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Portrait Photography Tips: The Best Locations, Poses & Equipment

Last Updated 26th February 2019

How do you raise your game if you’re a portrait photographer? Well, there are a few steps you can take to improve your images if you want to level up. These portrait photography tips will hopefully help you to choose the best locations, poses and gear to create amazing images.


A bit of thought and planning in finding locations for portrait shoots can really show in the final images. 

Do you only use natural light? If that’s the case you will need to find somewhere you have an even and soft light. North-facing window light is generally considered the best for portraits, as you are free of the harsh glare of sunlight and contrasty shadows. The master portrait painters of old preferred this type of light, so take advantage of what it can give to your images. 

If you can find somewhere where there is natural light coming from above, such as through skylights, you can get some very dramatic portraits, although you will probably need some form of reflector to give a bit of fill light in the shadows.

Good locations for portrait shoots should depend on the type of subject you are working with and what you (and they) want to achieve. If you are shooting someone who’s young and fashion-conscious, why not use an urban background? You can use a shallow depth-of-field in a busy and vibrant street to make the subject stand out, but still give an idea of place. If they are into grunge, find a wall or door with peeling paint, or position them in front of roller shutters. A portrait shoot with a parent and child or a couple will probably be better done in a park or garden, or at the beach.


Any location can be put to use in a pinch, especially if you use shallow depth of field judiciously to blur the background. Rock that bokeh!


Source: Terry White /

When using natural light only, you need to be mindful of the time of day and strength of the sun and adapt accordingly. Use a reflector with a built-in diffuser or scrim to block direct sunlight if you can’t avoid it.

For those who use on or off camera flash, the same advice about matching the background to subject holds true, but you have an advantage in that you can shoot indoors even after dark, whereas natural light photographers cannot.

One great way to use your flash(es) is to mix ambient light with your flash, in what is known as ‘dragging the shutter’. This is how those photos indoors where everything and everyone is perfectly lit without deep shadows or blown highlights are achieved, and it involves using a light meter and a bit of maths to marry the ambient light and your flash power. We won’t go in-depth on this here, but there are a lot of great tutorials on achieving this effect available online.



The Best Poses

This section on portrait photography tips concentrates on helping your clients find the best poses to suit them.


For Couples

It can be hard to get authentic-looking shots with couples in a portrait session or at a wedding. You need to capture the interaction between them as well as having them pose in a way that flatters them, and these posing couples for portrait photography tips will hopefully give you inspiration.


Location, Location, Location!

You should already have planned an appropriate location for the shoot, and hopefully that will tie in with locations or activities that the couple enjoy. If they are in a familiar environment, they will relax and enjoy the shoot more.

If they are a couple who enjoy craft beers, shoot them in a familiar pub or show them making homebrew together. If religion is important to them, find a suitable location to show that. If they like playing cards or board games, get them to start a game during the shoot – you get the idea.

Get them to look at each other, cuddle or whisper as well to get natural looking shots. Of course, the kiss is the money shot here!


For Kids

Children get bored easily, especially on photo shoots! The older the child is, the easier it is to pose them, but small children never look natural in formal portrait poses. Try to get them to interact with a toy or other prop instead, and get down to shoot at their level. Getting them to play a game or for you to be silly can also bring some natural smiles.


For Women

A lot of women are self-conscious in front of the camera, but here are a few portrait photography tips for posing women and teenage girls.

Over the shoulder: Get your model to stand side on to you, and turn her head so that she is looking directly to camera.


The wall lean: Your model may feel less awkward if she can lean back against a wall, and perhaps casually bend one knee.


For Men

Men can perhaps be the trickiest of all to photograph well! When we pose women, we try to accentuate the natural curves, but with men we need to avoid that – male poses need to be angular and strong.

The jawline: The jawline plays a big part in masculinity, and you can define a man’s jawline by asking them to push their chin out and down a little.

Head tilt: Have a man tilt his head slightly away from the camera. Never let him tilt his head towards the camera, as this is a very feminine pose.


Helpful Photography Equipment

This last set of portrait photography tips concerns useful equipment for portrait photographers. One of the most useful but perhaps least considered is a reflector, such as this Hypop Large 5-in-1 Reflector Disc 43”/110cm. A reflector dish is invaluable for using in natural light portraiture to provide fill light in the shadows.

For those who want to use outdoor flash, the Godox Witstro AD200 Cordless Portable Outdoor TTL Flash Strobe is a portable battery operated flash strobe that is similar in size to a speedlight, but with 2-3x more power. To get a gorgeous portrait lighting effect, team it with the Godox Beauty Dish with Grid for Witstro Speedlite Flash. The beauty dish provides a flattering diffusion of light, and eliminates harsh shadows on your subject. To use these two safely together, you will also need the Hypop 260cm Heavy Duty Light Stand and the Godox S-Bracket with Bowens S-Mount Holder for Flash Speedlites to ensure the light is correctly mounted and doesn’t topple over.


Final Thoughts

There are many, many valuable bits of advice out there for portrait photographers, however focusing on the location, posing and the equipment required, you can achieve the most professional shots for your upcoming portrait sessions.

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