How to Photograph Faces

Michael • updated December 24, 2022 • 10 min read

How to Photograph Faces

People say that portraits by many well-known photographers show more than just a face. You capture the soul of the person in your photos, which makes people feel something.

Our tips and ideas for the best face photography should help you follow in the footsteps of the masters and show not just a face but also the personality of the person in the photo. 


 

1. How do you take face photos?

Portrait photography is mostly about taking pictures of people’s faces. But a portrait can also go up to one or more people’s shoulders. Or it might just cover part of the face.

At the same time, a good face portrait shouldn’t just show what a person looks like; it should also show what that person is like.

So, besides having the right camera settings, it’s also important to have the right idea when taking pictures. if there is enough time to prepare, consider the overall style of the model and read more about best hairstyles to look good in photos.

2. Portrait photography with a DSLR or mirrorless system camera

The best settings for your DSLR camera or mirrorless camera when shooting portraits will depend on a variety of factors, including the lighting conditions, the lens you’re using, and the look you want to achieve.

If you have no camera jet, make sure you read our article about DSLR or system camera. Get some general tips to help you get started:

  • Use a lens with a wide aperture: A lens with a wide aperture (low f-stop number) will create a shallow depth of field, which can help draw attention to your subject and create a sense of intimacy.
  • Set your ISO to a low number. A low ISO will help you achieve a high-quality image with minimal noise.
    Use a shutter speed of at least 1/125th of a second. This will help you avoid blur caused by camera shake or subject movement.
  • Pay attention to composition and consider the placement of your subject in the frame and use the rule of thirds to create a balanced and visually appealing photo.
  • A tripod can help you keep your camera steady and avoid blurry photos.
    Experiment with different angles: try shooting from different angles to add interest and variety to your photos.
  • Set your camera to continuous shooting mode, this will allow you to take multiple shots in rapid succession, giving you a better chance of capturing a great shot.
  • Use natural light can create a softer, more flattering look in your photos. Try shooting outdoors on an overcast day or in the shade to avoid harsh shadows. Alternatively, you can use an off-camera flash or a reflector to control the lighting in your photos.
  • Experiment with different white balance settings. Different white balance settings can affect the overall color balance of your photo. If you’re shooting in natural light, try setting your white balance to “daylight” or “cloudy” for a warmer, more natural look.

 

3. How to set your DSLR camera for portrait photography

You can switch your camera to portrait mode, of course. Just move the mode dial to the head icon. If you’d rather make all the settings yourself, go to manual mode and turn the settings dial to M.

The following settings are what we recommend for portrait photography:

Aperture

“Open aperture” is the magic phrase here. The lens should have a very open aperture. Basically, the smaller the number, the wider the aperture and the more blurred the background. The word for this is “bokeh.”

 If the aperture is less than f/2.2, only the focus point will be sharp and the rest of the face will be blurry. This could be used to add style.

ISO

ISO 100 or 200 is a good rule of thumb for shooting outside. Inside, ISO 400 is a good choice. Noise and grainy images can happen when you go higher.

Exposure time

Change this based on how bright it is. Our guide “Setting the exposure time correctly: the guide to perfect photos” shows you how to do this. A little bit of underexposure isn’t a big deal; it’s easy to fix in post-processing.

If you overexpose, you lose information about the image that can’t be brought back with computer editing.

In the manual for your camera, you can find out how to change the settings. Most DSLR cameras have buttons on the body and a menu item you can choose from on the screen.

4. How to take a good portrait photo with an iPhone

Do you want to take stunning portraits with your iPhone? The iPhone is a powerful tool for portrait photography, but taking incredible iPhone portraits can be challenging. Here are some tips for taking good portrait photos with an iPhone:

  • Use the Portrait mode
    The Portrait mode on an iPhone uses the dual camera system to create a blurred background effect, which can help draw attention to your subject and make them stand out.
  • Experiment with lighting
    Natural light can create a softer, more flattering look in your photos. Try shooting outdoors on an overcast day or in the shade to avoid harsh shadows.
  • Pay attention to composition
    Consider the placement of your subject in the frame and use the rule of thirds to create a balanced and visually appealing photo.
  • Use a tripod
    A tripod can help you keep your camera steady and avoid blurry photos.
  • Experiment with different angles
    Try shooting from different angles to add interest and variety to your photos.
  • Edit your photos
    Use the editing tools on your iPhone to adjust the exposure, color balance, and other settings to create the look you want in your photos.

