I am a fairly experienced photographer, but I haven't done any portraits yet. So I am looking for exercises to get up and running in that topic. What I am looking for are ideas for little photography tasks, that might be more efficient than plain trail and error.

This question might be a little bit too general maybe, so I thought about a few points that might a photographer familiarize with, if he wants to become fairly good in portraits:

  • Getting a good grasp of how to compose a picture for conventional portraits
  • How to compose portraits in more advanced aspects, once you've done your homework.
  • How to find good spots for portraits.
  • Getting a good feeling for different light styles and how kinds of light will affect the resulting picture
  • Basic methods to manipulate the light without too much equipment or just household equipment
  • Confidence and best practices how to work with models to make them feel comfortable and willing to give their best
  • Best practices in portrait post processing. Must do's and don'ts.

By any means, this list is not meant to be complete. These are just a few ideas that popped into my mind when I started thinking about.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is extremely broad, however it has within it many good separate questions. It would probably benefit the community for each of the key questions here to be asked as separate questions so they can all be answered with the proper level of attention and detail. I think it would then be best if this question was closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


Your question is very broad. In my view, flash photography, and especially flash portrait photography is the most challenging.

Frankly, there is nothing like practical experience. While you can read, and should, nothing will replace getting out there and trying things out. I highly recommend live classes, I really enjoyed one by Joe McNally. Also, read, and participate in local Strobist events.

One challenge is finding a model patient enough to learn the lights, focal length etc. I did find an extremely patient model, whom my kids call 'Gertrude":

enter image description here

Found at local commercial beauty supply shop. Perfect for seeing impact of light placement and strength, as shadows are easy to detect. This is the best way to learn in my opinion

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - Good thoughts, though it's important that the "model" isn't too reflective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ reflective? She can be moody, but I would call her 'stoic' actually. LOL there is a bit of shine to the plastic, though that is mostly an overexposure to be honest \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey! that's a great idea, I'm going to find one these :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey, do you have a number or contact information for her? She seems really experienced and cooperative, if a little stiff! Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Emmel
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 23:08

Yup, I'd say that the topic is too general/broad for a single Photo.SE question. So, my best advice for you would be:

  • Read up on the questions tagged "portrait" here on Photo.SE. There's lots of good stuff already.
  • Re-list your points in multiple questions. Don't worry, that's OK, assuming they haven't already been asked. Smaller questions allow for easier answers.
  • Find a good book on portrait photography and study up on the basics. (What constitutes a "good book on portrait photography is yet another question, though you should check out this one first.

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