Is portrait photography hard to learn: Separating truth and misconceptions

is portrait photography hard tp learn

Ever asked yourself is portrait photography hard to learn? The technical side of photography can be intimidating for beginners, but there are also many misconceptions about learning portrait photography that you need to be aware of.

This goes for all types of photography and not just taking portraits. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself up front and be ready to learn and grow as you go.

Is portrait photography hard to learn

Portrait photography is not hard to learn and requires a minimal investment up front to get started. You can learn and master the principles of portrait photography by studying lighting, composition, color and technique. The best way to master each principle is to study and practice your craft and learn along the way.

You can find FREE study guides online and also step-by-step tutorials and videos to help you with each stage of your learning.

In this article, let’s separate truth from fiction and see why photography is not hard to learn and why you should consider jumping into this creative outlet.

I’ll go over the top 8 most popular photography misconceptions and the reality of learning photography.

Misconception 1 – You have to study photography in school to become a professional

Like all creative fields, there is some wisdom in learning from professors and sitting in a classroom. Many people find this way of learning efficient, but it is not the only way.

It is possible to learn photography and the principles of lighting on your own time and at your own pace for FREE.

If you don’t want to search through the thousands of videos on YouTube, then consider purchasing an online course.

You can find beginner and advanced courses on portrait photography and individual courses on lighting, camera gear and more.

With tons of resources available to you online, there is not much of a barrier to entry for learning portrait photography.

Do I need to take photos in manual mode

Misconception 2 – You have to learn to shoot in manual mode to be a good photographer

Many professional mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras come with automatic modes for a reason so there is no need to just right into manual mode.

This gives beginners an opportunity to learn and grow with the camera as they become more comfortable with camera settings and other menu features.

There is no need to learn manual mode as a beginner, but I would highly recommend it.

Learning manual mode and taking complete control of your camera exposure is a great way to control your own photography style and work with all types of lighting.

The more you practice the more you will come to user stand the exposure triangle and how each setting effects your shot.

Don’t feel like you need to jump in the deep end when you’re just starting out.

Favorite Portrait Lenses Sony 35mm 55mm 85mm Portrait lenses

Misconception 3 – You need expensive gear to be a good photographer

You do not need expensive gear to be a good photographer, but you do need a camera, lens and a few other items to get started.

Many people will come to realize that the camera is only a small part of taking photos.

Many professional photographers started as beginners and with limited gear when shooting portraits. Once they have outgrown their gear, they will consider upgrading to new and better gear.

There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on an expensive camera and a library of lenses.

The best camera you have is the one you have with you. Many creative photographers will start with their phones and move on to other equipment when they feel they are ready for an upgrade.

Don’t let gear prices get in your way of starting photography. There are also other 2nd hand options that will help you save money on older gear that is still in good condition.

Check out or for used gear deals throughout the year.

Small home studio for portrait photography

Misconception 4 – You need a photography studio to take portraits

You don’t need a dedicated photography studio to take portraits. Many photographers start with natural light and take photos outdoors in public places for free.

They’ll use local parks, lakes, and even downtown urban areas for diverse backgrounds. As long as you are not on private property you can pretty much take portraits anywhere in public.

If you feel like you want to have a studio, try starting with a small home studio in a spare bedroom or open space.

You can find many photographers who will setup and breakdown photography backdrops in their living rooms or small bedrooms for portrait shoots. There is no limitation except for your imagination.

Misconception 5 – You have to learn flash photography to take portraits

As a beginner, natural light will be your best friend. You don’t have to learn flash photography in order to take portraits.

Many professional photographers still use natural light for professional shoots.

Starting with natural light is a great way to get started and jump into taking portraits.

Once you feel you want to diversify your skills, then you should definitely look into using flash for portrait photography.

There is a small learning curve and a small investment for picking up off camera flash systems, but they are worth every penny.

Learning flash will help you stand out from the masses and give you an extra leg up from photographers who only shoot natural light.

Flash can be used at almost any time of day, where natural light is limited to available daylight.

Portrait Photography editing workflow photoshop
Photoshop for photo editing – Post Processing portraits

Misconception 6 – Learning how to edit photos is really difficult and time consuming

Learning new editing software is just like learning any new computer software. It takes time and practice to get it right.

Editing photos is no different. Many photographers will actually start with using their phone to edit photos due to the abundance of editing applications available.

There is no need to ever touch a computer if you don’t want to.

Now, if you find that you want to move beyond your phone and start editing RAW format images then I recommend programs like Capture One or Lightroom.

You can even use a combination of applications like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to get great results.

The goal should be to enhance your photos and not over process them unless that is the look you are going for.

Just like finding free tutorials for your camera, you can find thousands of online tutorials for photo editing and portrait retouching.

Is instagram good for photographers

Misconception 7 – You can get good at photography by studying Instagram photographers

Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to creative photography. Like all creative fields you will find good and bad photography online and it will be up to you to decide which is which.

Social media is a great way to introduce others to your work, but many people liking and commenting on your work are not skilled photographers.

It’s totally ok if your only goal is to shoot for social media platforms like Instagram, but you should also shoot portraits and create a style unique to your creative talents.

Don’t feel like you need to immediately follow popular photography trends you see online. The best thing to do is find your look and evolve over time.

It’s ok to give and receive constructive feedback online, but don’t get stuck in the number of comments or likes. This is not a good way to judge your photography.

Misconception 8 – It takes a long time to learn master photography

Like all passions, you will need to invest time and energy into your craft. There is no quick shortcut to becoming good at portrait photography.

You will need to set aside time to practice lighting, editing and mastering your camera gear. For some this may take months, but for others the reality is this may take years.

Be ready to invest your time and energy into this creative outlet and you will find that it’s not about the destination, but the journey into learning.

what is a photography meetup

Bonus Tip: Join a photography group

If you’re interested but don’t know where to start, then maybe you should join a photography group and attend a meetup.

You can ask photographers for beginner advice and get first hand feedback on cameras, gear and learning techniques. Check out or find a local group on Facebook.

Conclusion – Learning photography takes time

If you’re interested in learning photography, realize there is an abundance of FREE material online to help you get started.

YouTube and Google will become your best friend in seeking answers to your questions.

Don’t let misconceptions scare you, or even worse, stop you from starting down the path of learning portrait photography.

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