CREATING STAND-OUT PORTRAITS

CREATING STAND-OUT PORTRAITS

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How to cut clutter from your family photos and make them wall-worthy

When your subject – let’s say, an adorable, dimply, cheeky toddler – is playing in the garden and you want to capture an image of him but NOT the lurid blue paddling pool behind him, what do you do?

You could try and move the offending item, and any other annoying objects while you’re at it. But you know that doing this will probably distract your child and result in him moving off, ruining the moment.

A narrow aperture of f13 means the toys in the background are still noticeable
A narrow aperture of f13 means the toys in the background are still noticeable
So instead you try and achieve a shallow depth of field in your image, which means that your child will be in focus, but the background will be nicely blurred out, rendering any unwanted elements indistinguishable. To achieve this, you have a few options which you can use separately, or combined:
1. Shoot wide.
Adjust your DSLR’s aperture so that it is wider, rather than narrower (which means setting it to a low f-number i.e f5.6 or f4, or even f2.8, if that is where your lens can go). This also has the advantage of allowing you a faster shutter speed as your wide aperture is allowing in more light.
2. Use a longer focal length.
Using a longer length renders what appears to be a shallower depth of field – try using a 200mm lens, and a 18mm lens for the same scene, at the same aperture setting, to see the difference.
3. Move on back
If you can, position your subject closer to you and further away from the background  – this does blur out the background a little more, although you’d want to use a low f-stop to really take advantage of this.
A wider aperture (lower f number) of f2 means that the background is pleasantly blurred out and the toys are less distinguishable, meaning the eye is drawn straight to the subject
A wider aperture (lower f number) of f2 means that the background is pleasantly blurred out and the toys are less distinguishable, meaning the eye is drawn straight to the subject

Further tips:

  • Focus very carefully when using wide apertures
  • Avoid too wide an aperture if you are close to your subject
  • Be mindful of your shutter speed when shooting with long focal lengths: too slow and your long lens will magnify any camera shake
  • Using Aperture Priority shooting mode will make your life easier when shooting moving and unpredictable children
  • Cranky children can often be coaxed into a different position using bribes. (Yes, I believe in bribery to get the right shot. Don’t tell Gina Ford.)

 

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