7 Tips To Take Your Portrait Photography To The Next Level

14 April 2020

One of the best things about photography is that it allows you to focus on everyday elements that you might not notice otherwise. From blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments in nature to the interplay of light and shadow and unique details and textures, photography is a way to capture small, everyday things and elevate them into art. 


Naturally, some of these things are harder to photograph than others. Capturing accurate texture in photos, for example, is something that many beginner photographers struggle with - in spite of the fact that every subject we photograph is textured in some way. Whether you’re hoping to capture the craggy side of a mountain, smooth planes of a model’s face in portrait photography, or the choppy surface of water, read our top tips for texture photography below.


1. Carefully consider sharpness

 

Using textures in photography is a great way to emphasise the detail and unique character of your subject - provided everything is clear and in focus. When photographing textures, even the smallest movement of your hands can shift the focal point of your shot and diminish your image, meaning it’s important to hold the camera as still as possible.

 

Whether you’re testing out food texture photography indoors or are shooting on location, the best way to achieve this is to mount your camera on a tripod. For super-sharp photos, we recommend considering a remote control to fire off your camera. 


Top Tip: The Autofocus mode on most modern digital cameras will ensure a sharp result, but don’t be afraid to try your hand at manual focusing if your camera is struggling to focus on your subject.

A beginner's guide to texture photography

2. Use the right camera settings

A beginner's guide to texture photography

 

 

When it comes to texture photography, it’s important to choose the correct camera settings and lens. The best camera lenses for photographing texture have an aperture of around f5.6 or f8, which will help you achieve edge-to-edge sharpness. This is particularly handy if you’re shooting a flat surface, such as a textured wall, directly.

 

You won’t need to worry about shutter speed if you’re using a tripod, since it will limit any camera shake. However, you will need to make sure your exposure is accurate. To do this, take a look at the histogram of your camera, which will show you if any highlights are blown out. If so, this means that no detail is being captured in these areas - something that can’t be undone in post-production, no matter how good your photo editing skills are.

3. Choose suitable gear

 

 

Before you dive straight into close up texture photography, set yourself up for success by gathering the right photography gear. In theory, textures can be photographed with any camera, but you’ll have the most success using a camera that can be adjusted manually, such as a mirrorless or DSLR camera. Ideally, you want to be able to choose the best aperture and shutter speed combination to capture your texture accurately.


In terms of lenses, your required focal length will vary depending on your subject matter. In general, however, ultra wide angle camera lenses are to be avoided, as they may cause image distortion. Instead, we recommend a 50mm prime lens, which typically yields sharp photos with minimal distortion, and has the added bonus of being very affordable.

A beginner's guide to texture photography

4. Find the perfect light

A beginner's guide to texture photography

 

 

Lighting can make or break texture in photos, so scout your shoot location carefully and be strategic about the time of day you choose to shoot at. The right lighting will vary depending on what you want to photograph: Some textures benefit from the added dimension created by shadow and overhead lighting, while others shine in diffused light caused by cloudy and overcast conditions.

 

For best results, consider the particular textures you want to photograph and the lighting conditions that might suit these best, then plan your shoot ahead of time.


Top Tip: Shooting indoors? Portable LED lighting kits can produce daylight-balanced light and imitate sunlight when placed next to your subject.

5. Use contrast

 

One of the most effective ways to emphasise the texture of something is to place it alongside another object with a contrasting texture. For example, if you want to highlight the smoothness of your model’s skin, try having them stand against a rough surface such as a concrete wall.

 

Playing with contrasts such as smooth and rough, light and dark, and hard and soft is a great way to add complexity to your images and maximise visual impact. Plus, the more often you practice this photography technique, the better and more natural you’ll get at finding pairs that create an effective, aesthetically pleasing contrast - meaning less work on every shoot!

A beginner's guide to texture photography

6. Tweak your images in post-production

A beginner's guide to texture photography

 

 

No matter how much of a photography purist you are, some form of post-production retouching or editing is essential to a polished, finished image. Using your favourite photo editing software, experiment with settings such as contrast, curves, and saturation, tweaking each until you get the effect that best emphasises your texture.

 

The key here is to make small, incremental adjustments and take careful notes of their effects: The last thing you want to do is go overboard. As a finishing touch, don’t forget to tweak the sharpness level so that your photograph really stands out on screen and in print.

7. Always be on the lookout

 

 

A great thing about texture photography is that it’s easy to practice anywhere, and at any time: After all, textures are everywhere. The trick is learning how to identify them and frame them in a way that makes them stand out and complement your image - even if they’re not the main focal point.


For example, if you’re on a landscape photography excursion, you may notice some gentle, running water that contrasts with the sharp ridges of the surrounding rocks that you’re trying to photograph. While the water may not be the key focus of your shot, including some of it in the frame will make the rocks appear even more striking and rugged. 

A beginner's guide to texture photography

Experiment with close up texture photography

While there are plenty of ways to add depth and character to your images, using textures in photography is an effective photography technique that’s suitable for beginners and pros alike. Capturing complex, detailed textures is a fantastic way to highlight the unique features of your subject, and to add drama and visual flair to your finished shot.

 

Feeling inspired to enhance your photography skills? Try your hand at texture photography, or visit our blog for more handy photography tips and tricks today!


