Manual Focus Portrait

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by bob_estremera, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. Need so tips here.
    I have a Fuji X-T20 and experimenting with a Rokkor 55mm 1.7. When I manually focus on general objects, the focus peaking yields good results. But I just tried my first portrait 'test' session and I'm finding that I got close but missed critical focus on the eyes several times. My subject wore glasses. I was using focus peaking, in red. I waited until the actual eyes were being highlighted so focus should have been good, but wasn't always. What techniques are some of you using for manually focusing for portraits?
  2. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    You really need to magnify the image to check focus. Peaking can be misleading.
    Try this:
    ruslan and Jochen like this.
  3. Very good. That was going to be my next step. This was informative.
  4. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    I found out the hard way :)
    I use a Nex 6 for playing with my older lenses.

    [​IMG]Helios 44-2, Sony Nex 6 by Ken, on Flickr
    WAngell likes this.
  5. It's why I don't use the Zeiss 135. I have tried manual focus with less than an inch of dof and it's not very reliable for me.
    ruslan likes this.
  6. I've a 50 f/1.2 that I quite like the results from. Getting there is another story. Much easier with an old split screen :)

    - On more than a few occasions I've used the hope and pray scatter approach and let statistics do their thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Not an option with a model (except Helen who has infinite patience, never complains and only moves when I pick her up and move her).

    - Then there is the wonderfulness of a 27" display.
  7. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    I really like mine and don't really have a problem with the combination (well, mostly :) )
    Larger images on Flickr:
    [​IMG]waiting by Ken, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Ana by Ken, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Edinburgh Fringe by Ken, on Flickr
    sergtum1958 and WAngell like this.
  8. Ken, it's a great lens but I don't have the luxury of missing critical shots either because of slow manual focusing with a digital viewfinder or just missing focus so will stay with the 135 dc. I rarely shoot it below 3.2 because I need the dof on the subject to get both eyes in focus so the CA is either gone or easily corrected in post. Subject has great sharpness and the bokeh, well, budda. What were the apertures on those shots? I know you can extend the safety margin by stopping down. Looks like pretty good dof. The last looks like chin in and shoulders in, several inches dof. First shot elbow in and nose in, again 8-9 inches dof. I use the 135 heavily for "eyes in ears out." I would love to use that lens but I am often working with less than an inch dof with no margin for error. The Zeiss produces exactly what I would expect, stellar quality. Great images and wonderful expression on the last shot.
  9. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    Thanks, Bob. @bob_bill
    If I'm using the manual focus lenses I tend to slow down and work at a different speed, sometimes talking to my subjects to gain their forbearance :)
    I tend to shoot at 2.8, but the last one was f4 if I remember correctly. First one is a crop of the original, she was about 20 to 25 feet away.
    The zoomed in images on Flickr show the lens off a bit better, rather than the 800 wide shown above.

    Not too bad for 30+ year old lenses.

    I must admit,it is a lot easier with my Nikon AF cameras and lenses.
  10. Ken, I just wish Zeiss would make it auto focus and I would be there in a NY minute. Gorgeous lens. But the way I shoot it, if subject moves a half inch or I move a half inch focus on the eyes is lost. In studio with camera on stand and subject seated against posing table it would be doable and reliable enough. But hand held outside with subject standing not so much. That is where I like to use it for the magical bokeh. I have experimented with the nikon 135 dc manual focusing and it just isn't reliable enough and the delay in focusing could cause me to miss decisive moments. One thing I hate is blowing focus on the best shot of a series or session. Nikon upgraded the 105 dc, maybe the 135 is next? The faults I see with it are ca below 2.8 or 3.2 and it isn't sealed. I shoot 3.2 and move the dc ring to 2.8 and here in humid FL, keep humidity in my home 30-35% with AC. I use mine for head shots and torso shots primarily so usually at 7-10 feet.
  11. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    Hey Bob :)
    In the first one above the young woman was mainly standing still while waiting for her boyfriend. He turned up a few minutes later.
    Ana, in the second one, was moving erratically as she was directing about a dozen volunteer staff at a turtle nest dig site. I just had to track her!
    I talked to the guy in the last one and asked him to be patient.
    First two were at about 15 to 20 feet, so DoF was fine at f2.8 :eek:
    Last one was at about 12 feet and he stayed still, as did his his associate...
    It's just a case of slowing down and practice.
    [​IMG]Edinburgh Fringe by Ken, on Flickr
  12. Ken, thanks. It is a lens I wish would fit my shooting demands. Often, I don't have subject control so need rapid focus. I grew up with manual focus but the split screen made it so much easier. Auto focus on the 135 is adequate. With higher iso possible on the newer cameras allowing higher shutter speeds, I can live without vr . I guess I will just wait to see what nikon does on updating the 135.
  13. These are the only techniques I use.

    1- Never use a flash. I can't stand flash portraits and always use natural light. Which means you have to be patient and look for the best available light you can find, even if it means changing location. Northerly light is usually reliable, and even dappled shade from trees can be used to your advantage.

    2- Always use a Leica lens. For years my benchmark was an R 90 2.8 Elmarit, but I have since upgraded to an Summicron R 90 2. A Canon FD 85 1.8 also does a very good job, and the "beer can" FD 135 2.5 is also excellent. But the Summicron is, well, a Summicron. Magic.

    3- Never pose the subject or use a tripod. I like to keep things moving naturally, and posing a model stiffly in front of a camera mounted on a tripod gives stiff results. Talk to people, have them talk to you, and shoot quickly through a few rolls of film. You will see dramatically different results compared to an in studio, on tripod session.

    When you use a fast lens like a 90 2.0 you have to look closely to see what is in focus, or go w/ 2.8 or 3.5 on some of the shots.


    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  14. Compare those two shots to this one of the same subject (where they knew I was going to take the shot, and the lighting was indoor fluorescent lighting). Lighting is very important. You really can't beat good outdoor lighting.

    The two shots above were taken within minutes of each other, but the subject looks completely different due to the light. In the first photo we had soft light from the trees, and the Leica lens shows veiling flare that I find attractive. The second shot has her looking towards the sun. Very bad, and it shows really poor lighting, but I still sorta like it. Sorta.

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  15. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

  16. It's just a bit more time consuming for Manual Focus if you're moving around a lot. I guess it really comes down to the real world practicality of it for each person. Nothing wrong with Manual Focus or Automatic Focus... For me it's AF 99% of the time - and with the new Eye Automatic Focus features even more reason to use it.
  17. The glasses could be the problem.

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