Home Portrait Photography 10 Portrait Studio Photography Tips For the Best Photos

10 Portrait Studio Photography Tips For the Best Photos

10 min read

Are you just starting out in studio portrait photography or looking to get into it? Then you’ll find these studio photography tips will help you capture the best portraits possible.

If you’ve been shooting mostly location shots you’ll quickly find that it is quite different from studio photography, especially when it comes to portraits. The studio is definitely a controlled situation where artificial lighting can be manipulated and suitable backgrounds created. For some reason, photo studios often intimidate photographers, but here are a few tips to help you feel more at ease and confident.



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1) It’s their turn

Since photo studios have a limited amount of space you’ll often find that you’ll be directly in front of your model.

You’ll only be able to move backward and forward. You might not be able to move left or right depending on space limitations and your lighting setup.

If this is the case you’ll need to ask your model to turn to get the proper angle as opposed to you moving around to get the best position.

2) Communication

It’s important to be able to communicate properly with your model during a portrait shoot.

Instead of asking them to turn left or right, which would be the opposite for the photographer, it’s a better idea to ask them to turn either clockwise or counter-clockwise since this direction is the same for the model and photographer.

A good trick is to physically move your body in the direction that you want the model to mirror. Sometimes words can be interpreted differently so by moving your body into the position you want the model to be in can be very effective communication.

3) Prime lenses the best

Because you’re working in a portrait studio, there really isn’t much need for using a zoom lens.

If possible, try to stick with prime lenses since they usually provide you with sharper images. Prime lenses also allow you to open to a very wide aperture such as f/1.2.

The most common lenses for studio portrait photography are anywhere from 50 mm to 200 mm. The depth of your photography studio will determine the proper lens for you to purchase. Check out Amazon.com for the best and cheapest prime lenses.

4) Finding eye level

It’s important to take your portrait photography from the right height.

Most portraits are more effective when shot at eye level of the model. To get to the right level you may need to crouch down or even step on a stool. If you’re too low or high the portrait may not turn out as well as you hoped.

5) Focus on the model’s eyes

When you’re at the right height, you should make sure you focus on your model’s eyes since they tell the person’s story.

This should be done no matter the depth-of-field or aperture you decide on.

In ever portrait photo a viewer’s eyes automatically go to the model’s eyes. Be sure they are in focus before taking the shot.

Even in the worst case scenario where a photo has sharp eyes and slightly out of focus nose, ears, shoulders or neck (from too shallow depth-of-field) a viewer is less likely to object than a photo with a sharp nose and out of focus eyes.

6) Camera settings

Since studio photographers can manipulate the lighting to their needs, most often they will use the camera’s manual mode with their ISO setting at 100 and the shutter speed set to 1/125th of a second.

If strobe lighting is used then the difference between shooting at 1/100th, 1/125th, 1/160th and 1/200th of a second won’t be noticeable.

7) Use a light meter

With a multi-light studio setup it’s a good idea to use a light meter. This will help with finding the proper exposure. It will simply make things a lot easier than just relying on reading the histogram.

8) Use a custom white balance

The color output of the studio strobe lights can be affected by light modifiers such as softboxes, snoots and umbrellas.

If you use a custom white balance prior to each photo you’ll get the best and most accurate color representation possible. This will also save time in post-production when editing your photos. It is one less step you will have to take in color correction.

9) Use a single light

Some people like to use just one light.

This was made popular by Helmut Newton, who was famous for fashion photography.

By using one light when photographing a portrait and changing angles you should be able to produce some stunning and dramatic shadows. Even though your studio may be filled with strobe lights it doesn’t mean you have to use them to get an excellent portrait.

10) Relax, take your time

Don’t rush things in the studio. Take the time to make sure everything’s in working order and in place. Stay calm and try to keep relaxed and this will help your model do the same.

We hope you enjoyed these studio portrait photography tips. Please leave a comment telling us which one was your favorite or any additional tips you’d like to add to this list.


  1. […] 10 Studio Photography Tips For the Best Portraits – this is a very comprehensive list of tips and tricks for studio based model photography.  Everything from lighting, lenses and posing is discussed in this article, delivering a well-rounded piece that contains very useful information. […]

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