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The Only 3 Portrait Photography Tips You’ll Ever Need to Know

Portrait photography is one of the most common and hence often the most overlooked and under-appreciated genres of photography. And whilst there’s a plethora of ideas and techniques that you can employ to create a truly magical portrait, there’s really only 3 essential tips you need to keep in mind to master the art of portraiture photography (and maybe even win our annual #Portrait photo contest on the Agora app).

Let’s get to it….

1. Connect with your subject and share in the process

The key to portrait success consists of more than just photo and lighting gear. It starts with the photographer making a distinct effort to connect with the subject so they are at ease during the process. This means ensuring that you get to know your subject beforehand by familiarizing yourself with their background and interests, which may even inspire how you wish to portray them. Specific environmental factors, such as choosing a place they feel comfortable in or having their favorite music playing in the background can also help them to feel themselves.

#Portraits2019 Finalist by @sufiartphotography, Pakistan

On a more technical level, get down on their level… literally. Especially if you’ll be working with children, don’t shoot down from an adult’s eye level. Get the camera down to their level to make your images more personal and less imposing. The same of course is true of adults, as seeing eye-to-eye will make your portraits convey this connection you established with the subject.

#Portrait2019 Finalist by @lightpalmer, Tanzania

2. Be aware of the lighting and environment and don’t forget to plan!

Once shoot day comes around, make sure you have a solid plan – for both the setting and any setup needed for your camera and lighting.

If you’ll be shooting indoors or in studio setting, get to know what options you have for backgrounds and lighting. Will it be possible to shoot the portrait with natural-light or will you need to acquire artificial lighting?

#Women2019 Finalist by @montseferre, Spain

If you’ll be shooting outside using natural light, keep in mind the time of day and hence the direction of the sun in relation to how and where you’d like your subject to be. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for a natural-light portrait, avoiding the harsh sunlight and shadows of midday. That being said, cloudy weather can also provide a great opportunity for portrait photography, with softer shadows and lighting remaining consistent over a long period of time!

#Eyes2019 Finalist by Michael Aboya @eighthman, Ghana

3. It’s all about the eyes!

Remember that the eyes are the window to the soul and this couldn’t be any truer for portrait photography. When photographing people, the emphasis should be on their eyes. You could have the most perfect composition, but if the eyes aren’t sharp, then the entire image will suffer.

#Portraits2020 Finalist @saurabh_sirohiya, India

Many cameras nowadays even have ‘Eye AF’ a handy feature that allows you to track focus right on the eyes!

#Eyes2020 Finalist by @marcotagliarino, Italy

So what are you waiting for? Get planning your next portrait photography shoots using these tips and keep a look out for the following photo contests launched annually on the Agora app: #Portrait, #Eyes, #Smile, #Beauty, #Women, among many more! Get placed within the Top 50 images and you’ll be in with a chance at the $1000 prize and getting your work published in media outlets around the world.


Agora is all about Community and helping photographers get the recognition they deserve. Share your top portrait photography tips with the global community in the comments below…