Three Steps to Create a Telling Portrait of Someone

Creating a portrait of someone can be pretty simple, but creating a portrait of someone that tells us a little bit about them is more complicated. It requires a connection–and that’s something you should have with your portrait subject right off the bat. This is tough to do, but with a mind focused on creating a portrait and moving things along, you’ll end up creating an image that someone will be very proud of and that tells something about who they are.

Editor’s Note: This post is targeted at those who want to get over their fear of taking portraits of someone and are trying to do so on the streets.

Ask For Their Life Story in 30 Seconds

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Eli Samuel Portrait sample (1 of 1)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 1.0

When you’re first interacting with the person, tell them that you’re trying to create an image that tells a bit about them. Standard portraits are nice and timeless if done correctly, but what’s better is working off of ideas.

To start: this is perfect for the photographer that has no idea and a blank slate about what they want to do to pose this person.

Listen to them carefully: they’ll hit on some of the most important things about their life that they feel really help to define who they are as a person. They’ll talk about their live in certain ways, what they do, etc. When you listen to them, get ideas and try to visualize what this person may look like while doing these things that they speak of. Try to have a conversation with them but listen more than speaking so that you create visual ideas.

Work With Props: Use Accessories They Have

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lomography Daguerreotype Achromat 64mm f2.4 art lens portraits with Amanda (11 of 11)ISO 4001-500 sec


If the person has a prop on them at all or something that helps to make up their personality, ask them if you can work with it. When working with the props, try to thing about what a person does with these items and do them justice. On top of that, try to ask them exactly what they do with these items.

Ask yourself the who, what, when, where, how and why questions in regards to the image that you’re trying to create.

Posing and Lighting


Typically when you work outside, it’s best to work in a spot where you have the most control over the lighting: like in the shade. So start there because it will give you a shadowless look when working with natural light and when using spot metering. When you’re posing the person, don’t only take into consideration their identity that you tried to construct but also try to do justice to the image by making them look better.

These infographics will help:

The Phoblographer Infographic for face posing



Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.