DSLR Portrait Settings

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Updated November 9, 2022

If you are new to digital photography, you may wonder about DSLR portrait settings. Many of the best digital cameras, after all, are DSLR models, and these cameras can be adjusted to suit various portrait setting parameters. So what exactly is portrait mode, how does it impact the best DSLR cameras, and what tips should you keep in mind? Keep reading to find out.


  • DSLR cameras excel at taking simple portraits of static subjects, but there are some settings to consider.
  • The easiest way to take portraits with a DSLR is to rely on the camera’s portrait settings mode, as this mode automatically makes adjustments like a shallow depth of field, a faster shutter speed, and a wide aperture priority.
  • Try using a short telephoto lens, placing the camera on a tripod, and choosing an area with natural light.

Why Adjust Settings for Portraits?

If you have ever wondered why your digital camera pictures are blurry, it could fall down to incorrect portrait settings. When you learn how to manually set up a DSLR camera, you also learn about multiple adjustment parameters. Many of these settings are automatically adjusted, especially when shopping for the leading digital camera for beginners, but that is not always the case.

Insider Tip

Using a remote trigger is also a good idea to eliminate “camera shake” as you push the trigger.

When it comes to taking portraits, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are all important, and this goes double if you are learning the best DSLR night photography settings. In other words, learn the basics before starting to figure out the best DSLR settings for outdoor photography.

DSLR Camera Settings for Portraits

There is no “universal” portrait setting for DSLR cameras, as each camera boasts a unique design, and each photographic scenario necessitates unique settings. With that in mind, here are some tips worth considering.

Use Portrait Mode

You don’t have to be a camera expert to take good portrait photos. The vast majority of DSLR cameras include dedicated settings modes for various scenarios, including taking portraits. When you enable this portrait mode, the camera automatically adjusts brightness, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and more, so your portraits come out looking fantastic. This may not be the best choice for every situation, but it certainly speeds things up.

Choose the Best Lens

This is an extremely complex subject, but you want to choose the best lens so that your portrait subject looks fantastic. There is no exact “right” lens to choose from, but there are some tips worth considering. Generally speaking, a short telephoto lens is a good starting point here, as these lenses tend to produce flattering results.

STAT: When shooting in low light, you may need to boost your ISO, but do it conservatively – only bump up the ISO after you’ve widened your aperture and dropped your shutter speed. (source)

Tripods are Your Friend

If you are shooting legitimate portraits, place your camera on a sturdy tripod. Why go through this hassle? A steady camera tends to flatter its subjects much more than a jerky camera. Use a tripod, and your subject will thank you.

DSLR Portrait FAQs

What is the best shutter speed for portrait photography?

Fast shutter speeds are perfect for the portrait photographer, though the actual number depends on the camera and the subject. You should also keep an eye on ambient light, ISO settings, focal lengths, and more.

Need to improve your portraits quickly?

Learning all about manual mode takes time and could end up with slower shutter speeds and blurred backgrounds when taking portrait images. Your best bet here is to eschew this manual mode in favor of automatic portrait photography settings.

How do I put my camera in portrait mode?

This will differ depending on the make and model of your camera, but head into the settings to look for a mode that makes adjustments catering toward portraits, such as a wide aperture priority, a shallow depth of field, and more.
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