The world of portrait photography has become an incredibly interesting, yet increasingly competitive place. With the rapid development of smartphone cameras and photography-focused social media platforms like Instagram, it seems like everyone is now trying their hand at the artform - from the complete novice to experienced professionals.

You may think that spending the next part of the year stuck indoors, means your goal of advancing your skills and attempting to stand out from the busy crowd will have to take a back seat for a while but think again!

Read on for our tips for taking your portrait photography to the next level - you can start today:


Tip #1: Shoot from an interesting angle

When a beginner or happy-snapper picks up a camera, they automatically stand up straight and hold the camera at eye level - but if you want to capture something a little different, you’ve got to get moving. Shooting from down low, or even getting a higher perspective of your model can produce a far more interesting portrait.

Just remember - safety first. Check your surroundings and see where you can capture a cool shot, without putting yourself or others at risk.

Tip #2: Get creative with your composition

When you first start out with portraiture, it’s natural to position your subjects in the traditional way: Directly in the middle of your frame, with plenty of space around them. However, as you gain more experience shooting, you’ll start to notice how boring these similarly-composed images can become. By experimenting a little with where you place your model within your frame, or even how much of them is included in the photo, you’ll automatically shift your photography up a gear.

Verse yourself in common compositional techniques such as the rule of thirds, and experiment with placing your model directly to the side of the image, or even filling the entire frame with just their face. These shifts in framing will really enhance the impact of your portraiture, and make for a truly unique portfolio.

Tip #3: Watch your back(ground)

The background of your portraits is more important than you might think. Accidentally capturing an out-of-place object in the background of your photograph can be a big distraction - forcing your viewer’s eye to wander away from your key subject. Unless this is your artistic intention, you’ll want to keep a keen eye on your background while shooting, and decide what you do or don’t want to include in the final product. Choosing a camera lens with ultra-bright maximum aperture like the Sigma AF 85mm f1.4 ART is a great way to isolate your subjects from backgrounds.

For outdoor photography or location shoots, it’s a good idea to go scouting before you begin – being sure to keep an eye out for places which are tonally smooth and relatively uncluttered. Detailed or character-driven backgrounds can be used to stunning effect, but they can be tricky to master. It can be good practice to limit the importance of backgrounds in the early stages of your photography.

Studio-style portraits make life a lot easier when it comes to controlling your shot. In this environment, you can easily determine what type of background is in your images by purchasing a backdrop or using a homemade one. Seeing as you are at home anyway, you have a great opportunity to control your backgrounds completley, leaving nothing to chance.

Tip #4: Shake things up with shallow depths of field

Using a shallow field of depth is a common technique, but one that must be mentioned, as it’s a great way to quickly add a level of sophistication to your portrait photography. By ensuring only your subject and in particular their eyes are in focus, you can determine exactly where your viewer’s eyes will go when they are looking at your photograph.

A shallow depth of field, captured by the likes of the Fujifilm XF 56mm, highlights exactly who and what is the star of your image, in no uncertain terms.

Tip #5: Experiment with your aspect ratio and orientation

Many people refer to the vertical orientation of a photograph as ‘portrait’, and horizontal as ‘landscape’. While you might think portrait photography is limited to only a portrait-style orientation, it’s actually good practice to take images in both. This will give you a greater chance of success during a shoot, with a greater range of options.

Similarly, you can experiment with Aspect Ratios. 3:2 is the most common format and is provided by 35mm film and standard for most digital cameras, while square or 1x1 is favoured by medium-format-using portrait photographers of old.

Using this square format can encourage you to try new and unexpected compositions and framing, and it may add that extra touch of class or nostalgia that your portraits are lacking. Your aspect ratio may be able to be changed in camera, or you can shoot wide and crop your images to be square in post-production.

Tip #6: Let your hair down with your lens choice

Generally, normal to short-telephoto lenses are favoured by portrait photographers, with lenses in the 85mm range being particularly popular.

We recommend starting out with the following:

A longer option can allow you some space between you and your model, for the benefit of their comfort, while a wider-angle lens is far less common for portraiture, and if done correctly, can give your work a more unique edge.

Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to pack a few different lenses in your kit when you head out on your shoot.


Tip #7: Make sure your model is comfortable

A model’s level of comfort can easily be seen in a photograph, with an at-ease, natural model often resulting in a more successful portrait. Many people put this down to a model’s experience – but there are a few ways for you to make a positive difference.

Be professional and friendly with your model – chat with them before shooting begins so they feel comfortable, and be sure to maintain a light-hearted, relaxed rapport as the shoot progresses. Giving your model direction and encouragement will not only make it easier for them to position themselves as needed for the photograph, but it will also lead to a more natural and candid final product.

During the current events, we will all be using our nearest and dearest friends and family as our models. This is a great chance for you to work on your ability to keep a shoot and your model calm, as the two of you are already familiar with each other and comfortable in each other's presence. This way, some of the stress is removed!


Find the perfect portrait lens

Portrait photography is responsible for some of the most diverse, interesting artwork in the world – a well-shot portrait can tell us a million stories, stir strong emotions, or simply make someone smile. With so many unique and beautiful faces to photograph, it’s the perfect medium to experiment and have fun with - and the right portrait lens can make all the difference. Need a hand finding the perfect lens? Head to your local Ted’s Cameras store and our team will be happy to point you in the right direction, plus give you some extra tips for success.



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