If you are interested in becoming a professional portrait photographer (even if it would mean starting as a part-time career) you should immediately understand that this is not something that requires a huge amount of studio space or initial investment. This is because portrait photography does not have to be formal or official and the photographer can simply carry the majority of their studio with them from job to job.
The very first thing to do is to consider what your particular specialty will be. “I want to take portraits” might be an initial reaction, but you must consider the huge range of portrait styles that appear. Will you be someone who prefers to make close-up portraits? Are you hoping to specialize in group or corporate portraiture? Will you be more of the classic fine art portrait photographer, or maybe you want to focus on pets? You see, all of these choices mean different equipment and professional needs.
So, the first step to becoming a successful portrait photographer is to define your style and market your work based on that style. For example, let’s say that you like to do only black and white photography and that you really have a knack for casual family and personal portraits. This would mean that you may want to develop a website or blog showing such work, and also use a good example of your style in any print ads as well.
When you start to consider what sort of equipment to use, it pays to recognize that purchasing the best camera body and lenses may not be in your budget right away. Most modern portrait photographers tend to lean on their 70-200mm telephoto lenses for most of their work. Yes, this might seem like an odd choice, but it keeps the camera at a comfortable distance from the subject while allowing as much zoom as required. It also eliminates the distortion that can often occur when a camera is too close to the subject or when a wide angle is used on a portrait as well.
In addition to the right lens, a portrait photographer will have to develop a knack for creating the right lighting for their imagery as well. If a studio setting is available, this will mean the ultimate in control over the sort of lighting available. If, however, a photographer tends to work “in the field” they will need to create an array of tools for managing light. Many photographers will use techniques over tools when their budget is limited, which means it is important to study flash fill, reflection, and diffusion techniques in your portrait work too.