Is becoming a portrait photographer right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do portrait photographers do?

Still unsure if becoming a portrait photographer is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a portrait photographer or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become a Portrait Photographer

Portrait photography does not have strict educational requirements in terms of formal degrees or certifications. However, obtaining a solid foundation in photography through education and training can significantly enhance your skills and prospects in the field. Here are some steps you can take to become a portrait photographer:

High School Education or Equivalent
Begin with a high school diploma or equivalent. Courses in art, photography, visual arts, and computer skills can provide a solid foundation.

Acquire Photography Equipment
Purchase a good quality camera and lenses. Once you become more certain that a photography career is for you, invest in a tripod, lighting equipment (if you plan to work in a studio), and other necessary accessories.

Self-Study and Practice
Self-study is a crucial aspect of a photographer's education. Familiarize yourself with your gear. Experiment with your camera, practise different lighting setups (both natural light and artificial light), and study portrait photography books to improve your skills continuously.

Online Photography Courses and Tutorials
Take advantage of online platforms offering photography courses and tutorials. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses in portrait photography, lighting techniques, composition, and more.

College Courses in Photography or Fine Arts
Consider enrolling in a college or university offering photography programs or degrees. Pursuing a bachelor's degree in photography, fine arts, or a related field can provide comprehensive knowledge and skills. Look for coursework that covers composition, lighting, portrait techniques, and post-processing.

Photography Workshops, Seminars, and Immersive Experiences
Attend workshops, seminars, or short-term courses, as well as immersive experiences like photo tours or photography retreats, especially those focused on portrait photography. All of these provide hands-on learning, exposure to various techniques, and insights and mentorship from established professionals.

Portfolio Development and Online Presence
Develop a diverse portfolio showcasing your best portrait work. Include a variety of styles, subjects, and techniques to demonstrate your range and expertise. Build a professional website or utilize social media platforms to share your portfolio, connect with a wider audience, gain exposure in the industry, and market your services.

Consider Specialization or Niches
Explore different portrait photography specializations and identify a niche that aligns with your passion and strengths.

Internships and Assistantships
Seek internships or assistant positions with professional portrait photographers. Learning from experienced photographers in real-world settings is invaluable in understanding the practical aspects of the job.

Continuing Education and Certifications
Stay updated with photography trends, new techniques, and industry advancements. Consider obtaining certifications to enhance your skills and credibility. The following are some of the certifications offered by reputable professional organizations in the field:

  • Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) – To earn this certification, offered by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), you need to pass a written exam on photography principles and techniques, submit a portfolio, and adhere to a code of ethics.
  • Accreditation in Portraiture – Offered by the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), this accreditation recognizes photographers specializing in portrait photography who meet specific professional and technical standards.
  • Associate Qualification in Portraiture – Offered by the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), earning this qualification involves submitting a portfolio of work to demonstrate proficiency in portrait photography.
  • Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) Qualifications – SWPP offers various qualifications, including Licentiate, Associate, and Fellowship levels, where photographers can showcase their portrait photography skills and expertise.
  • Master Photographer Certification – This qualification is offered by the Master Photographers Association (MPA).
  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) – While not specific to portrait photography, becoming an Adobe Certified Expert in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom can enhance your post-processing skills, which are essential for portrait photographers.
  • Nikon School Certification – The Nikon School offers a certification program for photographers who want to enhance their technical and creative skills using Nikon cameras and equipment.
  • Canon Professional Services (CPS) – While not a certification, Canon Professional Services (CPS) is a service and support structure designed to provide working photo and video professionals with a wide range of benefits and services, including hotline support, loaner equipment during service episodes, rental equipment, free or subsidized shipping, service discounts, and online access to the CPS member service page.

Also supporting the portrait photography community are The Portrait Masters, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and the National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP).