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Through the Lens: Inspiring Stories of Portrait Photographers

by Jenn Pereira May 15,2020 5095 Views

Portrait Photographers - Cover

Portrait photography is all about people. It is an art that captures moments that perfectly portrays the subjects’ characters and emotions. It is more than just creating a technically perfect composition, but it also requires to turn a normal shot to an extraordinarily heartfelt one. This type of photography is one of the most popular but it is surely difficult to master. Everything should be just right, from the lighting, setting, mood, and every detail of the model’s face.

With experience and lots of interactions with many people, expert portrait photographers are able to create meaningful, contemporary, and timeless portraits regardless of the many factors that many beginners find difficult. Interaction with subjects can be tough and not all of them might not know how to express themselves well, but such challenges are normal and it is always worth the effort to learn. Once you get the hang of it and be able to capture that photograph that perfectly portrays your subject, it opens for you a lot more of creative possibilities and motivation to experiment more in taking these types of pictures. Definitely, portrait photography is difficult but a truly rewarding type of work.

Related Post: Through the Lens: Expert Tips From Newborn Photographers

Find Some Inspiration…
In this article, we have collaborated with two of the expert photographers who openly shared their experiences, tips, and insights about portrait photography; their journey from how they started their career, to becoming one of the influential portrait photographers today.

If you are a portrait photographer who is still struggling to find success in your photography business, we hope that their stories will inspire and motivate you to pursue your passion and grow your career as a portrait photographer. We hope that you can gain some insights and interesting practical tips from them and you can also share your thoughts or questions on the comment section below.

Grace Tan

Founder & Photographer, Stories
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Portrait Photographers - Grace Tan
Photographer Since: 2006
Website: &
Instagram: @storiesmy

Short Bio:
Grace is wealthy with stories to tell coming from her work background experience in Film and Television. She started work spanning from production for award-winning TV programs and full feature films. Now, she leads passionate photographers and videographers as a team in Stories. Together they provide expertise for most brands who value building good health, sustainability, positivity with regards to family, living, and culture.

Grace also specializes in family and personal portraits and as a renowned photographer for more than twelve years. And has worked with a number of high-profile personalities and celebrities. She speaks at and organizes photography workshops and videography training sessions for Canon as their EOS ambassador. Grace is very passionate about developing young people with creative capacities. As a mother and a wife, she strives to provide support for couples and families to thrive in their relationships through her other platform.


How Did You Start Your Portrait Photography Career?
“I stumbled into it actually. I was already into video editing as a career but then I didn’t know much about photography. As I was still an amateur photographer then in 2006, I started by taking photos of my friend’s weddings, which then transitioned into family portraits. I now photograph many different types of lifestyle portraits, like families, maternity, couples, etc.”

What Makes Portrait Photography Interesting?
“I love that you can bring out the best feature in someone by choosing a beautiful angle, the right lens, great lighting, and good posing. The best thing when it involves other people is the connection and the story you can tell between the different people in an image.”

What Is Your Most Unforgettable Experience During Your Photography Career?
“I have photographed many different types of people in my career, from celebrities to Malaysia’s ex-prime minister to normal, everyday people and of all ages, from as young as one day old to 100 years of age! The one thing I cannot forget is the feeling I get after capturing a great image that represents the person I have photographed.”

Do You Have Personal Tips & Techniques That You Would Like to Share?
“When it comes to photographing young children, it can sometimes be challenging as children’s moods can swing from being happy to rolling on the ground in a full-blown tantrum. What is important is to note that distraction always works with young kids. Have bubbles and lots of games ready to ensure that the child can get back into the flow of the session.

Another important thing to note is that lighting is always the most important ingredient in turning a mediocre image into a great image. If you have a beautiful person in a bad light, you will not end up with a beautiful image. In fact, you can make that person look terrible in a bad light.”

What Advice Can You Give to Aspiring Portrait Photographers?
“Portrait photography is about people. Learn to improve your non-technical skills. Study people’s faces when you meet all sorts of people to find their best angles. Learn how to connect with people’s hearts so that they can be comfortable with you as the photographer and then reveal their true selves to you.”

What Is Your Favorite Portrait Photograph & What Is The Story Behind It?
Photo by Grace Tan

“I love this portrait of an artist that I photographed. She has a fascination with eyes in her drawings, and since this painting only had one eye, I had an idea that she would ‘hide’ behind the image to complete the eye with hers. The idea was to show the painting as an extension of who she was as a person.”

The best thing when it involves other people is the connection and the story you can tell between the different people in an image.

