Use of the right equipment and camera settings for portraits

  1. Lenses – To flatter your subject, use a short Telephoto lens.
  2. Tripod – Use one when the subject and you are still in motion.
  3. Use one of the two options: remote trigger or cable release
  4. Use manual mode to shoot.
  5. ISO – Lowest possible ISO 100-400, higher if faster shutter speeds are required.
  6. Autofocus mode: Focus mode, set it to one point, and then use the back button focus.
  7. Driving mode – one shot
  8. Aperture: f/2 to f/4 for one subject (get the background in focus), or f/5.6 to f/8 for groups.
  9. Speed of shutter – At least 1/200th handheld or 1/15th with a tripod (faster for children).
  10. White balance – Choose the preset that best suits your lighting conditions, or create a custom balance.

#1 – Which lens should I use?

Telephoto lenses will help to compress the perspective and throw the background further out of focus but not distort the subject. Although a wide-angle lens can be useful, it can distort the subject’s face and cause them to look unnaturally shaped. This is not something you want.

A slightly wider angle to a normal lens might be an option if you’re doing more than just.

#2 – Use a tripod

This is often what I get when I tell my students in the classroom.

It is cumbersome, frustrating, and limits creativity for many photographers. If this rings true for you, I will share two reasons why I recommend it. You can then decide.

First, a tripod makes it easier to slow down.

This is a great thing! Make sure to take the time to review all settings and analyze the light before you shoot a test shot. You will see better results if you take your time and think before you press the button.

Second, you can look at the subject from the other side of the camera.

It’s not easy to capture the best expressions or build a relationship with someone you are photographing.

This is a great idea: Get a model willing to pose for you, and then take some photos with your camera up to their face. As you are shooting, talk to them and place the camera on a tripod. You can then have a conversation with them and get a few more photos. Ask your model which photos are best and what expressions are most effective. Ask your model what the best experience was. What was the difference?

Note: Turn off Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction when using a tripod. A tripod can cause more camera shake than a solidly mounted camera.

#3 – Use remote triggers

A remote trigger or release can help you take sharper photos by avoiding camera shakes when you press the button.

This is a follow-up to #2. If you’re photographing a grown-up, you can use a slower shutter speed once you have your tripod set up.

You can also hide behind the camera to get more. This is a crucial point when photographing children.

#4 – Shoot Manual Mode

The next major decision you need to make is which camera mode to use.

You can find out which modes I use in different situations. These guidelines will help you make the right choice.

  • Shoot in Manual mode if your tripod is attached to the camera.
  • Shoot handheld in Aperture Priority when you are shooting.

I do that 95% of the time.

A tripod can also be used to shoot HDR bracketed photos, night photography, or any long exposures.

Aperture Priority is my default setting for casual photography, such as street photography or travel. The only exception is when I want to do panning. Then, I switch to Shutter Priority.

Now that you are in Manual Mode, I will tell you why this is something I recommend. As I mentioned, a tripod makes it easier to slow down. Shooting in Manual Mode is a good option, and they both work well together.

Shooting in a Manual also allows you to control all settings. They will not change, even if lighting or other factors change.

This means that you can have consistent exposures from frame to frame.

When you work with a portrait subject (either a model, paid customer, or friend), it will make you look better.

The exposures won’t be all over the screen when you show the images to them on your LCD monitor. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, you will appear more professional.

This has the side benefit that your subject will be more confident in you and what you can do.

They will be more trusting of you.

This could also indicate that they are more open to working with you on new poses and ideas and will be more willing and able to give you great expressions.

Although it may seem small, having the trust of your subject is crucial!

#5 – ISO

Portraits should have the best image quality.

To avoid excessive noise in your photos, set the ISO as low as possible.

You should aim for ISO 100 to 400.

However, it is important to keep your shutter speed at an acceptable level.

It doesn’t matter how noise-free your image is if it blurs due to subject movement or camera movement.

Start at ISO 400, and adjust to your needs. This means that if you are shooting indoors with window lighting, in low light, shade, or indoors, you will likely need to increase ISO 400. If you have to, don’t be afraid of ISO 800 or 1600. Remember that you can open your aperture even if there isn’t enough light.

You need to dance to achieve the perfect balance between the three exposure triangle settings ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. You can adjust one setting, but you will need to adjust the other. Before you begin shooting, make sure to take some test shots.

