5. Photography is not just for pros! Portrait photography pt2

In this article we will cover some technical settings important for portrait photography. Last article covered few basic tips about the portraiture


Photos posted in this article are straight out of camera, just transfered from RAW file to JPG, no big work in post processing.

And one BIG thanks to Andrej who was kind enough to be a model for learning purposes.

WHICH LENS TO CHOOSE? – All types, wide angle, medium telephoto and telephoto lens can do the job but each of them sees the world in different way.

Wide angle isnt the first nor the best choice for portraiture but it can have its place for specific work and effects. If you use 18mm lens, you shouldnt fill the frame with your subject as the distorsion will make the nose look big and all the apearence kind of grotesque. But if you take the shot from the ground level and have your subject in a frame composed as a full body portrait, you will get your subject look taller which in most cases is much more appealing than the big nose. Again, just DONT get close to your subject

(photo below is taken at 18mm, almost grotesque distorsion of the face gives you bad looking portrait)

Medium tele (85mm, even 50mm lens on crop sensor acts as 75mm) are great lenses for portraits in which, together with your subject, you want to catch some of the atmosphere arround it. You can play with the composition putting your subject in different parts of the pic so you can use the background to fill the whole composition. depending on your choice and the technical possibilities of the lens you can isolate the subject from the background more or less which we will cover in next tip.

Telephoto lens (105mm, 135mm, 200mm...) is the lens of choice when you want all the focus be on the subject with as minimal distraction from the background as possible. In this range, some of the best ever portrait lenses were made (various 70-200mm f/2.8, not to mention 2 Nikon lenses (Nikkor 105mm and 135mm f/2 DC) which are and will be, till the end of the world, the best portraiture lenses ever made by known civilizations)

but to complete the lens we have chosen, we have to choose...

(photo taken at 200mm gives much more pleasing look, nice perspective and more natural looking portrait)

APERTURE OPENING - In portraits shooting, wide open lense will give you more pleasing results. As wide aperture equals shallower depth of field, your subject will be isolared and the background will have nice bokeh, more blured and creamy background looks much better than sharp and in focus one.

In the examples below, ive gone to the extremes, the first photo is taken at f/1.4 and as you can see it gave beautiful creamy bokeh and the subject is isolated.

the second photo is taken at f/16 and it makes the whole scene in focus with the subject not isolated from the background.

There is one very important thing to think of when you shoot in wide open lens. most of the lenses are NOT at their sharpest wide open. most are very sharp from f/2.8 and pro zoom lenses go from f/2.8

Some prime lenses, like the one ive used here can go as wide as f/1.4 and some even f/1.2 or f/0.9 which are extremely rare. Maybe you will hear the term “fast lens”... those are the lenses, the f number of which is low (f/1.2 f/1.4...)

Fast lens can be very helpful in low light situations as it allows you to take a photo with shutter speed fast enough to give you sharp result.

REFLECTOR IS GREAT THING TO USE! - Many times (most of) the light comes from only one source. depending on the position of the subject, you can end with nice bright areas as well as those with dark shadows. The use of reflector is the easiest and the cheapest way to brighten your subject and give your portraits more professional look.

(Left photo is taken without and the right one with reflector.)

Reflector can be used both indoors and outdoors to bounce the light to the area in shadow and it will act as a filling light.

They can be bought relatively cheap and usualy come as two sided. the colors are mostly white, silver and gold.

As this series of articles are writen for amateurs im trying to keep everything at equipement minimum so in this situation the reflector was this...

yes, a simple piece of cardboard can do the job. Cover it in tin foil and youll get silver reflector. DIY can be great :)

SHUTTER SPEED – Depending on the lens focal lenght chosen for the shooting, shutter speed has to be adjusted to avoid blury photos. The rule says that the shutter speed has to be higher than the focal lenght. For e.g. if focal lenght is 85mm, shutter speed should be lets say 1/100 second, if the focal lenght is 200mm shutter should be set at 1/250 second minimum.

PORTRAIT COMPOSITION – Not every portrait has to be a face looking straight to a camera, far from it. Play with different angles and subject positions. even “no face” portraits can look great. Let your creativity out, play and enjoy.

Dear Coilers, thank you for reading. In next article we will cover depth of field and bokeh.


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