How to Make Your Portraits Look More Professional

When you are just beginning to venture into portrait photography, everything seems a bit daunting. Before I dive into some portrait photography tips, I wanted to take a moment to be honest about this pretty difficult photography niche. 

Portrait photography isn’t something that comes naturally for a lot of photographers. It takes a lot of practice. So, while these tips about how to take better portraits will allow you to get started, you should know that the only way for you to master portrait photography is through time and lots of practice. 

Definitely don’t expect for all of your photos to be professional-looking portraits after just a few weeks. By managing your expectations about portrait photography, you will be more likely to continue practicing for months on end. 

Play with Eye Contact

One of my favourite portrait photography tips for beginners is to learn to play with eye contact. When you first get started with portrait photography, most  photographers get into the nasty habit of making their models stare directly into the camera lens. 

While this works for the first few portraits you take, you definitely can’t do a whole shoot like this. Firstly, your model will get bored posing the exact same way all of the time. Secondly, you will get bored flipping through those photos after the shoot is done.

If you frequently take photos on your phone, you may have noticed the trend that started a few years ago where phones now let you take photos in a burst mode. 

This technology was specifically introduced to help amateur photographers work on their portrait photography. If the camera is taking all of the photos for you, then you can be sure that you aren’t going to miss any of the action.

Burst mode represents a good opportunity to create a series of photos.

The first easy way to get out of this portrait photography habit is to simply give your model something to look at in the frame. If you’re photographing a couple, for example, you might have them look at one another rather than at the camera. 

Another option is to just have your model stare at something off camera. This is an especially fun shot if your model is showcasing some emotion at whatever they are looking at. One good tip that I’ve used in the past is to put the model’s significant other off screen. 

Portrait photography is definitely a lot about posing, but you should never let how you pose the model get in the way of the story you are trying to tell with your camera. 

Sometimes the best portrait photography shots are the shots you didn’t plan at all. This is especially true if you are working with children.

You should always be anticipating moments when your model may do something surprising. To do so, consider putting your camera in burst mode so you can off multiple shots in short order. 

Another idea is to keep shooting during breaks when you’ve told the model to sit back and relax. Often those candid moments between “real” shots can be very fruitful for a candid portrait.