5 Steps to Perfect Portrait Photos

August 26, 2020

Get set to capture the perfect portrait photos at your next portrait photoshoot! Get expert insight on how to familiarise yourself with your camera settings, set up the lighting and background, and help your client be comfortable and confident for the photoshoot, from Rowan Burke, a professional photographer on Bidvine.

5 Steps to Perfect Portrait Photos

Portrait photography is one of the most sought-after jobs in the industry, but getting perfect portraits is way more than just pointing your camera at someone and hitting the button. There are thousands of videos and articles on taking the best portraits out there, all with slightly varied instructions depending on the photographer’s preferences and style, but when it comes to the fundamentals of portraiture there are five basic steps to consider and to help you get started in creating beautiful portraits.  


1. Know Your Camera

Every photographer should have spent a fair amount of time getting to know their camera. Of course, some cameras are much harder to fully learn than others. The endless menus of Sony cameras are a primary example.

Yet, a good photographer should know how to change their ISO, shutter speed, aperture and white balance with little hesitation. It doesn’t look particularly professional for a photographer to google ‘camera settings’ whilst on a job, so it’s paramount you know not just where to go to change your settings, but also what they do and how each element compliments the other. 

For example, if you’re planning on shooting a subject that moves a lot such as a child, animal, or an action shot, then you need a quick shutter speed, which means you need more light. However, too much light will make your images look grainy, so it’s important to know how changing one setting will affect another. Play around with your camera before the photoshoot and familiarise yourself with what it does so you’re prepared and professional.  

Essential Camera Settings Every Photographer Should Know

  • ISO
  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • White balance

Portrait Photographer Price Guide

Thousands of people ask Bidvine for help with their projects every year. We track the estimates they get from local professionals, then we share those prices with you.
Price Range





2. Let Your Lights do The Talking

To echo an earlier point, many photographers will have their own style and techniques. These will ultimately be reflected in the settings they use for portraits. The settings I stand by, and use for every studio portrait shoot, adjust the lighting which is captured so that all the light you see in the final photo comes solely from the lights I bring. 

Natural light plays no part in the brightness or darkness of my photos. I set up my camera so that without the lights, the image is more or less pitch black, so I know that whether I’ve used strobe or continuous lighting, it’s the light I’ve added that dictates the entire look of the image. 

Photo by Rowan Burke of Steal The Focus Photography

A decent lighting rig is important, but doesn’t have to cost the earth – I use two Godox V850s (£100-150 each) and two Godox softboxes (£20-30 each).  A good starting point is to set your flashes up at 1/8 and set your camera at ISO100, f5.6, and 1/200, then alter each part until it works for you.   

3. Set up Your Framing and Background 

Choosing a Background

There are many things to consider in your portrait outside of the actual subject. First and foremost, the question you should ask is, ‘what does my client want?’ If they want a portrait of their head and shoulders with a white background, do just that. 

If you’re given creative licence, consider what will enhance your portrait. Some photographers spend big money on different backdrops, whereas others are happy with a plain wall, or even prefer to go outside. If a client is not instructing you on what they want, think about the mood you’re looking to achieve, and what will compliment your photo.  

Photo by Rowan Burke of Steal The Focus Photography

Consider Framing

When it comes to framing, although you may be given a free pass to do what you want there are some fundamentals to consider.

Tips For Perfect Framing in Portraits:

  • The rule of thirds, this will draw the viewer’s eyes to the subject, creating depth of field, and not cut off random body parts such as hands and feet. 
  • Study your choices, whatever your background or your framing, take the time to consider your choices. If it doesn’t look right to you, it probably won’t look right for anyone else either. 
  • Wider photos can be trimmed, remember that when you capture a wider photo it can be trimmed later during editing. If, however, you take one that is too narrow you’re pretty much stuck with it. To ensure more room for editing later on aim for wider photos.

Portrait Photographers
near you
Portrait Photographers near you
Thousands of people across the U.K. ask Bidvine for help with their projects every year. Tell us what you need so we can bring you the right local professionals for your project.

4. A Comfortable Subject Makes For Better Photos 

Unless you have the luxury of always getting booked by professional models, you’re likely to face the obstacle of an awkward subject during your career as a portrait photographer. It’s perfectly understandable! Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera. Tackle the challenge of making your subject feel more at ease head-on with the tips below.

Photo by Rowan Burke of Steal The Focus Photography

3 Tips to Help Your Portrait Client Feel Comfortable

  • Meet up before the photoshoot, something as simple as meeting up for a coffee before the photoshoot can ease nerves.
  • Be friendly, building a friendly relationship will help them be more comfortable with you and build confidence for the photoshoot.
  • Have samples of poses available to view, prepare a sheet that can be readily available with poses so that a client can easily see ideas of portrait poses and where to stand.

Whatever approach you take, making your subject feel at ease will pay off in the end.  


5. Edit, Edit, Edit

In my experience as a photographer, most subjects will often expect some form of “airbrushing” after a paid photoshoot. Even fully made up models will have some blemishes and tonal issues once you get your photos on the screen. 

Editing can be anything from a quick clean up, to a full liquify and frequency separation overhaul. Whatever the requirement, or your style, it’s a good idea to get familiar with a programme like Photoshop, Capture One, or Lightroom. There are countless videos online to walk you through a portrait editing process, and again it’s all about trying techniques out and seeing what works for you. 