You need to have a fast shutter speed that eliminates camera shake while holding the camera or subject movement when using a tripod. For more information on shutter speed, see point #9 below.

#6 – Focus Mode

Focus on a single point here, not a zone or multiple points. Do not let the camera decide what you should focus on.

This is often the case. Focus on the eye of your subject. Focus on the eye nearest to the camera if one eye is closer than the other.

Focus settings should be set to Single Shot (AF–S) and not Continuous (Servo/AF-C). Autofocus should lock onto the subject. Tracking focus is only for moving subjects. 6 Tips to Find Focus and Get Sharp Images.

Learn how to set your camera up to perform Back Button Focus. It’s basically a custom setting that allows you to remove autofocus functionality from the shutter release button and assign it to the back of your camera.

This is a great way to avoid losing focus if your subject or you aren’t moving. It is possible to lock your focus on them and then let them go. You can move closer or a little further from them, but you can refocus the focus and lock it again.

This is how I shoot at night.

The camera can be fooled by the darkness and cannot find focus, so it will hunt endlessly for the shot, and then you’ll lose it.

#7 – Drive Mode

This is just a quick one. Set the Drive Mode to Single.

Burst mode is not necessary, and you can shoot between 4-8 frames per sec. You are not shooting sports with this gun.

Don’t pray. Instead, press the shutter button when you see a positive expression and the subject is well-lit.

You won’t get the best portraits if you take too many images.

It has been my experience that I have been the one receiving photos taken in this way, and it does not work.

Burst mode can often capture closed eyes and strange facial expressions. I received thirty photos, all shot in burst mode, of a group portrait that I was part of. Not a single frame had everyone’s eyes open, and everyone had a good expression.

Talk to and engage with your model. When you find something that is good, press the button.

Be selective Wait for the right moment.

#8 – Aperture

You could have a rule like “Always shoot portraits @ f/5.6”, but that’s not what I will do. You will only get some starting points. Then you have to consider your options and make a decision.

Your aperture should be between f/2 to f/4 for portraits of just one person. You don’t need a wide-angle lens, so invest in 50mm f/1.8. It is very versatile and affordable. This wide aperture will make the background blurry and less distracting.

If you use these settings, be cautious about shooting too wide open, like f/1.8 and f/1.4. You must be very precise about your focus because the depth of field is so narrow that you may end up with their eyes sharpening and their noses and ears out of focus. You can achieve that look if you are able to focus well. You can also choose a smaller aperture, such as f/2.8 or f/4.

To ensure sharp focus for couples’ portraits and groups, use a smaller aperture, such as f/5.6 or even f/8. You should also be careful about how you position and pose people within the group to ensure they are not too far from the camera (distance). You can easily get sharp images by keeping everyone on the same plane.

#9 – Shutter Speed

As I said in point #5 above, you must ensure that your shutter speed is fast enough to maintain sharp images. Consider the minimum shutter speed that you can use handheld (one above the focal length) and how slow you can go with a tripod.

The tripod will hold the camera steady at all shutter speeds, even if it is for a few seconds. What are the chances that the subject will not move during this time? Choose a shutter speed that is most appropriate for your subject.

If you’re working with a teen or adult and they don’t move a lot or make large hand gestures, you can go down to 1/15th or 1/8th of one second. It’s possible to do it in low light, such as a window. Just ask them to remain still.

If you’re working with children or other people, increase the shutter speed. Adjust the shutter speed to suit your needs. Increase the shutter speed if blurry images are occurring. You can adjust the aperture without having to increase ISO (hence #5 below).

#10 – White Balance

I recommend using White Balance from your camera.

The one that matches your lighting conditions will be the best. Take a test shot to determine which indoor light looks the best and flatters your skin tone.

I prefer to be too warm than too cold, so I tend to go with the flow. People are more at ease with yellow (warmer) skin than they are with blue (cooler).

The same reason I recommend a preset over using Auto White Balance (AWB) is to use Manual mode. You want consistency from one frame to another. For portraits, neutral is not always the best choice. Warm is better. AWB makes neutral.

If your lighting conditions don’t change, you can also perform a custom White Balance using a grey card. If the lighting conditions change, you will need to redo it.

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