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The Best Camera Settings for Portraits


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There is a big number of different genres of photography. One of the most common type and the one that is most famous is portrait photography. All of us at some point in our lives needed a portrait photo. Also, as a photographer there is not way you can avoid that well-known question “ Can you take a photo of me?!”

3 Steps to Set up Perfect Camera Settings for Portraits:

Portrait photography is very diverse, because there is always something new about it that you can do – new faces, new lighting positioning, experimenting with lenses and anything else that comes to your mind. Here are 3 things you need to know to set up your camera to shoot portraits.

1. Choose the Right Lens

Before we go to use and setting of the camera its self – your choice of lens is very important.

Cause different lenses make different effect and changes to the point it can distort peoples faces and bodies. Also your choice of the lens can be connected with number of people in the shoot. Because you can not make family portrait with 50mm lens, that is perfect on the other hand for single person portraits.

The best lenses for portraits are standard ones and short-telephoto lenses. In the other words, it would be the best for focal length to vary between 50mm to 200mm.When it comes to standard lenses, 50mm/85mm/105mm are one of the most popular lenses for this genre of photography. Cause they are in the perfect variation of focal length and they represent your subject in the most flattering and realistic way possible.

And for telephoto lens it is 24-70mm, 24-120mm.

If the lens you choose it too wide, for example 11mm, it will represent your subject in very unflattering way. But on the other hand, it can be helpful for larger group of people cause it captures more space.

You also shouldn’t go too long  with a telephoto, like a 300mm lens, because it can compress your subject’s face and not look natural.

2. Don’t Forget About Focusing

The important trait of portrait is to be sharp and in focus (as long the idea of the photograph says otherwise). What can help you with that is AF – it is one setting at the camera which helps you choose what kinds of focus you would like to have in your photograph. For portrait the best option would be Single Area AF, that makes sure that only that point of you focus will be sharp. Important thing to know about the portraits is that the eyes of your subject should always the your focus point and the sharpest thing in the photo.

3. Set up Right Exposure (most important)

Exposure is made of combination of three settings – aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. There cannot be perfect exposure setting for portrait cause people work in different environments, with different lighting, subject…. so it is impossible to have one setting that will make a perfect portrait.

Considering aperture, it is very important to know how you would like your photo to look and what effect you want to get. Because aperture can vary from 2.8 to 16 and more, there are a lot of possibilities. The lower the number of aperture is ( or more aperture is open) the focus point of the photograph will the lower as well and it can give that blurry effect to the background. Lower f stop numbers are good to use for single person portrait. If there is more people involved, the f stop is supposed to be higher so that no one in the photo ends up being blurry.

If the aperture number is higher (opening is smaller) then there are more details in the photo and the background comes more in focus.

As mentioned, depending of the desired results it can be a good option for your portrait. But with taking a single person portrait it is not the best idea because some unwanted things like pimples, wrinkles and blemishes can be more visible on the subjects face.

When it comes to shutter speed, there aren’t any rules about it. There are just few things to consider – is the subject moving or it is still in one place, and also do you want to have motion blur or just to have a perfect photo without any effects like that.

If there is a moving object and you want to have a still photograph of it, your shutter speed should be high, for example 1/500 and up.  And, if on the other hand you are willing to play with movements you can always lower your shutter speed for ½ or even 1 second and more.

ISO sensitivity can be helpful with indoor and low light portraits, because in increases the amount of light that comes to your photograph. In conditions like that you can choose the values of ISO up to 800, maybe even 1600. But, I wouldn’t recommend going about that number, because then it can lower the quality of your photo with adding grain to it.

One thing that can make your portrait really unique and beautiful is the lighting. Because lighting gives special value to the photograph, especially portraits. There can be another whole article about importance of lights for portraits. The best advice for it is to try to experiment as much as possible. Going out during the different times of the day can really improve your understanding of how the lights work. Every hour of the day can add something special to the photo. Don’t be scared to explore.

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