Portrait photographers: When to use a smaller aperture



  • vtc2002vtc2002 Posts: 364Member
    @starralazn There is a lot of good information all ready posted here. For me it really depends on what type of shoot I am doing. If I am shooting a Business/Corporate headshot/portrait I will take the f stop up pretty high say f 11 to f 16. As @Msmoto stated I want the plane of focus to be from the tip of their nose (or the closest point to the camera) and everything all the way to the backdrop to be in focus. If I am shooting a model that needs new headshots usually means I have more creative license and will shoot a more open say f2.8 or f4. I may want just the plane of focus to be the area that would have their nose and eyes in focus and let the focus fade on the hair and the background be blurred. I want the person viewing the photo to be drawn to the models face or the features that I want to emphasize. There are many options for this type of portrait. You can choose to have the plane of focus be really narrow and have the eye closest to the camera in focus and other features blurred. I agree with @Rx4Photo that shooting wide open can be a mistake if you don't understand or have a plan for what you are trying to create.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    edited August 2016

    The trick is shooting more than one person with a wide aperture, even at f/4. Outdoors it is great to defocus the background.

    For sure... And when required, I find getting everyone lined up is required.....as in this from our get-together in St. Augustine... 85mm at f/2.2


    Of course the one who is not in sharp focus... our esteemed administrator, Peter.....

    Oh well.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • MegapixelSchnitzelMegapixelSchnitzel Posts: 185Member
    When is background important? A couple of years ago I had my wife sit (actually, stand) for a portrait series in her full uniform, in front of a mahogany bookcase as the background. We wanted the titles of those books readable behind her. So I used two main studio lights and a kicker for her hair to separate her from that background and make her stand out. The shot was done at f/16 with her about 3' in front of the book case. It worked marvelously.
  • DaveyJDaveyJ Posts: 1,090Member
    I have won in years gone by, many portraiture awards. Also for years I was hired by models to do their portfolios..I rarely used shallow depth of field. I have 8x10 taken images that were done to show a person and their passions....rarely were the backgrounds blurred. The fish eye shot Msmoto shows tells me more about the subject than say the one of the mechanic which is nice of him but hardly shows he is a mechanic. It certainly depends on what your target is.
    My son and grandsons shoot professionally for a living. They very rarely shoot wide open aperture. I no longer do prefessional photography, my current photo goal is documenting our farm work which is extremely diversified. One day we are building a Black Cherry Timber frame in Lake Placid, and three days later I am photographing sea pens for raising Atlantic Salmon, form aerial to under water. When I look at the presented images, most tell very little,about the subjects,surroundings, interests, etc. are irrelevant? All the hype about bokeh is pretty much an out of focus fraction of that photo of light bending past the camera's leaf shutters? Movies often show speculation highlights and light passing a number of lens elements.....does you eye see it that way? NO! I personally regard such lens artifacts as distracting and annoying.

    Pitch Black's girl friend photos were quite wonderful...and I am surprised Lupejelena is not happy with them....but separation of a couple often has many downsides. Personally I think that many people have been photographed well and should take that as a wonderful,act of appreciation, and the distancing of the parted never plays well for either person. I do appologize for putting my thoughts here though as I respect Lupe's post and am glad we hear from her as I feel Nikon Rumors has taken the high road in terms of a website and the goal is appreciating the many and diverse aspects of photography. One of my most frequent statements about portraiture, and what I refer to as environmental portraiture......is that all of us need a professional photographer to make us look good. Kind of the exact opposite of the graven image that make the Almish, etc. not want photos taken of themselves at all.....I guess I sure don't think the image steals the soul....I think it is a image that can champion the soul.

    Fisheye lens though like in Msmotos nice image though result in great distortion of much of the view and for instance the guy off to the side is treated to the carnival mirror recording for posterity.
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