Rowan Burke

Steal The Focus Photography

Rowan Burke, Photographer

My name is Rowan Burke, and I am a photographer, videographer, and graphic designer based in Reading, UK. Having studied photography, I went on to start a small independent business specialising in all things creative, meaning I get to collaborate with all sorts of people from across the world whilst doing with I love. 

I truly enjoy sharing my work and techniques with the creative community, but also learning new and exciting techniques from like-minded creatives, continuing to build on my passion for the industry. 

Interested in booking Rowan for a portrait photoshoot? Click here to visit Rowan's Bidvine profile and capture a perfect portrait!


Share Your Expertise

Are you a professional on Bidvine? We'd love to hear from you! If you want to share your expertise with potential customers through an article, please e-mail social@bidvine.com.

Related Articles
5 Breathtaking North London Photography Locations

Spring is just around the corner and the world is beginning to look a little bit more colourful again. If you’re starting out in the world of photography and want to try out your skills or maybe you just bought a new camera and want to take it for a spin? We’ve collected the best places in North London to take pictures that will impress everyone, no matter what your skill level! Read on for some serious inspiration.

Planning to host an event at one of these inspiring locations? Easily hire a local event photographer when you submit a free request on Bidvine!

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace (image: Rikke OberlinFlarup)

One of the highest points in London, Alexandra Palace is a beautiful spot to take pictures. The incredible view is perfect for night time photography, panoramic shots and outdoor portrait photography. The building itself is a historical Victorian masterpiece and looks stunning on camera. Surrounded by an expanse of grass, trees, breathtaking sights and even some fallow deer, this is a perfect spot to capture some impressive photos.

...read more
Your Complete Guide on How to Prepare Your Baby for Photos

Figuring out how to prepare your baby for a photo shoot can be stressful. So, to help reduce your stress we’ve put together this collection of top tips on how to prepare your baby for photos. That way instead of spending your time fretting about the photo shoot you can focus on spending time with your newborn bundle of joy.

All set to book a baby photo shoot? Click here to submit a free request and find top baby photographers in your area!

How to Prepare Your Baby For Photos

Schedule Ahead of Time

Image Credit

Schedule Ahead of Time

It is important that you schedule your photography session ahead of time. If you would like a newborn photo shoot, in particular, many photographers recommend that the session takes place within the first two weeks after birth.

During your baby’s first two weeks they will be more likely to sleep through the session. This will allow your photographer to capture all of those adorable sleepy newborn photos you are looking for.

As it is ideal to have a newborn photoshoot within the first two weeks after birth, it is important to book your photography session beforehand. If you wait until after your baby is born there is a chance that your photographer may be all booked up within those first two weeks.

So, to ensure that your photo shoot goes smoothly and to reduce your stress, it is best to book ahead of time.

Bidvine Tip: Check out this article for inspiration on the best baby photography ideas. Then you can discuss these with your baby photographer ahead of time.

Do you need help locating a professional baby photographer in your area? Let Bidvine help!

Keep Baby Warm

Image Credit

Keep Baby Warm

An important aspect of ensuring a smooth photo shoot is keeping your baby warm and toasty throughout the session.

Hosting the photo shoot in your home? Some photographers recommend that it is best to keep the temperature on the warmer side at around 28 Celsius. This will help to keep your baby warm, especially if you plan on taking any photos where they won’t have a blanket.

Another top way to keep your baby toasty during a home photo shoot is to heat up blankets periodically in your dryer.

...read more
You'll Love Our Top 13 Wedding Songs for 2017 (With Videos!)

If you’re getting married in 2017, we bet you’re looking for the best music to play at your reception. You want your guests to have fun and enjoy themselves, which is why we’ve put together this list of the best wedding songs! From John Legend to Ed Sheeran to everyone in between, you won’t want to leave any of these wedding songs off your playlist.

Are you looking for the perfect DJ for your wedding reception? You can find local DJs on Bidvine with the click of a button! Just submit a free request for bids from DJs in your area.

Is a live band more your style? Don’t worry, you can find a local band on Bidvine, too! Click to get bids from talented bands near you. Then capture every delightful and candid memory of your wedding day with a wedding photographer

Without further ado, let’s get into the best wedding songs for 2017! Stay tuned until the end of the post for a Spotify playlist that you can save for later.

1. City of Stars – Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

While La La Land may not have won Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, City of Stars did win Best Original Song! We think that City of Stars is the perfect addition to any wedding playlist, especially if you and your beau can learn the dance routines!

2. Shape of You – Ed Sheeran

This is the first of two Ed Sheeran songs on our list, as he’s just released his newest album, Divide! And what’s a modern wedding without an Ed Sheeran song or two? Shape of You is upbeat and perfect for dancing at your reception.

3. Can’t Stop the Feeling! – Justin Timberlake

It’s pretty inevitable that a pop song from an animated movie becomes one of the top wedding songs each year. A few years ago it was Everything is Awesome from The Lego Movie, and this year it’s Can’t Stop the Feeling! from Trolls. Play this song at your wedding and allow Justin Timberlake to bring some high energy music to your dancing!

4. Mercy – Shawn Mendes

If you want to take a break from higher energy music, this Shawn Mendes tune is perfect. It’s a romantic song that will give your guests a chance to relax and sway to the music.

...read more

Why Bidvine is the best place to hire experts

Answer a few questions and we match you to the right pros.

Get custom bids from pros who match your needs.

Compare bids, send messages and hire the right pro for you.