Photo Tech 16 Most Striking Points You Must Know for Professional Portrait Photography

16 Most Striking Points You Must Know for Professional Portrait Photography

Are you an amateur in portrait photography but wish to shoot like a pro? Many will suggest you not to think like that. I say, think like a pro then your output will be great. So, you may think of shooting professional portrait photography. It may happen that initially, you are not getting quality photographs. But if you start from right now with proper guidelines then definitely you will get professional portrait photography soon. By the way, when you think like a pro you got to act like a pro. There will be many types of equipment you need to purchase. You may not be able to buy all together, but you can start your endeavor to fill your desire.

In this article, you will get some very basic guidelines for shooting professional portrait photography. There are not rigid rules. Never think that these are the bindings because photography is an art and there are no bindings in art. You can take these guidelines and then based on these you can deviate to something different the way you wish.  

1. What is a Portrait?


I am sure we all know about the portrait. Maybe it is too lame to tell someone that what a portrait is. Even though I am going to express my view of the portrait. According to the dictionary, a portrait is a painting, a drawing, a photograph, or an engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders. Sometimes we also say that this is the portrait of him or even we say that this is the portrait of a family. Sometimes I consider that portrait may not be only a person. It can be a photo of something which is unit in nature, like a family portrait.

2. Professional Portrait Photography


When you talk about something professional means it’s not only about your passion. It has to satisfy you, your client and it has to be cost effective. For doing professional photography, you need to know a bit more than doing portrait photography as a hobby or anything else. Professional Portrait Photography can be done in many ways.

professional portrait photography

If you are not confident enough to capture some portrait photography, then you need to check your skills in some different ways. But before satisfying someone else you need to satisfy yourself so that you get full confidence on you in portrait photography. At the end of the article, I will tell you how to check whether you can capture professional portrait photography or not.

3. Essentials You Need


Before shooting any portrait photography you need to know a few essential things. While going for shooting professional portrait photography, you need to always think about your subject (the person whose portrait to be captured), place, gear and aiding equipment. As you are not going to shoot sudden photos, therefore, you need to make a complete plan for your whole photography projects. Pre-planned photography will make your work easy without irritating your client.

essentials of professional portrait photography
Essentials of Professional Portrait Photography

4. Good Place Selection


This is very important for shooting professional portrait photography. You need to select a place which will give you the best output for portrait photography. As I mentioned before, this should be a prime concern in your plan before you go out for shooting portrait photography or any category like headshot or professional headshot photography.

place for professional portrait photography
Select a Good Place

As a photographer, you must know some good places where you can take your client for portrait photography. Anticipation should be such that your place selection must make your client happy. You can again select studios for this. You can also make a partial studio outside like making the background artificially and keeping the front open for getting natural lights.

5. Perfect Dress Selection


Select a contrasting color for your subject. Suppose you have a green background and your clients dress is also green. I think you will not like it nor your client too because you don’t want to camouflage your client. You have to select such a dress which will be contrasting with the background.  Again, contrast color doesn’t mean that you can select any color. Use your judgment in selecting a dress color.

perfect dress for professional portrait photography
Select a Good Dress for Portrait

6. Who will Select Dress, Colour, and Place? 

You may get different types of clients. Some of them will not let you dominate him or her. Someone will always seek suggestion from you and someone will choose something on their own and will seek your guidelines for the rest. Always go with your client’s mind. Let your client express his or her mind about his/ her choice. Those may sound odd or funny, value their choices. If you have any better ideas, then request them.

If your client confirms the spot, then you must have a visit there or knowledge about the place before you go there. Assessing that, you must suggest a suitable dress for that spot. If your client has already selected a dress, then you must make a plane that which will be the locations where you will take your client for having shots. Remember, if your client has selected everything at his/ her own then you must follow that. You have to choose the best combination out of those using your judgment.

7. Perfect Camera Selection


Don’t lose heart if you don’t have a camera which is too high in nature. Any DSLR is enough to take good quality of professional portrait photography. If you have very good quality cameras then in some cases it will help you like if your camera provides more focusing points then definitely it will help you in selecting focusing points. But I believe you can take good quality of professional portrait photography with any kind of DSLR camera.

best camera for professional portrait photography
Very High-Quality Camera is not a Big Factor for Professional Portrait Photography

8. Best Lens Selection


Selecting a lens for professional portrait photography is important. The lens always plays a vital role in all kind of photography. Choosing a lens depends on many things. There are many commonly know lens which is used for professional portrait photography. While choosing a lens to buy from professional portrait photography, you need to keep a few points in your mind  like:

  • What is its aperture range
  • What is the weight as you need to carry more than one lens?
  • Whether the lens has image stabilization?
  • How is the bokeh performance?
  • How sharp photo can it produce?
  • What is the price Price, because that has to be within your budget.

best lens for professional portrait photography
Select the Best Lens

Some of the lens for professional portrait photography with the comparison is given below:

BrandLensAperture RangeWeightImage StabilizationBokehSharpnessMSRP
CanonEF 85mm f/1.2L II USMf/1.2-162.3 lbsNoGoodVery sharp$1,900
70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USMf/2.8-323.3 lbsYesExceptionalVery sharp$2,100
EF 50mm f/1.4 USMf/1.4-2210 ouncesNoFairSharp in the middle at f/1.4, gets sharper when stopped down$350
EF 35mm f/1.4L II USMf/1.4-221.7 lbsNoFairVery sharp$1,800
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USMf/2.8-221.8 lbsNoFair to goodVery sharp$1,800
NikonAF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4Gf/1.4-161.3 lbsYesExceptionalSharp at every aperture$1,600
70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR IIf/2.8-223.4 lbsYesExceptionalExceptional$2,200
50mm f/1.8G AF-Sf/18-166.6 ouncesNoVery GoodVery sharp at every aperture$177
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4Gf/1.4-161.3 lbsyes FairVery sharp at every aperture$1,700
AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G EDf/2.8-222 lbsyesFair to poorExceptional$1,700

9. Using Light Properly


Light sens is important for all kind of photography. According to the presence of light you have to select everything. ISO, aperture, shutter speed all are related to light. If you are shooting indoor, then you have to use artificial light. External flash, diffuser, etc. can be used. But, before using light, you have to have proper knowledge about using lights. If you are shooting outdoors, then make the best use of light and shade available. Golde hour is always recommended for all type of photography, and it is no exception for professional portrait photography. For learning more read the portion The Golden Hour/ Magic Hour of one of my article.

10. Knowing Three Points Lightings


If you are using an external lighting system then you should have an endeavor to use three points lighting system. That means you will have to use two lights at two sides and another from the back side like a triangle. If you use one or two lights, then the shadow will fall on the background or at any side of the subject. To remove this unwanted shadows, you can use three points lights. This is basically done to make a 3D effect on the 2D frame. The three kinds of lights are:

  • Key Light: Main light used on the subject.
  • Fill Light: To remove the shadows caused by the key light.
  • The Back Light: Separates the background from the subject.  

three points lighting fro professional portrait photography
Three Points Lighting

11. Selecting ISO


ISO depends on the presence of light. Larger the ISO more is the noise and vice versa. Always try to use lower ISO. But that does not mean that you have to always use lower ISO. Indoor photography using flashlights can be done with a moderate range of ISO. Outdoor can be done with lower ISO range because there will be enough lights. However, use your judgment for using ISO range in case of capturing professional portrait photography.  

12. Selecting Aperture


This is very important. Suppose you are shooting in front of Eiffel tower. I think you will not miss keeping the Eiffel tower clear as background. In this case, you will not think of bokeh obviously. Again, if you are just shooting in a place where the background is not at all necessary to emphasize, then you can make bokeh. However, you may learn more about selecting aperture size for professional portrait photography from my article ‘Everything You Need To Know About Aperture Size for Better Photography’.

aperture chart for professional portrait photography
Aperture Chart

13. Focusing Mode Selection


I will always suggest you focus manually. If you have good skill in focusing with manual mode then obviously go for manual focusing. But if you are planning to focus automatically then select the appropriate autofocus mode. There are three types of focusing mode in the camera usually. Those are AI servo, AI focus, and One-shot. These are for Canon camera. Before using this artificial intelligence of camera, you should know exactly what is their use and when to use them. For knowing more read my article ‘One Shot, AI Servo and AI Focus: Things To Know Before Choosing The Right Focus Mode.’

14. Following Rule of Thirds


This is a big issue whether you will follow the rule of thirds in case of taking professional portrait photography or not. I say yes. Usually, in it is suggested that if you are capturing a photo then keep your subjects along the intersections or on the lines of the frames, but if you are only taking a photo of one person then what to do? You have to find important portions like eyes, smile, etc. For details about Rules of Thirds read number 9 paragraph of my article ‘Top 25 Best Landscape Photography Tips That Will Make You A Pro Photographer’.

15. Using a Tripod


Use of a tripod can never be excluded from any kind of photography. You should not plan any kind of photography be it professional portrait photography or other kinds of photography. We always look for very sharp photos. Tripod is a prime tool for getting a sharp photograph.  A small shake of the camera may spoil the whole photo. So, never hesitate to use a tripod for taking professional portrait photography.

use of tripod for professional portrait photography
Never Hesitate to use a Tripod

16. Exposure Time


Can you remain still perfectly or is there anyone can do so? I think no. The slightest movement may not catch your attention, but that can spoil the whole photo. Your camera movement has been stopped using a tripod, but your subject’s movement can not be stopped in any way as it is a living being. So, you have to take the very short exposure. This movement can’t spoil your photography. Fast shutter speed is always suggested for capturing professional portrait photography.

How to Understand Whether I Can Capture Professional?


Becoming professional is the result of your hard work. Shooting professional portrait photography is not too tough. There will be a time when you will be able to asses that which of the above-mentioned guidelines are applicable in a situation and which is not applicable. That time your imagination will allow you to blend many of them together and invent something new. That time you will think that you have gone to pro level. But, I always suggest that never think yourself as a professional but always think like a professional.

Final Words


While capturing professional portrait photography you have to deal with different equipment. But never forget that you have to deal with people as well. So, your behavior is also a part of capturing professional portrait photography. Whatever ideas and types of equipment you are using have to be welcomed by your client. I suggest you have a conversation with your client and get his/ her mind. At the same time, you express your mind that how you are planning to capture professional portrait photography for him/ her. This small little endeavor will make your work easy and let your client feel comfortable while capturing.

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