How to Photograph Faces

Michael • updated May 27, 2022 • 8 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 portrait 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.


How do you take a portrait?

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 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.

How to set your camera for portrait photography

You can always 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:

“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 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

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.

3. 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.

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.

4. 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. 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:


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.


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.

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.

5. How to make your black-and-white portraits stand out

“Turn it to black and white, it looks better.” Almost every photographer has probably heard this phrase at some point. In the end, it’s just a matter of taste.

Both digital and film photography have their pros and cons.

When taking photos, it is only important to keep the later color scheme in mind.

Use some special features for black-and-white photos:

  • Bring attention to what’s important.
  • Unstable backgrounds are more distracting in black-and-white photos than in color photos.
  • Keep an eye out for shadows. In contrast to color photography, they are desirable here because when they are photographed, they give the face more depth and personality. But if too much is in the dark, the picture could look scary without meaning to.
  • When the ISO is set too high, noise shows up in the picture. In black and white, this is even more scary.

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.

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.


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