Portrait Photography: Setting up your camera

sabato 17 marzo 2018 07:57

Your digital camera has a bewildering array of features

and while this is great in some respects, the choices

can be confusing. Here we explain the tools that you

need to know about when photographing portraits.

Exposure mode: Don’t think about using the Portrait program mode –

you’re more than a happy snapper if you’re reading this guide. Instead,

select aperture-priority AE mode (A or Av), which lets you choose the

aperture, while automatically setting the appropriate shutter speed.

For most types of portraiture, you’ll want to use a wide aperture to throw

the background out of focus. To start off, use f/5.6, as this gives enough

depth-of-field to keep the entire face (eyes, nose and ears) in focus.

By selecting aperture-priority, you’ll be using ambient light only.

While flash has its uses, controlling daylight will give you more

natural results and help you learn to manipulate available light.

ISO rating & the reciprocal rule: In terms of quality, the lower the ISO the

better, so start by setting ISO 100 or 200. Handholding your camera allows

you more freedom to move and shoot candids, but watch out for camera

shake. The simplest way to do this is to use the reciprocal rule.

All this means is you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below the

reciprocal of the lens you’re using. For example, if you’re using the lens at

100mm then ensure the shutter speed is above 1/100sec to reduce the risk

of shake. If you’re using the lens at 200mm then make sure the shutter

speed is above 1/200sec, etc. Increasing the ISO rating is an easy way to

achieve a faster shutter speed to avoid shake. Try not to go above ISO 800

as otherwise you’ll notice increased noise in the image. In low light,

whenever possible, we’d recommend you use a tripod. It allows you to use

a lower ISO rating as shutter speeds aren’t such a concern.

White Balance: You should set the White Balance to match the lighting

conditions you’re shooting in. If you’re working in mixed light and are a little

unsure, then Auto (AWB) is the best compromise. Of course, if you’re

shooting Raw, you can always change the White Balance when you open

the image on your computer. Something to bear in mind is that setting the

wrong WB preset can be used to purposely shift the colour balance. For

instance, setting Cloudy in daylight adds warmth to the tones, while

selecting Tungsten will result in a very cool, blue cast – so be creative.

Image quality: I would recommend you shoot Raw, as it allows you to

play with settings, particularly White Balance, later. If your camera has a

facility to shoot Raw + JPEG, use it with JPEG set to Small/Basic. Then

when you’re reviewing images, you can go through the small JPEGs

quickly, choose your favourites and work on the appropriate Raw files.

If you’re confident in your ability, and don’t expect to need to make tweaks

to the exposure or White Balance in post-production, opt for the best

quality JPEG for optimum results and to save room on your memory card.

Autofocus: With the vast majority of portraits, it’s important that the

subject’s eyes are in focus as, more often than not, they’re the focal point.

Your camera most likely has multi-point AF, which allows you to choose

between leaving all the AF points active or to select individual AF points.

You could leave all the AF points active to ensure you don’t miss a great

shot, but you run the risk of missing the eyes and focusing on the nose as

it’s the nearest object to the camera. A better option is to select a single AF

point and use this to focus on the eye. The central AF sensor is usually the

most sensitive, so you can use this to lock the AF by placing the point over

one of the subject’s eyes, then pressing the shutter button halfway down.

Once the AF is locked, recompose and fire. It sounds tricky, but with

practice it becomes second nature. Another option is to select the AF point

that sits over the subject’s eye – this means you don’t have to recompose,

allowing you to work quicker. If you intend to rattle off a sequence of shots

with a very similar composition, this is the best option. If you do intend to

lock focus, make sure your camera is set to single-shot AF as otherwise

you won’t be able to lock on your subject’s eye.

Metering: Your camera’s multi-zone metering should be capable of

exposing portraits perfectly in most situations. Take a test shot, check the

screen and use the exposure compensation facility to add/subtract a little

exposure if you feel the shot is too dark or light. Where your camera’s

multi-zone meter may falter is if your subject has very light or dark skin

tones, is wearing light or dark clothing, or is strongly backlit. In these

situations, use exposure compensation or select the spot meter and use

the AE-L (Autoexposure Lock) button to take a reading from a mid-tone in

the scene, or from an 18% grey card that you place near the subject.