-Grace Tan

More Photos from Grace…

Grace - Portrait2
Grace - Portrait3
Grace - Portrait4

How Do You Prepare Before The Shoot?
“I have a questionnaire that I send out to my clients before a photoshoot to ensure that I get to know them better before the session. This gives me insight into their likes, dislikes, personality, and preferences.”

For You, What Makes Portrait Photography Challenging?
“I think it’s the fact that you have to connect and find the person’s true self, and portray that personality through the images. The portrait needs to show the subject’s soul, how they felt at the time the image was made, and the context of that image.”

The portrait needs to show the subject’s soul, how they felt at the time the image was made, and the context of that image.
-Grace Tan

Aurélia Faudot

Portrait & Self-Portrait Photographer
Aix-en-Provence, France

Portrait Photographers - Aurelia

Photographer Since: 2014
Instagram: @aureliafaudot

Short Bio:
Aurelia is a young, French, self-taught photographer from the South of France, specializing in self-portraiture. After living in Barcelona and then in California, she returned to her homeland in Aix-en-Provence where she, after all, feels like she strongly belongs. There, she is working on her artistic projects while art directing, portrait retouching and photographing worldwide for Voyage Privé, a big french traveling agency.


How Did You Start Your Portrait Photography Career?
I started my photography career following my heart and my quest of sense and beauty..

After receiving my first camera at the age of 14 for Christmas, I was nothing but dedicated to this growing passion. First photographing my cat, then my friends, learning my ways through Photoshop and Lightroom in my bedroom and little by little photographing more and more people. I turned 16 and made a decision that would impact my life in a way I am only starting to understand. I would not join a business school, I would not follow what felt like a ready-made path my family and I had imagined for me. No, I decided that I would somehow take another road, a much more uncertain one, but one that my heart was dictating me to take.

I did not know how to make the first steps in the image-making world; I did not know how one could make a living out of photography, so I tried not to worry about the future, and focused on the present moment to create, create, create, and to shut down my fears and uncertainties.

Oddly enough, this plan started working. Following nothing but my passion, working hard on imagining and photographing photo series, I started photographing more and more people and projects. Friends at first, then people who had heard of me through word of mouth or people who had come across my work on social media.

Then exhibiting my work here and there in the South of France, I then took off to California where I started working for Eric Wolfinger, a well known culinary and travel photographer of San Francisco. After an incredibly rich two-year experience where I learned the ways of running a successful photo business, of traveling the world for and thanks to your work, of being, as Eric would always say, a “badass photographer”. I deeply felt called again by France. This is when Voyage Privé reached out to me. They are one of the biggest European online traveling agencies and were looking for their first Visual Communication officer to create their visual identity and photograph some of the most beautiful countries and hotels. Once again I listened to my intuition and returned to my homeland, from where I am now traveling the world, and waiting to do so again once the global situation allows it. In the meanwhile, I am focusing on creating self-portraits from the backyard of my confinement and sharing them on Instagram (@aureliafaudot).”

I decided that I would somehow take another road, a much more uncertain one, but one that my heart was dictating me to take.

-Aurélia Faudot

What Makes Portrait Photography Interesting?
“The reason I am most passionate about portrait photography is that it allows you to tell so many things. For me, having someone posing in a picture is an amazing tool to help you tell a story, to convey something more. For example: here is an amazingly beautiful landscape. If you photograph it well, you’ll be able to convey the beauty of the scene; but for me, it feels like this is not mine to take credit for; this is an artwork of nature, all I can do is try to photograph it the best I can not to lessen the beauty of it.

But take this same landscape, and compose your image by adding someone to this landscape. For me, here starts the real creation, here’s where I can tell my story. The way they’re dressed, the way they pose, how they are added to this particular landscape, how I give them protagonism or not, etc. These are as many tools for me to actually create my image and not “just” take it.”

What Is Your Most Unforgettable Experience During Your Photography Career?
“While living in the US, I have made a very hard decision for me at the time and left my boyfriend and my place to go on a solo road trip for a whole month across the southwest of the US with a s***car that was given to me and almost cost my life; my friend’s dog and my camera. The purpose of this trip was to reconnect with my passion for self-portraiture, photographing for nobody but myself, listening to no constraints but the ones of eating once a day and parking my car somewhere at night.

I crossed California, Nevada, Utah, and most of Arizona, going from national parks to Indian reserves, stopping where my inspiration would ask me to. I recorded each one of these 31 days and shared these backstage videos on my Youtube channel (while being on the road). Every day I would edit a video from the mattress on the back of my car and would upload it if I was able to catch some 4g or wifi.”

