Learn portrait photography

Key steps to achieve stunning portrait photographs

How to get started in portrait photography in 5 simple steps

Want to try portrait photography but not sure how or where to start?
These four steps will help you start shooting with confidence.

understand light

1.Understanding light

For many photographers, portrait photography is a popular place to start. But to maximise your chances of success, it’s important to understand light — how it works and how to control it. Once you understand light, you’ll be able to apply these concepts to any shoot. Whether you’re shooting with natural light or studio light, indoors or outdoors, this theory will allow you total control of the end result.

2.Pre visualise

Planning is an important part of any shoot, and previsualisation forms a large part of this. Do you plan to shoot in the studio or on location? What sort of background will suit the shot? What type of lighting do you want to create? How will each element of the image tie in together? By thinking about your shot before you start shooting, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it.

pre visualisation
lighting set up

3.Set up your lighting

One of the biggest draws of portrait photography is that it can be done fairly simply and easily. Regardless of whether you’re shooting with natural light, speedlites or studio lights, there’s no limit to how creative you can be with portrait photography. You can create amazing results using simple modifiers like softboxes and umbrellas (or even no modifiers at all) in almost any location. All it takes is a little imagination and a knowledge of lighting.

4.Give creative direction

Whether you’re working with professional models or ordinary people, children or couples, it’s important that you know how to give creative direction.  Don’t rush the process, take the time to make sure they feel comfortable and ensure you get the best possible shot. Remember your subject is human too — they may need time to understand what you want and a few takes to get the right pose. This may require some patience and you may have to take numerous shots and guide them until you achieve the desired result.

lighting set up

5.Identify your hero image

At the end of the shoot immediately download your photographs from your camera to your computer to ensure they are backed up and can be reviewed clearly. Keep in mind, it is not always the last captured image that is necessarily the best one. Spend some time sieving through the shoot and pick out the strongest images. It may be good to revisit those you shortlisted with fresh eyes before making the final decision on your hero shot. The final stage would be to add any polishing touches in post production - follow our extensive post production courses for all levels!

Portrait photography tips

These top three portrait photography tips will help you take your photography to a whole new level.

The emotion of light

Emotion of light

The best images, the ones that stay with us, are those that invoke emotion. One of the most important ways we can do this is through lighting. Light is a powerful tool when it comes to invoking emotion, which is why it’s crucial to not only understand how to use light, but when and why. By knowing how to control light, you’ll have the ability to create the right mood and feel in your images. This doesn’t require new or expensive equipment — it can be done simply by adjusting the distance, position or power of your light, by selecting the right modifiers or experimenting with colour.

Reflectors and modifiers

reflectors and modifiers

If you’re just starting out and only have a few basic modifiers to choose from, you can still get amazing results using just minimal lighting equipment. One way to get even more from your light is to combine it with simple and affordable accessories such as reflectors. These are a valuable addition to any photographers equipment list because not only can they be used in a number of different ways, they are also lightweight and portable, making them ideal for studio and location work. Other simple accessories that can be used to modify light include white or black foamboard, mirrors or diffusion material.

Posing your subject

posing your model

Posing your subject is something that challenges many aspiring and professional photographers alike. It’s a seemingly simple thing that can have a huge impact on your shot. One of the important things to remember is that posing your subject will depend entirely on your subject. Posing women is very different to posing men, the same way posing children is different to posing adults. Another thing to keep in mind is the mood and feel of your shot. Ask yourself whether your model’s pose matches the mood you’re trying to create. If it doesn’t, the final image may be confusing for your viewer.

Recommended classes for every level

Portrait photography is a genre of photography suited to any level of photographer. So whether you’re just starting out or looking for some new ideas, you’ll find just the class for you.

Natural light portraiture

Natural light portrait photography

Our natural light portrait photography classes are ideal for those just starting out as they show exactly what you can achieve with just minimal equipment. You’ll also learn how to use simple accessories to further control the light, to help you achieve the best results possible.

One light portrait setups

one light beauty shots

Many photographers feel that because they only have one or two studio lights, they can’t be creative. We have over 40 different classes showing creative portrait lighting setups using one, two, three and four lights that show you how to get amazing results simply and easily with just basic equipment.

Advanced studio lighting

Advanced studio portrait lighting

For experienced photographers wanting to learn more about advanced lighting techniques or how to use professional modifiers, these advanced classes are just the thing. From using parabolic lighting modifiers, to understanding the Inverse Square Law, these classes provide both knowledge and inspiration.


Meet your tutors

Our portrait photography classes cover everything from basic to advanced, teaching you how to achieve the very best results possible. 

Karl Taylor

Karl Taylor, a professional photographer with over 20 years experience, is known for his precise attention to detail and exquisite control of light. Throughout these classes he shows you a variety of creative lighting techniques for portrait photography and explains how, by understanding light, you can bring almost any idea to life. Throughout each class you'll be inspired by his knowledge and passion.

Visit Karl's website at

Karl Taylor

Urs Recher

Urs Recher is a Swiss photographer and lighting expert with a career spanning more than 25 years. Originally he studied mathematics and physics, gaining invaluable knowledge into the physics of light. He then progressed on to work for a world leading photography lighting manufacturer. In these classes, Urs willingly shares his encyclopaedic knowledge of lighting and a clear appreciation for the art of photography.

Visit Urs' website at

Urs Recher


The best all-inclusive online photography training platform

12 years

The company was founded in 2007 to provide the best photography training course


followers across our social media channels


Happy photographers who have participated in our course

Start your portrait photography journey today


Watch the highlights from a selection of our classes to see what you could achieve.

Alternatively check out our other courses! We offer classes in fashion photography , product photography, food photography, post production and business of photography. Additionally, tune into our interactive live photography shows.

Get started