3 Essential Tips for Taking More Striking Portraits

Taking a perfect portrait is hard work. Moreover, if you want the results to be surprising and memorable, then it is even more challenging. Even if you have mastered the art of finding the appropriate exposure, maintaining the white balance, and producing a sharp focus, there is still plenty of room for advancement.

If you are looking to take your photos to the next level, read on to discover the three essential tips for taking more striking portraits.

1. Ensure your subject is feeling comfortable.

For most people, having someone take their portrait is cause for extreme levels of nervousness as it is natural to get a little camera-shy. For this reason, it is your job to create a space that ensures your subject can relax and feel as comfortable as possible.

If you don’t have a prior relationship with the subject, before shooting, take some time to get to know the person. Consider emailing them an information form beforehand to obtain their basic details as well as their modeling and color preferences and likes/dislikes. It is always advantageous to ask them what music they would like to listen to during the shoot to assist them in finding their rhythm.

Additionally, upon first meeting, spend 10-15 minutes in conversation. Introduce them to any other people on set, ask their opinions on your set-up, explain the ideas behind the shots you want to get, and do everything you can to create a positive and motivating experience.

That being said, the communication with your subject shouldn’t stop when you start shooting. Keep the light-hearted conversation going to keep the person feeling comfortable. The best photographer in Dubai, for example, likes to give subjects feedback at specific points and allows them to review the photos they have already taken along the way.

2. Allow your creative juices to flow.

Creativity is at the core of a photographer, and there are plenty of ways to get your creative juices flowing during portrait sessions. Not only will trying something new help keep you interested in your work, but it will also push you to take more striking photos.

One of the easiest ways to mix up your portrait photos is to change the format. As most pictures of people are taken in vertical mode, opt to take some in horizontal or landscape mode. When you switch the mode up, you will also find yourself in a better position to get creative with the composition. Consider ways to utilize angles, arrange your subject to one side, or zoom in to form a tight crop that converges on the individual.

Alternatively, brainstorm ways to shoot the subject from above, to have them upside down, or even full-body. These shots are not how portraits are usually taken, which keeps things fresh and brings a new perspective.

3. Upgrade your gear.

While artistry is essential for taking stellar photos, the gear a photographer uses helps to bring the visions to life. Whether you are a business portrait photographer or a budding amateur, there are a few pieces that can dramatically transform your portrait game.

Generally, when shooting portraits, you want to be working with a low f-stop which serves to blur the background and makes your subject look striking. Make sure that whatever camera you choose to use allows you to adjust the f-stop manually.

When it comes to lenses, it is common practice to avoid using a wide-angle lens as these tend to distort a person’s image and make them look a little too strange. Your best bet is to shoot with a lens that is less than 50 millimeters wide. Often, a telephoto lens is used as this works to consolidate space and enhance the blurred background effect. However, this type of lens will reduce the amount of environment included, so consider whether or not that is crucial to the story you are telling.

When shooting outside, you should always have a reflector in your arsenal as it is a simple means for reducing any shadows that may be hitting your subject’s face. Without the shadows, an individual’s face and eyes will appear more evident and illuminated.

What tips and tricks have you learned to improve your portrait photography? Let us know what you are working on in the comments below!


Stefanie Descheemaecker is the Studio Manager at Stu Williamson Photography at The Palm Jumeirah – Fairmont Hotel in Dubai. She has been with the company for almost 3 years and is the driving force behind the success of the business. A keen amateur photographer, Stef combines her natural creative eye with a strong business acumen to help Stu Williamson Photography become the most trusted and successful photography business in the UAE.

About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and owner and principal photographer of Tudor Photography