Originally published December 2010. Updated Dec. 9, 2016
‘Tis the season for family portraits. If you’re like me, you’ve got friends and family who say “you’re a photographer, will you shoot portraits for me?” Unfortunately, these people don’t always understand that photographing landscapes and wildlife is completely different from photographing people. I mean, the camera is the same, but that’s about it.
So what should you do when asked to shoot portraits? Here are some tips and gear recommendations that should get you started.
Today, Nikon announced a new fast prime portrait lens, the AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED Nikkor. This is a super-fast lens that should deliver amazing bokeh when used at or near its maximum f/1.4 aperture. It is designed to cover FX (full-frame) Nikon sensors, but will approximate a 161mm telephoto lens if you use it on a DX Nikon DSLR, such as the Nikon D500. Continue reading Nikon 105mm f/1.4 Portrait Lens Announced→
Today’s digital cameras and flash systems make it really easy to set up a simple home studio. You can do really great things with just a single flash, but you’ll need some accessories to help you shoot with the flash off-camera.
While the first step for getting good portraits is to take the flash off the camera, you should also consider using a Light Modifier on your flash. Here are some common light modifiers and examples of the results they produce.
For this set-up, I put my camera (Nikon D800e) onto a tripod and I set the pop-up flash to Commander Mode. This setting triggers my main flash (SB-900) without contributing to the overall exposure. My SB-900 was set up to the left of the camera on an inexpensive light stand with a Photoflex shoe-mount multi-clamp. I then proceeded to test several lighting scenarios:
Bare Flash (no modifier)
18″ Beauty Dish (custom built as a DIY project)
40″ Umbrella with cover removed (shoot-through umbrella)
40″ Soft Box
The idea behind using light modifiers is two-fold. First, you are increasing the size of the apparent light source. Second, you are modifying the way the light wraps around your subject. Both of these factors allow you to create shots that reduce the appearance of harsh shadows with differing degrees.
Part of being a photographer is finding ways to express your creativity. I thought I’d experiment with a “selfy” shot that I did a while back to give it some more character. Ok, those of you who know me are probably saying, “dude, you don’t need any more character.” But I digress. Let’s have a little fun.
I brought the image into Photoshop, where my goal was to apply plug-ins effects via layers for complete control. Now it was time to get down and dirty! I duplicated the background layer and I used single-image tone-mapping in Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2.
Ok, so I’m not a glamour/fashion photographer. In fact, the only member of my household that even comes close to posing for me is our golden retriever, Otter. So when I play around with effects and gear, he tolerates me quite well.
We had some nice window light coming into the house this morning, and Otter was the only one willing to pose in it. So I played around with my Nikon 1 V1 and 50mm f/1.4 AFS G Nikkor using the FT1 adapter. That’s the equivalent of using a 135mm f/1.4 lens on a 35mm format camera… a nice portrait lens. This image was shot at 1/160s @f/2.5 to get the nice bokeh.