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Picture-perfect portraits: Expert techniques capturing emotion & personality

Each face is completely unique. From eye colour and skin tone, all the way to freckle placement and the way someone’s mouth curves as they smile, humanity is full to the brim with aesthetic nuance.

Capturing portraits has been a tradition for hundreds of years, back to the days of kings and queens who would be painted by famous artists. Things have changed a bit, but we are still fascinated with capturing the faces of people.

There is a skill to portrait photography that allows for the emotion and personality of the subject to shine through. A combination of creative flair, an eye for the perfect shot as well as a few learnt skills thrown in for good measure makes for a successful portrait photographer.

Here at My Learning Online we have a whole range of photography courses, including our professionally-created portrait photography course…but more on that later!

First, we will take you through some of our top expert techniques to help you capture the emotion and personality of the person you are photographing.

Let’s get to it!

Basic photography shots and angles

Before getting started with any form of photography, there are some basics you will need to know:


  • Close-up – a close-up shot does what it says on the tin, framing and focusing closely on the person or object in the shot to give us a more intimate look
  • Extreme close-up – extreme close-ups are essentially a super close-up, often focusing on a specific part of the face, texture, section of an object or space etc. Extreme close-ups act almost as a microscope to get us closer to what has been captured, and can give an insightful and dramatic effect
  • Medium shot – also known as waist shots, they’re exactly what they say; a medium distance camera shot
  • Long shot – long shots are often used to capture large areas of space and to show us people or objects within their surrounding setting or environment. These shots lend themselves particularly well to landscape photography
  • Extreme long shot – similarly to an extreme close-up, this is basically the opposite; the shot is taken from a further distance to create a uniquely framed shot
  • Different levels (shoulder, hip, knee, ground etc) – this is where you can get creative with your photography. You can explore different levels of shot, seeing which gives the best or more unique perspective depending on your subject
Basic photography shots infographic


  • High angle – involves capturing images from an above perspective; often seen in fantasy or superhero film and imagery
  • Birdseye – exactly that! An above angle shot which looks directly down on the subject matter, as though the camera is a bird looking down at theworld
  • Over the shoulder – often used when photographing two or more people, this angle literally involves taking a photograph over the shoulder of someone or something, focusing on the reaction of the person they are talking to or of the scene that is set before them
  • Face to face – often used to capture two individuals from a profile angle as they interact; you will have seen this angle many a time in rom coms!
  • Dutch angle/tilt – Dutch angle or tilt shots are a fairly unique way of shooting, often used in action films, this angle offers a tilted effect whichlends itself particularly well to moments of confusion or fear
  • Low angle – shooting from a low angle, often to create dramatic effect of enhance the size or scope of a person, object or place

If you want to see some fantastic examples of great Australianportrait photographers, then check them out here. Who knows, you may find inspiration from their portfolios!

Basic Photography Angles infographic

Expert techniques for capturing emotion and personality in your shots

There are few things that you can do to really capture the true essence and vibe of your portrait subject:

  • Natural light – Natural light will always be a winner. Whether a bright or dark day, natural light can add beautiful softeners whilst also giving a natural definition to the face
  • Conversation and communication with your subject – Chatting with your subject as you photograph them is a great way to capture genuine emotions and facial expressions. Talk to them about their passions, interests, people they love; their faces will naturally light up and offer true and genuine emotion
  • It’s all in the eyes – Known as the windows to the soul, focusing on bringing life and energy into the eyes will instantly lift a picture and make it a captivating shot. You can play around with lighting, positions and facial expressions to make your subject’s eyes twinkle with personality
  • Keep shooting – The best way to capture natural and emotive shots is to shoot continuously, snapping all the little moments rather than just waiting for the ‘perfect’ shot. The magic shot is often found hidden, tucked between the in-between moments.

Portrait photography with My Learning Online

Think you’ve got the creativity and skill to capture enchanting portrait photographs? Start snapping with a comprehensive online course in portrait photography with My Learning Online!

Portrait Photography is an extremely popular style of photography, often called upon for fashion and cosmetics, editorial and creative work, as well as headshots and portraiture for industry professionals and creative artistic endeavours and special occasions. This course will equip you will the knowledge and keen eye for capturing each unique face

Our online course guides you through all the necessary skills you will need to become the best photographer you can be, after which you will move onto specialised portrait photography training, where you’ll learn all about digital photography, lighting, aperture, shutter speed and more. 

Once you have this firm foundational knowledge, we teach you how to put it into practice – putting together a professional portfolio, presenting sales pitches and negotiating costs, helping you build your business and craft from the ground up.

Want more? Take a look at our other online photography courses:

  • Photography – let’s start with the basics: you will learn everything you need to know about camera parts, shots and angles, creating a portfolio and so much more. This is the perfect course for any budding photographer
  • Photography Business – the perfect course to help you get to grips with the practicalities of running a photography business, as well as supporting you in building your portfolio and reaching out to potential clients
  • Professional Photography – the student will become the master! By the end of this course you will fully equipped with all the professional industry-level know how to thrive in a career as a professional photographer
  • Wildlife Photography – considered one of the most magical and rewarding forms of photography, you will learn how to capture the essence of some of the world’s weirdest and most wonderful creatures, getting up close and personal to animal worlds you otherwise would never have entered

These courses will teach you just how the photography professionals do it. Through a combination of unit workbooks, video tutorials and exercises, you will learn how to build and hone your skills in logical steps, ensuring that you are equipped with all the tools you need to succeed in a photography career.

We will take you through all the need-to-know basics such as lighting, aperture, shutter speed, appropriate lenses for different projects. This is all in addition to making sure you are up to speed with the processes that take place post photography session, such as editing with Photoshop and Lightroom to make your photos the best they can be. 

Best of all, you will learn how to capture magic; the people you meet, the places you go, the natural wonders that make themselves known, with your camera at your side the possibilities are endless.

These industry-leading courses have been professionally developed, and will put you in the best possible place to start a career in the photography sector. Whether you have an organisation in mind that you have always dreamed of working for, or you want to set up your own business which puts you in the driver’s seat of your photography themes and photography salary, it is our job to help you reach your fullest potential.

All of our photography courses include a DSLR camera for you to use for the duration of your training, so you can be confident that you have the right gear to capture those magic moments. All courses come with a downloadable course brochure and further information about our online learning system, module breakdowns and tutor support.

Capture people’s essence at their best with a creative and comprehensive portrait photography course. 


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