portrait photography tips

Taking photos of little ones can be a tricky business. For a start, children don’t always listen to you or stay still where you want them to. And on top of that, you have all the camera settings and lighting conditions to deal with.

I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now as my own company, Chloe Bridge Photography, for four years with my own children, and before that, as part of a large portrait photography company.

When you want to improve your photography, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Photobox have put together a useful guide to explain the simple but key things to remember when taking a portrait shot.

Below the guide, I will expand on a few of the points with my experience that I’ve picked up along the way. For more photography tips from Photobox, click here. 


photobox photography tips

Low apertures
Shallow depth of field will give you that ‘sharp subject, blurry background’ look. Lowering the aperture will achieve this (an aperture of 2.8 or lower is great for portrait shots).

Remember to keep enough distance between you and your subject – when shooting too close at low aperture, you run the risk of having a nose in focus but the eyes and rest of face blurry.

Finding the right light
Photography is all about light. The word actually means ‘drawing with light’. And so it’s not surprising that light quality is one of THE most important elements of a shot.

(Personally, I think if you nail the light AND the expression of the person in the photo, it doesn’t matter about all the other ‘rules’ – you have a perfect shot).

direct sunlight open shade

It’s a common misconception that a sunny day is perfect weather for taking photos. Bright sunlight is actually my LEAST favourite shooting condition. Not only is it harder to view the results on your camera screen, it creates harsh highlights and shadows, and causes your subjects to squint.

If you are outside and the sun is high, look for some open shade to take your photos – open shade is PERFECT for even skintone and gorgeous catchlights (those are the sparkly reflections in your subject’s eyes).

If you find yourself in a place with absolutely no open shade, the best angle is to position the sun behind your subject/s (so their faces will be in the shade and there will be no blown out highlights), and up your exposure a stop or two to compensate (your camera will automatically meter to the brightest spot, ie the sun, so your subjects will be darker when shooting towards the sun).

Annie from Paint the Moon has some great tips for shooting and editing full sun photos.


Turn the lights off
Avoid artificial light like the plague. When doing a portrait shoot at a family’s home, a question I am frequently asked by my clients is whether I’d like them to turn on the lights. The answer to this is always a BIG NO.

Ceiling lights and lamps will always create a more orangey tone to photos (even with white balance adjusted!) If you are shooting indoors, find a spot with as much natural light as possible, and shoot near to windows.

Of course, in my personal shots there are times when there is no natural light available so I find I need the lights on – Christmas morning, for example. But wherever possible – NO LIGHTS!

Without a doubt, the number one thing that will help you improve your portrait photography is practise, practise, practise. You can read a hundred different guides to prepare you, but the real learning process comes in when you put those skills into action.

Pick up your camera frequently, use it every day, try different things, shoot in all sorts of light, and you will quickly find that it becomes second nature to know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to portrait photography.

Following the simple tips from Photobox will improve the quality of your photos. But don’t let ‘the rules’ discourage you from taking photos anyway, even if you know the conditions aren’t perfect. I would always rather have a happy photo of my children in full sun, rather than not have the photo memory at all.

It’s useful to know the optimum conditions for portrait photography, but it’s so important to remember that you don’t HAVE to choose to follow them.


This guide was created and sent to me by PhotoBox




  1. If “one” has a full frame camera should the lens be 85mm? I am just never sure about this. I take food photographs and I keep being told use a portrait lens!

    1. Oh gosh – that’s a question with a lot of different answers! I don’t know much about food photography, and I suppose it depends on what you normally photograph and what lens you currently use. You could find an 85mm too tight for indoor use, or it could be just right. A 50mm is a great all-rounder, and then maybe a macro lens for close ups? (Bearing in mind that I have absolutely NO food photography experience!)

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