the people in your pictures will be the only thing that catches your viewers’ eyes.

You can do this by choosing a location that has lots of neutral colors, such as outside in a field or in the woods. If you can’t do this, then you may want to take your picture in an empty room or even just outside without anything behind it. In fact, if you can’t think of a way to take a picture in an empty room, then you can just take your picture on a white wall with the flash turned on. This is one of the easiest ways to get rid of background noise.

If you’re like most people and there are tons of things going on in your background, then you’ll need to go through your pictures and figure out which ones will work well. You don’t want anyone to walk by your picture and think that you have a bunch of clutter in your room. You want everything to be very neat and organized so that it will look nice on the screen. Take out anything that doesn’t really fit into the picture.

Teach Your Subject They Will Look Good

There is nothing wrong with telling someone they will look good in your photo but I would never tell someone how to pose, especially children. If you notice that they don’t look very natural, then you can tell them to try something different. If you are taking a picture of a person or people that know each other, then it is best to tell them how to pose so that your picture will look as if you were trying to capture the moment without any posing involved.

Posture is Key

The way someone is standing will make a big difference in your photos. If they lean to one side or the other, then you will never get them in a good picture. Keep their shoulders and head straight and they will look much better. The image will look smoother and not like they have been snapped by a camera at the wrong angle.

Having someone stand with their eyes closed can make them look very sleepy but standing with their mouth open can make them look crazy and weird. When taking your picture, try to give them a good command like “Smile!” or “Say Cheese!” so they know you are ready. Telling them what to do next will help them relax and focus on the camera instead of thinking about what pose to strike.

Take Multiple Pictures

You aren’t going to make a great picture every time so it is better to take several pictures in order to get the right one. If your subject doesn’t look very good in the first picture you take, then take a second one and focus on everything but them. Make sure to keep your camera steady and use the zoom lens to get everything in the picture so they won’t look blurry.

Don’t be afraid to try different things to get a better picture. Don’t be scared of taking more than one shot because sometimes you might miss the one that is going to make you money. You can always edit the pictures later if needed or replace them with something else.

Find something that makes them happy and get their guard down. Once they feel comfortable, you will be able to get a better picture.


Taking someone’s portrait can be very fun once you get the hang of it. It is a great way to help you learn more about photography and how to take it to the next level. You can also use this skill in other kinds of work, such as art, photography or even drawing if you want. The best thing is once you know how to take a good portrait, then it will be easy for you to capture the perfect moment on camera and will make your pictures look very professional.