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How to do Stunning Female Portrait Photography

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 6 min read
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Female portrait photography is a beautiful foundation for meaningful stories. This can make photographing women seem like an intimidating task.
The good news is that you can photograph all kinds of female faces in a flattering way. You just need a little knowledge of camera settings and lighting.

Why Lens Type and Aperture Are Important for Female Portrait Photography

Portrait photography requires a lot of technical knowledge to be successful. But your lens type and aperture are guaranteed to give you a head start.

Lens Type

Some of the best lenses for photography are prime and zoom lenses.
Zoom lenses are better because they can help you take sharp photos of your models from afar. This is a great way to give your model some space and take stunning photos at the same time.
A stunning portrait of a beautiful female model
Wide-angle lenses aren’t ideal because they create distortions. Especially when it comes to close-ups.
Of course, there are always exceptions.
I prefer to shoot with a prime lens. It gives my photos depth and an atmospheric feel.
Other photographers enjoy working with wide-angle lenses. The distortion and open space give them lots of room to be creative.
Regardless of these options, make sure to start by figuring out what kind of photography style you want to develop.


A stunning portrait of a beautiful female model - female face portrait
While seemingly boring, a simple blurred background can add a lot of beauty to a portrait. In this case, the background colors complement the model’s hair, face, and outfit. Keep details like this in mind as you photograph the female face.

Aperture is one of the most important settings in portrait photography. Your aim is to put the focus on your model’s face.
With the wrong aperture, she’ll blend into the background or look too blurry. Use a large aperture to capture details and blur out background distractions at the same time.
Your aperture shouldn’t be too large. You’ll have trouble focusing on your model’s entire face. Something like f/2.5 or smaller is ideal for this.

Use Your Model’s Hair to Naturally Frame Her Face

A stunning portrait of a blond female model - female face portrait
Windblown hair makes female features look softer and dreamier. Make sure you don’t cover your subject’s entire face. At least half of her face needs to be visible or else your portraits will end up looking abstract.

If your model’s hair is long enough, you can use it to frame her face. Or you can create a windblown effect.
Your subject can also cover parts of her face with her hair to focus on her eyes, for example. This is great for conceptual photo shoots.
Some people have certain preferences when it comes to angles and poses. Hair framing can come in handy if your model wants her face to look narrower or rounder.
If your model has short hair, you can use hair-like material to recreate this effect.

Shoot at Eye Level or From Higher Angles to Avoid Unflattering Pictures

A stunning portrait of a brunette female model - female face portraitEven supermodels look unflattering if they take photos from low angles! This isn’t to say that you have to avoid them no matter what. But they’re not recommended when it comes to close-ups.
Shoot at eye level so that every feature on your subject’s face is visible and proportional.
Experiment with different angles at eye level. Some angles might make your model’s nose look shorter or longer, for example.
To make it easier, ask your model about her favorite side or facial feature. Knowing this will give you both more confidence.
You can also shoot from a higher level. If your model looks up, an even amount of light will hit her face. This will make your photos look more flattering.

Use Soft Natural Light to Make Your Model’s Face Glow

A stunning portrait of a female model in a sunhat - female face portrait
Shaded areas aren’t limited to roofs or trees. A large hat is enough to shade your model’s face and allow a little light in. Controlled light like this is perfect for elegant photos of the female face.

Lighting is one of the most important elements in portrait photography. When you learn how to control it, you’ll be able to take advantage of any location at any time of day.
To sharpen your lighting skills, practice using natural light. Take photos in shaded areas when it’s sunny. On cloudy days, shoot in open areas and use a reflector to light your model as much as possible. If you want to take photos indoors, shoot next to a large window.

Play Around With Facial Expressions to Make Your Photos More Personal

A fun portrait of a blond female model posing outdoors - how to photograph the female face
Photos of the female face don’t always have to be serious! Don’t be afraid of taking silly photos. Even if they end up on the cutting room floor, they’ll help you and your model relax.

There’s an incredible amount of portraits that are taken every day. It might seem that originality doesn’t exist. In the age of selfies, it’s more important than ever to stand out.
This doesn’t mean you have to photograph supermodels or change the way you take pictures. Aim to capture your model’s personality. And to do that, get to know her first.
Once you know your model’s passions and goals, find creative ways to reflect that in your photos. Experiment with facial expressions, face paintings, accessories, etc. The more details you pay attention to, the more original your portraits will be.

Ask Your Model to Look in Different Directions

Dreamy portrait of a blond female model surrounded by shadows and colored light - how to photograph the female face

Looking straight into the lens all the time can result in a boring shoot and unoriginal photos. Ask your model to look at different places throughout your session.
Looking down can create either a dreamy or melancholy atmosphere. Looking up can create a sense of curiosity and hope. Your model’s pose and position of other facial features will also have an effect on the atmosphere.
This is a very fun way to take unique and expressive photos of the female face.

Use Simple Backgrounds to Avoid Distractions

Atmospheric portrait of a female model posing indoors with flowers in her hair - how to photograph the female face Backgrounds play an important role in portrait photography. A background can say a lot about the person standing in front of it, but it can also be a distraction.
Use simple backgrounds that complement your model’s skin tone, hair color, outfit, etc.
You can use a black backdrop to create an intimate studio feel. Or you can experiment with brighter colors for more joyful portraits.
Simple backgrounds aren’t always a necessity. But knowing how to work with them will teach you a lot about complementary colors and the importance of simplicity.


Once you learn how to take flattering portraits of women, you can take stunning photos of female faces. And you can tell their stories in a creative way.
Let’s celebrate this by photographing more women, be it ourselves, our family, or strangers whose lives inspire us to live more authentically.
To take your female portrait photography to the next level, check out our Fairytale Portraits course!