Everyone Can Do Portrait Photography : Tips For Beginners

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We explain why portrait photography is no magic and how you can make great portraits without expensive equipment. Portrait photography. For many, portrait photography has long had something to do with magic. Out of respect for art, a lot of amateur photographers don't even dare to approach the subject.

Three good reasons why you should definitely take portraits: Do you feel the same way? So if you think things like: “Portrait photography is only for professionals” or “I can't do that” or “I don't have the right equipment for that”, we can only tell you: This is absolute nonsense!

And now for a moment from woman to woman: Which of your friends would not like to have beautiful photos of yourself?

This certainly also applies to many men out there who would secretly be happy about a great portrait.

We assure you that after reading our article, you will not only have a lot of desire, but also have the courage to go straight to next weekend to take great portrait photos. Ok, let's get started.

By the way, we present our complete photo equipment here: Our photo equipment .

1. Why your city is your studio

There is definitely no one here who has not yet had to sit on such a stupid chair in a room without a window with a screen in the background.

We've probably all taken the typical application photos before. Please sit on the chair, bend your body forward, head to the right - no, further to the left. Phew That's not fun.

The good news to start with: You don't need a studio. Your city, your neighborhood or even your street can offer you everything you need as a background for a portrait.

Our favorite photo location for portraits?
If we have the choice, we are happy to go to the Alleys of Manhattan for portrait photos. We have everything we need there.

Colorful graffiti when we want color in the background, gray monochrome walls when we need something neutral, lonely corners without other people, but also hustle and bustle when we need it. For us this is the perfect mix!

We bet there are enough backgrounds for interesting portraits on your street too.


2. What equipment do you need

Everyone will probably give you a different answer, and many photographers cart suitcases of equipment to a shoot.

Of course, you can take great and impressive pictures with expensive equipment and 3 assistants. But it is also possible without. So if you only have your camera with a kit lens. Excellent! Sufficient perfectly.

We'll just tell you what equipment we always go out with.

Our equipment for portrait shoots


Actually there is always someone who feels like it. The incentive to have great pictures of yourself afterwards helps of course.


Our Sony Alpha 7ii . Any other camera works just as well.


Usually we choose one of the two prime lenses or just take both with us:

35 mm f / 1.4 prime lens
50 mm f / 1.8 prime lens

If you don't have a Sony lens like we do, we can also  recommend the 35mm prime lens from Tamron. A very good lens that is perfect for portraits due to its light intensity.

There are of course also cheaper variants that do not quite match the quality of the Tamron fixed focal length and are also not quite as fast. But if you have a small budget, we recommend this lens: 35mm fixed focal length from Nikon .

We also wrote an article about our love for our prime lens and show you 6 reasons why you absolutely need a prime lens  .

Collapsible reflector

We always have a folding reflector with us for planned shoots. This allows you to use the given light optimally and illuminate your face as you want.

We always have a folding reflector with us for planned shoots. This allows you to use the given light optimally and illuminate your face as you want.


The great thing is that your model looks fresher in the pictures (even without follow-up).

Because it not only offers you the opportunity to illuminate your subject better, but also cheats z. B. also simply remove dark circles. And that can never hurt, can it?

We have a 5in1 collapsible reflector that only costs a few dollars. You have everything you need with you. A gold, silver, black and white side and a diffuser.

Now don't let the different options confuse you. We'll explain later how you can easily use the collapsible reflector.

A helper

If possible, we always try to go out with two other people. Because it is helpful if your model doesn't have to hold the reflector itself.

3. Why you should take a lot of time for your shoot

Shooting with friends is especially fun if it doesn't necessarily feel like one. We always try to make a kind of day tour out of it. We meet z. E.g. on Saturdays around 11 a.m., we have breakfast together in the provisions in Friedrichshain and then we head towards the RAW area.

There we take photos for a while and then take a leisurely lunch break with lunch and refreshments in the beer garden.

Then we take another photo. The advantage of this is that you have completely different light at 1 p.m. than at 6 p.m. This means that completely different photos may be taken on the same spot.

In addition, a lot of people, even if they have known you for a long time, need a little time to feel comfortable in front of the camera.

We also always find it nice not to take photos all the time, but just to chat in between.

And now comes a trick: As a photographer, you should always pay attention during the phases in between.

Because especially when chatting in between, your counterpart feels more comfortable than when posing. Often the images are much more intense.

4. What questions to ask

For us there are actually three important questions that we ask ourselves before a shoot.

# 1 who do I actually photograph?

Who is this person? What are the characteristics of the person? Is she particularly cheerful, always laughing or is she more serious and thinks a lot. Is sport her life or is she always walking around with a book?

Everyone is different and if we didn't take that into account, every image would look the same. That would be a shame, wouldn't it?

