Before I begin I have to warn you of something: once you enter the world of portraiture, you will never want to leave . Portraits are addictive and, sooner or later, if you like photography, you will fall. My theory is that this happens for several reasons. Obviously we feel more empathy for a person than for any other living being or object, we are human, we cannot remedy it. Another reason is because they are very handy when practicing with a new camera and if you do not find anyone with a predisposition to pose for you, you can always use the self-portrait. These are some reasons why the portrait attracts, but the most important is the ability of a portrait to move, to thrill. If you manage to capture that person’s soul, the essence of your model, you will conquer your viewer.

To move with a landscape , for example, you need a place that inspires you, the right light, the ideal goal , and a good composition . However, to thrill with a portrait, the most important thing is to know how to look inside that person, steal a piece of soul. If you achieve this, and with some basic notions, you will be able to make stunning portraits. Today I am going to tell you those basic notions and some tricks so that you learn to “look inside” of that person. Do you want to risk going into a world that you cannot leave?


The first thing to know is that there are different types of planes in the portrait and not only the foreground that is sure to come to mind, let’s see them:

  • General Plane: it is the farthest plane and in it appears everything of the body, without any clipping.
General plane
  • Three Quarter Plan / American: is the one who cuts the person (in the photo, eh? Do not go to think that we talk about really cutting) by the thighs or knees. As you can see, we are getting a little closer.
  • Medium Plane: collect approximately to the waist. As it enhances the beauty of the protagonist, it is widely used in fashion photography .
Middle plane
  • Medium Short Plane: includes from the head to the middle of the chest, giving more prominence to the model.
  • Foreground: a much more intimate plane that only covers the head and shoulders.
  • Very Close Foreground: covers only the face (whole).
  • Detail plane: as its name says, this plane collects a small part that can be from the face or body. In this plane the distance is minimal and the maximum expressiveness.

You can also play with the camera angle to achieve other planes depending on the perspective .



Of course this is basic. You can pull a family member and / or friends who can not refuse your offer for how much they love you, find some / some aspiring model that you want to practice and also come in handy for the photos for your book, try stolen streets or if all this fails you… you can always self-portray . More patience than you with yourself I don’t think anyone has.


Without light there is no photo. You should know that already. In addition to being an essential element in the photo, it is an element with which you can play for very different results. From drawing a silhouette using a taillight to enhancing the aggressive personality of your model using hard light. The theme of the light would give for an entire article, but do not fear, we will not make you wait, we have it ready for you: the complete guide to illuminate your portraits . And as a tip, you can discover the beauty of portraits taken with a Beauty Dish.

Don’t underestimate the importance of light in the portrait


I personally would recommend the king of the objectives (a 50mm 1.4), and I am sure that Mario also (or the 50mm 1.8 ). However here you have 8 recommended lenses for portrait photography .

Tripod and self-timer

This is not necessary unless it is a self-portrait, in which case it becomes essential. But it can come in handy if your model has some phobia of the cameras. Plant the camera on the tripod and while chatting use the remote shutter.


An inappropriate background can completely ruin a portrait or give it much more life. If the environment does not tell anything about your protagonist, do not include it, choose to make shorter planes and use wide openings that blur the background. If it counts a lot and can contribute to the history of your prota but there are elements that do not convince you, you can try black and white.


Although the ideal is to use natural light, for its own beauty, it is very likely that you find yourself in situations where you do not have it and you have to pull the flash. In that case try not to be the one that comes incorporated if you want to get a good result. The flash will serve you indoors, as a fill flash (to eliminate shadows) or for night portraits (and eye with red eyes  ).


Composition is another element that we cannot forget in a portrait. There are two basic rules that you should only skip if you really have a specific, artistic, creative, emotional or whatever you want, the only reason that is not valid is ignorance. These two rules are:

The law of the gaze

According to this rule, the greatest space has to be left where the subject’s gaze is directed. Playing with the law of the gaze allows you to tell a lot about the moment or your protagonist. I tell you everything here .

The law of three thirds

Most likely, you already know this rule and should only remind you that the center of interest is usually the look, so in closer planes you have to place your eyes on the points of interest. In a general plane it will be the subject or the face that is placed in the intersection lines. If you do not know what I am talking about, you should know that it is one of the first lessons that you have to learn in photography, so I recommend that before continuing you take a walk here .

Bonus: shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to “give you” another 13 composition tricks to get amazing portraits .)


Now comes the most difficult part, the crucial moment, the magical moment in which you decide to press the button because that look is just the one that undresses your model, because at that precise moment he is telling who he is. This is not easy, it requires training and sensitivity, but I will be like a GPS in your search for your soul, I leave you an itinerary so you know where you have to drive and do not get lost on the road, here is the route faster

  • Take the Avenue of Body Language : body language counts much more than it tries to hide or transmit. It goes far beyond words. Do not ignore it.
  • Stop at the Square of Personal Stories: stop to chat with that person, discover what he hides, what he fears, what he presumes or what he dreams of. When you meet her a little, find out what you want to tell her about before shooting.
What the look hides
  • Tour the Calle de la Mirada: the face is the mirror of the soul, or so they say. What is not said so much is that the gateway to that soul is the eyes. Focus on the eyes and his gaze, they will reveal all the secrets, and focus them well. If they are at a different distance and you use a small depth of field, focus on the nearest eye.
Conquer with your eyes
  • If you feel like it, you can stop for a coffee in high key or low key .
  • You have reached your destination: when you think the time is right, knock on the door (shoot).

This is not all, you can stay in portraits “classic” or jump into practice the portraits in black and white , night portrait or different portraits . You dare?

Black and white portrait

If you have been bitten by the bug (which I fear it is) and you want to go deeper into the subject, do not think about it and get the Guide to Master Portrait Photography . What you can’t stop doing is practicing. Portrays, portrays and portrays. If not what you have read will not help you at all

Thank you for reading here and share it on the networks if you see it useful. Until next time!


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