What Personal Tips & Techniques Would You Like to Share?
“My main tip would be: don’t be or feel limited by the technical aspects and rather embrace the issues you might be facing.

Your camera won’t focus? Create mesmerizing blurry images! You don’t have money for props and backdrops? Think out of the box and recycle things you’ll find, ask around on social media, create your own! You don’t have a recent professional camera? Well focus more on the concept of our images and not so much on their technical quality. You don’t have a tripod? Use a tree, a bench, your backpack, a pile of books; anything. You don’t have models? Use yourself! You don’t know how to retouch? Do the edits you’re thinking of in camera! Cut your images and retake pictures of them, use light effects, use mirrors, use gravity, etc.

No matter the excuse, it’s not a good one. If you want to photograph, all you need is something that can take pictures. And literally anything can take a picture. I have created images out of a rolled oats box with a hole in it. Just don’t expect to take the same pictures a professional camera would take, and adapt your concept to your tool.”

What Advice Can You Give Aspiring Portrait Photographers?
“Don’t worry about where you will get in a few years, focus on the present moment, focus on doing your best. This will sound very cliché, but do it for you. Don’t try and become a portrait photographer to make a great career, to become a successful photographer. Do it even though you won’t make any money out of it, do it because you frickin love it. This way, you’ll be able to keep working and be passionate even though it doesn’t “pay back”, until one day maybe, thanks to where your passion has led you, it’ll start giving you fruits.

Also, help each other, if you have friends trying to make it as a photographer, they’re not your competitors. Help them out, refer them, give them the jobs you can’t do. Each photographer is unique and there’s room for everyone, really.”

Don’t worry about where you will get in a few years, focus on the present moment, focus on doing your best. This will sound very cliché, but do it for you.

-Aurélia Faudot

What’s Your Favorite Portrait Photography & What Is The Story Behind It?
Aurelia - Portrait

“This is a self-portrait I have taken during my first time in the Grand Canyon a few months after I moved to the US. The reason why I value it so much is because it was reflecting this feeling of newfound freedom, of getting to know who I really am and what matters to me. Being unknown, alone, in a whole new continent where you have no strings attached, really allowed me to sense a very deep feeling of freedom. Traveling, discovering new cultures and people, getting to know myself better… This is what this image is about.

Plus, taking it was quite funny, being dressed this way amongst tourists, my new friends looking at me taking this picture as if I were crazy, scaring for my sanity and life. It was an image I had planned to take, yet it was so spontaneous.”

More Photos from Aurelia…

Aurelia - Photo 1
Aurelia - Photo 5
Aurelia - Photo 7

How Do You Retouch Your Portrait Photographs?
“Personally, I choose not to modify the physical features of a person. My rule is: don’t edit something that would still be here after a month. So for instance, I would be ok editing out pimples, scratches, dark circles, but would never change the shape of someone, their scars, the color of their skin, or anything that is part of them.”

What Are The Difficulties You Usually Experience While Shooting Portrait Photographs?
“While photographing people who are not models, you might face a very common difficulty: the person doesn’t know how to pose, and you might not really know how to help them. This is why I would strongly encourage you to either try yourself at self-portraiture, or to pose for other photographers. This has helped me greatly to understand how a model would feel and once you’ll be yourself comfortable while posing, it’ll be so much easier to guide your model. You understand how they feel, what they might fear, and will be able to reassure them and to give them good and clear instructions to help them pose the best they can and get comfortable.”

portrait photography - quote4

By collaborating with these lovely photographers, we realize that portrait photography is not only about choosing the right gear, finding the perfect setting or location, or posing your model. It is also about truly understanding your subject, their characteristics and identity, and creating a connection with them.

As you sharpen your skills as a portrait photographer, try to remember these tips from the experts to make your photographs even more incredible. Be inspired and motivated to continue your journey enjoying capturing significant portraits from different people around the world.

Related Post: Portrait Photography – A Complete Guide for Portrait Photographers

We know that you also have your own stories and experiences to tell.

What are your best photography tips and your amazing experiences as a photographer? We’d love to hear about them!

Comment down below or you can contact us directly at so we can collaborate and create useful content for everyone. Our readers will truly appreciate your valuable insights and expert tips.

Disclaimer: We do not own some of the images, videos and content being shared on this page. Please note that some of the images, videos we used have copyrights belonging to their original owners. No copyright infringement intended. If you originally owned the images, videos and content we shared and distributed on our website, and do not wish to have your work get published or distributed should make your wishes known to us. You can email us at We will take your content down and never publish it on any of our pages.

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  1. Grace May 20, 2020

    Thank you for the opportunity to share!

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