# 2 What does my model want to use the photo for?

What does your model want to do with the photos? Give the family a new Xing profile picture, a photo for your own website or maybe even an application photo?

If someone wants a new profile picture for social media channels, you have to approach things very differently than with application photos for a new job.

If someone runs a website about yoga, it doesn't help if we take photos in front of a graffiti wall during our shoot. You should always consider this and plan in advance. So you can tell your model beforehand what they should definitely bring with them, in this case a yoga outfit and maybe a yoga mat.

# 3 How does my model imagine the result?

Even if you know your model well, you should always find out beforehand what kind of results she would like. Perhaps a person who always grins at the pictures would like to have a serious picture of himself.

A photographer can be photographed with a camera in hand.


5. The tech stuff

We don't want to go into too much detail here. We believe that everyone has to find out for themselves what works best and what doesn't. You don't always have to follow the rules.

We'll just tell you here how we adjust our cameras in most cases and what we personally like for portraits.

# 1 fixed focal length - the smallest possible f-number

Since we use our fixed focal length for portrait shootings, we of course also use their light intensity and set the f-number as small as possible.

We usually - not always - want to focus completely on our model's face and blur the background as much as possible.

# 2 About sharpness: At least one eye should be sharp

We always make sure that at least one eye of our model is sharp. The whole face doesn't always have to be razor-sharp, but at least one eye should always be sharp.

If you don't know how to determine your focus on your camera yourself, you should definitely deal with the settings of your camera.

This is not only a lot of fun, but you will notice very quickly how your photos are getting better.


The right eye is sharp.

# 3 Think about the light metering method

The light metering method is neglected by many. You definitely shouldn't do that. If you have not yet dealt with your camera's exposure metering method, it is best to do so immediately.

Which method you use for your portrait depends a bit on what you are photographing. With a close-up, you often don't care how the background is exposed.

Because your focus and the most important thing in your picture is your model. For portraits, we usually set our measurement method to spot measurement . In this way we ensure that the camera does not try to expose the entire picture correctly, only our model.

# 4 Use a reflector

Such a reflector is really something great. It's affordable (you can get it for around 20 euros on Amazon ) and you get great results with it. We don't want to go into too much detail and explain to you which film color is good for what.

Just try it out yourself, because that's the only way you will get a feel for it over time. The most important foil for the beginning is the white foil (small effect) and the silver foil (big effect)

With it you can illuminate the face of your model very nicely evenly. If you don't have an assistant with you, your model can simply hold the reflector himself if in doubt.

6. Which perspective?

Try out! Very simple answer. Our personal favorite is: taking pictures at approximately eye level.

This is where the other person seems most likable, probably also because the position is the most common for us - also in everyday life.

Each perspective has a different effect.

What we personally don't like at all when someone photographs us from a lower position. So from the bottom up. Then you usually appear thicker than you are. Something like that doesn't go down well with anyone.

Every perspective looks different for every person.

Pay attention to whether your model has two very different halves of the face. Often times you have one bigger eye and one that is a little bit smaller. Then we would photograph the model a little from the side so that the larger eye is in the foreground.

But very very important is:

Ask your model what she likes best about herself. Please always stay positive. So not: “You have a pretty big nose, so it's best not to do a side profile now”, but maybe rather “What do you like most about yourself?”.

There are then many who tell you directly what they don't like, but then at least you asked nicely about the positive.

More important is:

Show your model the photos you take. There's nothing worse than being in front of the camera and feeling left out.

Take a few photos, then go to your model and ask what she likes about which photo and what she doesn't like at all. Communication is super important!

Because just because you find a certain perspective beautiful does not mean that your model also thinks it is beautiful.

7. Have a laugh

Laughing naturally is often not that easy for many. Some screw up their mouths, others close their eyes. Basti is such a candidate who likes to close his eyes in a picture or who laughs unnaturally.

A very simple trick is as follows: Tell your model to close her eyes - in that time you can take a few test shots - and when you say “laugh now”, then he should open his eyes and laugh.

It works really great for many! At that moment you laugh much more relaxed and your eyes are optimally open for a short moment after opening the door for the first time.

Another tip: If you want a more serious photo or maybe a photo that you only want your model to smile at, make sure that the mouth is slightly open. That has a completely different effect.

This portrait was taken on a park in Montreal

8. What makes the difference afterwards

We think it is very, very important that you do not take a portrait of a model, but that you are always aware that you are photographing a person. And this person has unique characteristics, ideas and feelings. Go into it! Keep that in mind all the time.

And now?

So and now we would say, make an appointment for the next weekend with a friend and have fun with portrait photography.

Do you have any questions?

Do you have any questions about our contribution or do you want to give us your personal tip for portrait photography? Then just leave us a comment below. We're looking forward to it!

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