5. How to arrange the composition?

In portrait photography, there is no one clear rule for how an image should be put together. Depending on what you want to show and where you put the person, this has different effects:

The photo looks more personal the closer you are to the model with the camera. This way, every little line and expression on the person’s face is shown, which makes them look more vulnerable. Continue reading here, on how start out with portrait photography!

Use a lens with a focal length of at least 50 millimeters. If you don’t, you’ll have to hold the camera too close to the face, which makes many people uncomfortable and tense up.

If you want to show something about the person’s life in the picture next to them, you can focus on their personality and even tell a short story. 

For better better photo composition read:

It’s also interesting to let the person look at something outside the photo. This makes things seem strange.

6. People’s faces should look natural

You can’t take a beautiful portrait by sitting up straight, looking into the camera, and smiling nicely. Good portraits look like they were taken in real life. It’s not hard to capture this naturalness. 

What poses are always good? When two or more people pose for a picture together, leaning against each other or putting an arm around the other.

The following tips and ideas will help you and your model relax and look more natural in photos:

  • Take pictures of the people in a place they are used to. This will make it look more real.
  • No posed poses: Legs that are knotted or hips that are bent look good on models, but they look silly on most people.
  • It’s better if your subject moves as naturally as possible, like leaning against a wall, running toward the camera, jumping in the air, or holding something in his or her hand.
  • Talk to the person you’re taking a picture of and try to make them laugh. It’s nice to do.
  • If you see the model tensing up and having trouble “looking natural,” have them press the tip of their tongue against the roof of their mouth for a moment. This relaxes the jaw, so the person can focus on the lens and stop being afraid of it.

7. Tips to make your Face more photogenic

All of us have taken portrait shots of people whose faces appear odd or whose facial expressions don’t appear as expected. So let’s get started with some of the best advice for improving your face’s photogenic qualities.

  • Select the ideal angle.
    Usually, people do not have completely symmetrical faces, and when seen through a lens, asymmetry is not always attractive. Find the best angle of your model’s faces by looking at the right and left sides of their faces.
  • Choose which side you like best,
    and keep the model’s face at that angle when taking pictures instead of having them look straight at the camera.
  • Make use of daylight.
    When it comes to creating attractive shots, shadows are the biggest threat. Make sure that the main source of light is in front of the model before taking a picture.
  • Practice your posing
    Practice different poses in front of a mirror or with a friend to get a feel for the types of poses that look best on you.

  • Keep an eye on the lighting situation
    Pay attention to the lighting, and make sure that the lighting is flattering and highlights your best features.
  • Apply makeup
    Use makeup to your advantage. If you’re wearing makeup, use it to highlight your best features and minimize any imperfections.
  • Relax and smile
    Relax your facial muscles, a tense face can make you look uncomfortable or forced, so try to relax your facial muscles and smile naturally.
  • Wear the right clothes
    Choose the right clothing: Wear clothes that fit well and flatter your body, and choose colors that complement your skin tone.

8. How to smile to look more photogenic

  • Relax your facial muscles to make sure that your face is relaxed, as a tense face can make you look uncomfortable or forced.
  • Practice your smile in front of a mirror or with a friend to get a feel for the type of smile that looks natural and genuine on you.
  • Think happy thoughts before the photo is taken, try to think of something that makes you happy or brings a smile to your face.9
  • Show your teeth, a genuine smile usually involves showing your teeth, so don’t be afraid to let your smile be a little big.
  • Use your eyes, a smile is often communicated through the eyes as well as the mouth, so make sure to make eye contact with the camera and crinkle your eyes slightly.
  • Take multiple photos, and try to smile in a different way. Don’t worry if you don’t get the perfect smile on the first try. Take multiple photos and choose the one that you like the best.

9. Using light as a part of a portrait photographer’s style

“The light should always be behind the photographer.” Almost everyone has heard this rule before, but you should forget it right away if you want to take good portraits.

This is because: If the sun is too low, the person getting their picture taken will be blinded and have to squint. You also miss out on some great ideas for portrait photography, since the backlight alone creates a soft mood and makes for beautiful pictures. Our guide on how to outdoor portrait photography gives you a great inside!

Here are a few things to remember about light:

  • Choose days with clouds. Too many strong shadows are cast by the bright sun. Go into the shade to take pictures when the sun is out.
  • The golden hour is an exception. In the hour after sunrise and before sunset, the sun casts a beautiful golden light on everything. There isn’t much more beautiful to take pictures of.
  • Another benefit is that you can shoot against the light because the sun is not so strong that it would make the pictures too bright.
  • In any case, natural light is better. When taking pictures, artificial light or flash changes the color of the skin and makes the face too bright or too dark.

