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  • Writer's pictureZahra

How To Take Good Portrait Photography For A Beginner in 2023

Singapore is known for its thriving photography industry and is home to some of the most talented portrait photographers in the region.

For a start, portrait photography is an art form that involves capturing the essence of someone’s personality and attitude, rather than just a simple photograph of their face. The goal is to bring out a person's identity, attitude, and personality in the picture, which is achieved through the effective use of lighting, backdrops, and poses.

It can be either an artistic or clinical style of photography and is one of the most important and widely used types of photography today.

If you're interested in becoming a professional portrait photographer, consider our Diploma in Professional Photography course based in Singapore. Before you do that, here are several tips and tricks to help you become better at taking great portraiture photos you can try on your own:

  1. Use the Sun as a Light Source Lighting is one of the most critical factors in photography, and can either make or break a photo. Photographers must be careful when it comes to lighting in their photos. Although the harsh light from the sun can create unwanted shadows, it can also be used as a source of spotlight on the subject. Exposing the subject directly to the sun helps to darken the background and surrounding shadows, drawing attention to the subject. While photographers may avoid shooting in direct sunlight, consider using it to your advantage to add magic to your photos.

  2. Bring Your Own Lighting While the camera flash can be a useful tool to bring light to your photos, it doesn't always provide the lighting you need. The sun can be very unreliable too at times. Bad lighting can also cause the subject's face to appear washed out, especially in close-up headshots. To avoid this, try turning off the flash and using other sources of light, such as natural light or external strobe lighting. This can help you control the shadows in your portraits and create the perfect shot.

  3. Practice, Practice, Practice is key to improving your photography skills. The mind can forget what you don't focus on, so it's essential to continuously practice your photography specialization to become proficient. Start a 365-day project where you take pictures every day of the year. This will help you develop your skills, remember tips and tricks (continue reading!), and become familiar with your equipment.

  4. Be Creative, Not Technical When it comes to portrait photography, the client doesn't care about the technicalities as long as their photos look good. Instead of focusing on the technical aspects, stay creative and don't limit yourself. Cross boundaries and create new visuals. Creativity is what makes a better image and adds beauty to your photographs. So, let your creativity run wild and bring magic to your images.

  5. Focus on the Subject The subject is the most critical aspect of portrait photography, and the photographer must make sure the subject feels comfortable in front of the camera. Spend some time getting to know your subject before the photo shoot, and let them know about your photography style and what you'll be looking for in the shoot. Knowing your subject is essential for a successful portrait photography session.

  6. Capture Emotions and Expressions Portrait photography is about capturing emotions and expressions in a portrait picture. While it may seem simple, getting the subject to emote can be challenging. A portrait photographer must be careful about the emotions and expressions on the subject's face. It's essential to communicate with the subject before and during the shoot.

  7. Invest in Equipment Having quality equipment is essential for capturing great portraits. Consider investing in a high-end camera, lenses (recommendations below), and lighting gear that will help you produce professional-looking results.

It's also recommended to look into a good tripod, reflectors, and other accessories that can improve your shooting setup and make it easier to get the results you're looking for.

  1. Develop a Unique Style To stand out as a portrait photographer, you need to have a unique style that sets you apart from others. Experiment with different lighting techniques poses, and backdrops to find what works best for you and your clients. Consider finding inspiration from other portrait photographers and incorporating their techniques into your own style. The goal is to create a consistent look and feel to your portraits that will make your clients want to come back for more.

  2. Build a Strong Online Presence In order to practice regularly, you need a target. What is better than being able to hone your skills and, at the same time, being paid? Price yourself below the median and explain clearly about your skill level to a potential client so that expectations are being set. Having an online presence is essential for promoting yourself and reaching new clients. Consider creating a portfolio website that showcases your best work, along with a blog or social media account where you can share your latest shoots and connect with potential clients. Be sure to include contact information and pricing information so that potential clients can easily reach out to you if you are looking to become a paid professional.

  3. Network and Build Relationships Attend photography events, join photography courses, and reach out to other photographers to build a network of professional contacts. Be sure to also reach out to local businesses and organizations that may need portrait photography services too, such as schools, event spaces, and corporations, so that you can continue to practice and practice!

Lenses For Portrait Photography

For portrait photography, lenses with a longer focal length, around 85-135mm, and a wide aperture, around f/1.8-f/2.8, are considered the best options.

These lenses allow for a shallow depth of field which helps to blur the background and isolate the subject, creating a more pleasing and professional look. The longer focal length allows the photographer to stand further away from the subject, reducing distortion, and creating a more flattering perspective. Some of the recommended lenses for portrait photography include:

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

  • Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G

  • Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

  • Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

  • Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

  • Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Becoming a professional portrait photographer takes time, dedication, and a lot of hard work. Apart from doing it, learning from the best works too.

Either learning from an experienced practitioner directly who can guide you specifically on how to improve from our photography course, or looking at the work of established photographers will add up to honing your skills in becoming a confident and up-to-speed portrait photographer.

There are several places in Singapore where you can view portrait photography:

  • The National Museum of Singapore has several exhibitions that showcase the works of local and international photographers. You can see a range of portrait photography styles and techniques, including traditional portraiture, documentary photography, and contemporary fine art photography.

  • The ArtScience Museum frequently features exhibitions of portrait photography that explore different cultural and historical themes. This is a great place to see works by some of the world's most renowned portrait photographers, as well as up-and-coming artists.

  • Artspace@Helutrans is a contemporary art gallery that specializes in art and at times photography. It sometimes showcases exhibitions of portrait photography by both established and emerging photographers. The gallery provides a platform for artists to showcase their works and engage with the public through talks and workshops too.

  • The Substation is a multidisciplinary arts center that features exhibitions of various art forms, including photography. It regularly showcases portrait photography exhibitions by local and international artists, providing visitors with an opportunity to see a diverse range of styles and techniques.

Becoming a good photographer requires a passion for photography and a deep interest in capturing memories and moments. It is important to start practicing, experimenting, and seeking feedback from other photographers to identify areas for improvement.

With dedication and hard work, anyone can become a successful and skilled photographer.

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