Portrait Photography Lighting Tutorials

If you want to stand out from the average photographer, it’s probably wise to have a solid understanding of light. Proper lighting is one the more important things to consider when making a great image. Not only does it help increase the quality of the image, it’s important to understand your lighting so you can set the mood of your photo. With improper use of lighting, you can quickly ruin a photo, even if you have the best location and muse.

Here’s a list of helpful lighting tutorials from a few popular resources that will help you take your portrait photography to the next level.

Lighting Patterns

This tutorial from Digital Photography School talks about ways to use lighting patterns to create shapes of light and shadows across your subject’s face. These tips help you show texture and depth in your portrait photography. They’re great for shooting in a studio using artificial light.

Classic Lighting Techniques

500px ISO explains how to go back to basics with 4 classic techniques on ways to use a one-light studio set up.

lighting tutorials

Gear Setup

Fstoppers provides you with a list of lighting gear that’s helpful for beauty portraits in part 1 of their 8-part tutorial series. They inform you on the cost of each item and why they believe the items are necessary to create a professional looking photo. They also provide a video for you to watch that covers everything from hair and makeup to how they set up the light for each portrait.

Butterfly Lighting

In this tutorial, PetaPixel features a video that focuses specifically on butterfly lighting, one of the oldest techniques for lighting a subject. Photographer Mark Wallace explains to the viewer what gear he’s using, how he’s using it, and why.

Natural Light

500px ISO provides a great tutorial on shooting outside in natural light. Photographer Jessica Drossin teaches you how to set up each image using natural light as well as post-processing techniques to really make your portraits stand out.

Night Portraits

This tutorial from Digital Photography School provides a good introduction to taking portraits at night. In particular, it’ll help you choose your camera’s settings, select the right backgrounds, and work with different types of lighting.

Sunrise Portraits

Digital Photography School provides you with basic tips for sunrise portraits in this helpful tutorial. It’s a brief tutorial that covers why early morning light compliments your subject and how to choose your location. This is great way to show you how to get a new look in your portrait photography.


It’s important to stay motivated while exploring all that portrait photography has to offer, so here’s some inspiration to keep you going!

natural light portraits
Digital Photography School gives you inspiration for natural light. This is a great post if you’re feeling unmotivated with the cost of lighting gear. It shows you through a series of photos, how great a simple window can be for lighting.

121 Clicks provides you with a great collection of portrait photographers portfolios along with a brief history of how they’ve blossomed into who they are now.

Flitergrade introduces you to famous photographers and photojournalists who have captured portraits of people who have made an impact in today’s society. From photos of American pop icons to Nat Geo inspirations, you can see how impactful portrait photography can be on how you perceive others.

500px ISO features 50 beautiful portraits shot with natural light that will have you ditching your lighting equipment for those soft rays of sun.