10. Set the scene that faces are in the right place

When taking portraits, the camera is usually held about eye level. So, most pictures are taken from about the same point of view. Read more about portraits with common light sources. and learn about how to take photos of people wearing glasses.

But if you want to take interesting portraits, you should try a different angle. For example, if you look at the picture below from above:

But there are many more effects that can be had if we look at things from different angles:

1. Frontal

When a picture of a face is taken from the front, at eye level, it looks very clear and honest. This is not a good way to hide flaws. If the head is facing the photographer but the upper body is turned, the picture is more interesting.

2. Half-profile

The face is turned slightly away from the camera. This hides any small differences between the two sides of the face, like if one eye is smaller than the other.

The smaller eye should then be on the side that faces the camera. Since it is closer to the camera, it will look bigger.

3. Three-quarter profile

If the face is turned away from the camera even more, the unevenness is hidden even more. Be careful: the nose shouldn’t go past the edges of the face, because that would throw off the proportions.

It can be very interesting to show only one side of a person. But this draws attention to prominent facial features, which isn’t always a good thing.

11. Five portrait photography tips to capture faces

These are merely launching pads to get you started. Use them nonetheless, but test, experiment, and improve them each time you conduct a photo session or relocate.

  1. Use natural light
    Natural light can create a softer, more flattering look in your photos.
  2. Pay attention to composition
    Consider the placement of your subject in the frame and use the rule of thirds to create a balanced and visually appealing photo.
  3. Communicate with your subject
    Engage with your subject and make them feel comfortable to help them relax and look natural in the photo.
  4. Experiment with different angles
    Try shooting from different angles to add interest and variety to your photos.
  5. Use a shallow depth of field
    A shallow depth of field, where the subject is in focus and the background is blurred, can help draw attention to your subject and create a sense of intimacy.

 

Bring your portrait photography to life in post

 

12. Face photography examples

Frequently asked Questions


What is the best lighting for face photography?

The best lighting for face photography will depend on the look you want to achieve. Soft, natural light can give your photo a soft, flattering look, while dramatic lighting can give your photo depth and interest. Experiment with different lighting setups to see what works best for you.

How do I pose for a face photograph?

To pose for a face photograph, try to relax your facial muscles and smile naturally. Make eye contact with the camera and try to look confident and comfortable.

You can also try tilting your head slightly or changing your expression to add variety to your photos.

How do I take a good self-portrait?

To take a good self-portrait, start by finding a location with good lighting and a pleasing background. Set your camera on a tripod or use the self-timer to avoid a camera shake.

Experiment with different poses and expressions to find a look you like. Use the editing tools on your camera or phone to adjust the exposure, color balance, and other settings to create the look you want.

What lens is best for face photography?

The best lens for face photography will depend on the look you want to achieve and the type of camera you’re using. A lens with a wide aperture (low f-stop number) will create a shallow depth of field, which can help draw attention to your subject and create a sense of intimacy.

On the other hand, a longer focal length lens can make the background more blurry and create a portrait-like look. Experiment with different lenses to see which one works best for you.

How do I take a good face photo of someone who is camera-shy?

To take a good face photo of someone who is camera-shy, start by making them feel comfortable and relaxed. Engage with them and start a conversation to help put them at ease.

Try to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Use a lens with a longer focal length to create a more intimate, less intimidating look. Consider using a prop or activity to help them feel more comfortable and give them something to do with their hands.

Conclusion – there is beauty everywhere

One rule of photography that isn’t written down is that the most beautiful pictures are made by people who love what they’re shooting. Now, this is another nice idea for portrait photography, but it might not always work.

But it is possible to take pictures of faces by focusing on what makes each person unique. This could be a unique eye color, strong cheekbones, or a laugh that makes people want to be around them. If you think about how beautiful you are, nothing can go wrong.

If you post frequently portrait photos on social media, give our portrait photography quotes for Instagram a try.

More reads about face photography
A Photo a Week Challenge: That Face
Double exposure tutorial for the Canon 5D Mark III

Keep reading: Good Portraits with common Light Sources »

 


What is your opinion on How to Photograph Faces? Let us know in the comments.

By Furoore team member Michael
Furoore Team is here to assist you in capturing the most significant moments in your life. To create exciting photographs, discover photography guides, find unique photo ideas, and limitless image inspiration.

Turn your snapshots into awesome portraits.

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