Learn Photography with Kyer

Common Portrait Photography Mistakes

Portrait photography is a fun and challenging art form that requires a solid understanding of composition, lighting, posing, and communication. Despite the best efforts of even the most experienced photographers, several common mistakes can compromise the quality of the final image.

The images in the post are examples of doing it right. Here are some tips on what to avoid in portrait photography.

Poor composition

One of the most common mistakes in portrait photography is poor composition. This can include everything from awkward cropping and framing to distracting backgrounds and unflattering angles. A poorly composed image can undermine even the most skilled photographer’s efforts.  This makes it challenging to achieve the desired impact or communicate the intended message.Pay close attention to the image’s composition before pressing the shutter button. Consider the placement of the subject. How about the balance of positive and negative space, and the overall mood and tone of the image? Follow the “rule of thirds” rule most of the time. Keep in mind that the composition should support the message, The purpose of the image and not distract from it.

In portrait photography, I use a prime lens. They give me a sharper image and a shallow depth of field. This means my subject pops, and the background is more blurred than a zoom lens.

Common portrait photography mistakes

Common Portrait Photography Mistakes 

Poor lighting

Another common portrait photography mistake is inadequate lighting. This can result in poorly exposed images, unflattering shadows, and a lack of depth and texture. Even the most beautifully composed image can fall flat without the proper lighting, failing to convey the desired mood and emotion. Take the time to set up the appropriate lighting for the image. Consider the direction and quality of the light, and use reflectors and diffusers to control the intensity and contrast. Keep in mind that the lighting should enhance the features and character of the subject and should not detract from them.

During the day, I rarely use a flash. A night you often need a flash, especially if you don’t have a fast lens or the artificial lighting is poor. Every year cameras get better ISO, and a higher ISO allows you to photograph in low light. 

Unnatural Posing

A common mistake in portrait photography is unnatural posing. This can result in stiff and awkward images that fail to capture the character and personality of the subject. Unnatural posing can also make it difficult for the viewer to connect with the subject, undermining the impact and emotional resonance of the image.

Work closely with your subject to create natural and authentic poses to avoid this mistake. Encourage your subject to move and interact with the environment, and give them clear and specific instructions to position their body and express their emotions. Keep in mind that the best poses are often spontaneous and unexpected, capturing the unique character and personality of the subject.

Santa Cruz weddings

Common Portrait Photography Mistakes 

Lack of communication

A common mistake in portrait photography is the need for more communication between the photographer and the subject. With clear and effective communication, it is easier to establish a rapport with the subject and create the desired mood and emotion in the image.

Take the time to establish a relationship with the subject before beginning the shoot. Get to know the subject and their personality, and work closely with them to establish the mood and tone of the image. Be clear and specific in your instructions, and ensure that the subject understands your goals.


Finally, a common mistake in portrait photography is over-processing. This can result in images that could be more saturated, over-sharpened, or otherwise manipulated to the point of losing their natural character and beauty. Over-processing can also detract from the image’s emotional impact. It makes it difficult for the viewer to connect with the subject.

To avoid this mistake, use processing techniques that enhance the natural beauty of the image, rather than obscuring or altering it. Use a light touch when adjusting exposure, color, and contrast.  Make sure that the image retains its natural character and texture. Keep in mind that the processing should support the mood and message of the image and not detract from it.

My general rule is, to shoot it correctly in the camera, so you don’t have to edit too much in the post-production.