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Portrait photography happens to be one of the oldest forms of photography. It remains to be one of the most popular photography genres, and as a photographer, the art of taking good portraits always helps, even if it isn’t the specialized genre of the photographer. There are some considerations needed, and portraits you click will always have a punch.

How to Choose the Right Portrait Lens?

  1. a) Aperture

First point of reference for choosing the lenses is of course, the availability of the lenses. Considering an ideal situation where everything is available, the aperture of the lens for portrait photography should be as wide as possible. So, f2.8, f2, f1.8, f1.4, f1.2 and so on are the best f-stops for wide-open apertures in a lens ideal for portrait photography.

  1. b) Focal Length

Choosing the right focal length goes a long way in making the subjects appear good. A wrong focal length and subjects could appear broader or narrower, and distortion would destroy the face geometry. The idea of correct focal lengths for various length portraits are given below:

Sensor Normal Focal Length Full Length Portrait Half Body Portrait Head and Shoulders
35mm 45-50mm 24-35mm 65-80mm 90-135mm
APS-C 30-35mm 16-24mm 45-50mm 60-85mm

 

Normal focal length for any lens is about the length of the format’s diagonal. APS-C is a crop sensor with a crop factor of 1.5 or 1.6. The rule for half-body portrait is to have a focal length about 1.5 times the normal focal length (or slightly lesser). For a head and shoulders portrait, it is twice the normal focal length. A couple of good lenses for portraits are the 50mm prime, also known as nifty-50, which is cheap and can do half body portraits on APS-C very well. The other is 70-200mm f2, which is an all-purpose perfect portrait lens that can go from half-body to full tight close-ups.

What’s the Right Aperture for Portraits – is it always about Wide-Open?

As a thumb-rule, we talk of shallower depth of field, and wide-open apertures in portrait photography. It helps separate the subject from background (or foreground) by having the focus on subject while the background blurs out. It is an amazing technique, which also is used in creating the ever-so-attractive bokeh. Bokeh is the background blur we achieve on the lights so that they appear like colored bright dots. As a general rule of portraits, going wide-open is the best.

However there’s another way of doing it –environmental portraits. This is where the background will show, and hence you can’t possible have the widest open aperture. It requires more skills, but often produces better results. Street photography portraits employ the same technique of compositions, and the pictures are usually taken from a wider perspective.

How to set Shutter Speed to avoid Shake?

Shutter speed controls motion. There are two important perspectives of using shutter speed. We usually go slower to show motion by introducing motion blur in the image. It is done by having a shutter speed slower than the speed of the motion. However, for general sharp portraits, it is important to employ the minimum shutter speed rule, which is 1/100 or 1/effective focal length, whichever is faster. Effective focal length for crop sensor cameras is focal length multiplied by the crop factor.

Getting sharp quality portraits is important, and making sure the shutter speed is fast enough, the focal length is correct to avoid distortion, and the aperture is correct to showcase what you want to, goes a long way in getting it just perfect.