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Digital Portrait Photography Basics

Digital Portrait Photography is there really any difference to shooting your Images on film. The real answer to this is NO. But many digital SLR camera owners think that it’s all too easy and that anybody without any experience can by using a digital camera. In addition to digital cameras, Clever Vlogger is a great source for getting information on the best vlogging cameras.

I was taught over forty-five years ago by one of the old masters Shaw Wildman, and although the classic style of lighting a portrait in a studio with flood and spot lights as opposed to studio flash as been lost in today’s images, I would add that from my training all those years ago I still have an unfair advantage over many.

It’s hard for some to remind themselves, that it’s only the technology that has changed and the basics still remain the same.

For example when working in the studio, knowing how to position your Key Light and fill-in light and getting the right balance. Also the use of a possible clip light for the models hair and some background lighting.

However on the plus side, using a digital camera will help to speed up your learning process as you can see your results immediately on your digital LCD screen. In days gone by, you had to get it right before you shot the picture as it might be the next day before you would see your results.

  1. lets get to it with some basic info to get you started:



  1. Film or Digital SLR Camera, or a Medium Format camera, size 6x6cm.
  2. Memory Cards or film. Don’t forget to have your camera and flash batteries fully charged, plus a back up set.
  3. Soft-Box or Umbrella attachment for a Studio Flash.
  4. Reflectors;  5. Tripod;  6. Model.

You have two choices when shooting a Digital Portrait of your Model, we will keep the details short as there will be other resources you can follow up with at the bottom of this page.WHAT TO DO:

  1. a) Studio: Setting up and working in your home studio, (or hired studio).
  2. b) Outdoors: Working outdoors.

STUDIO: Set up your flash with a soft-box or umbrella attachment, positioned to the side of your camera, approximately at a 45 degree angle to the subject.

Always work with a tripod, this is how the Pros do it and they know a thing or two!

Set up a large reflector the other side of the camera and fix a second light facing into the reflector as a bounce light to fill-in the shadow side of the model. I would be wise to have an additional small reflector below the models head to reflect light up under the models chin.

You may also require additional lights to light up the background and a clip light to clip the models hair

Check your exposures by using a stand-in model. After some experimentation find the right balance and correct exposures my making tests these beforehand and ahead of your planned photo shoot, so eliminating mistakes on the big day

OUTDOORS: Now this is a whole lot simpler and just about anybody can produce great Digital Portrait Photos without the necessity of expensive studio flash equipment.

You will however, need a fine warm day and you will be working outside in the SHADOW of the building.

Seat your Model facing where the majority of the light is coming from, making sure that the sun is NOT falling on the model or background.

Place a white card, size 1 meter by 70 cm. available at you local art store, behind the models head as a white background, or choose a plain background.

Then place two other white cards one each side of the model, reflecting light back into the subjects face, making sure that you have securely fixed the reflectors and background with a strong tape in case of a sudden gust of wind.

It’s also a good idea to have your model seated in front of a table on which you have also placed a white card. This lights up any shadows under the models chin.

The camera must be set on a tripod so you can then carefully control your image. Remember you are creating a beautiful picture, not taking snaps of your kids, be professional and you images will look professional also.

The results will astound you and you will surely impress your model too.These images will also look great in Black and White by using a B/W film or altering you digital camera setting to Monochrome adjustment, or you can alter the image afterwards on your PC in a program like Photoshop.

With some persistence and experimentation, you will prefect your own technique with the shots and soon start producing masterpieces.

By the way, the usual attention to the Models hair and make-up is also needed. If your shooting with Black and White Images in mind, you don’t have to over do the make up for Black & White photography.

While shooting your model with your Daylight Studio set-up, you can create some great images for your portfolio in the same way the great photographers of the past use to and in the way that all photography started out… Black and White….

PHOTO SHOOT TIPS: Working Outdoors or in the Studio.

Always use a tripod. Set your camera on a tripod, this not only creates a sharper image, preventing camera shake, especially when using a telephoto lens. It also helps you to compose a more pleasing image, putting you in the same league as the professional photographers.

Always work using the telephoto end of your optical zoom lens, or use a separate semi telephoto lens. This will cut down facial distortion and give a more flattering portrait. It will also throw the background out-of-focus if you decide not to follow the advice above to use a plain background. Outdoors, it would help to use a faster shutter speed and a wider camera aperture to achieve an out-of-focus background as well.

When working outdoors, you can sometimes place the position of the model off center in the frame, perhaps asking her to put a hand to her head.

When shooting a portrait, the camera height should be slightly lower then the center of the models face, this is generally more flattering than looking down on her. This is most important, especially when working on a studio portrait.

Focus your camera on the model’s eyes and if she’s seated three quarter or profile to the camera, focus on the nearest eye. It may be better in this situation to stop down further to gain sharp focus on both eyes, in which case you should work against a plain background only.

Try to fill the frame of the camera with your model. By moving closer or zooming in, your picture will immediately take on a professional look.

Remember, these simple Pro tips will make all the difference to your photos.

Finally: The difference between the non-pro and a pro photographer, is that the pro photographer learns to “SEE” what is in the picture frame and is constantly framing his picture in the camera. THIS IS WHAT WILL SET YOU APART FROM THE REST!




1 – https://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/portrait-photography-basics/

2 – https://www.exposureguide.com/photography-basics/

3 – https://digital-photography-school.com/10-techniques-for-amazing-portraits/