right settings for portrait

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by brian_mchattie, May 21, 2015.

  1. I do not generally shoot portraits. The enclosed photograph was shot with a Df and the new 300mm f4 lens.
    studying various forums on photnet tells me that for portraits like this one I should focus on the eyes which I attempted to do. However, the nose and mouth seem to be out of focus. The photograph was taken at f4. Would I be correct in assuming that if I shot with a different f stop, the complete face may have been more sharp??
  2. Would I be correct in assuming that if I shot with a different f stop, the complete face may have been more sharp??​
    Yes. Assuming you shot this from about 10 feet away (estimate based on size of the subject and the assumption that the image has not been cropped), the DOF is less than one inch at f/4. It would be about 1 3/4 inch at f/8. Stopping down further would increase DOF further but you also get softening of the image due to diffraction.
    Stepping back another 5 feet to 15 feet increases DOF to 2 inches even at f/4 and twice that at f/8.
  3. Dieter.... Thank you very much for your feedback. It's appreciated.
    Your assumption is almost correct in that I was about 10 feet from the subject, but I did crop the sides of the image slightly.
  4. FWIW, you created an image with DOF almost as shallow as had you used a 85mm lens at f/1.4 from about 4 1/2 feet distance (at 3 feet and f/1.4, the DOF would be only about 1/3 inch).
    but I did crop the sides of the image slightly​
    Should have been more precise in my initial post - I based the distance assumption on the height of the subject in the frame and didn't even consider the width.
  5. you are correct
    the smaller the f stop number, the thinner the dof..especially as on a tele this is magnified by the compression of a tele lens.
    so..lets say f 8 would have been "more sharp", as in more of the subject in focus.
    it seems to me however, that the photo is slightly blurry?
    or do i already need glasses.
    as the aperture number gets higher, smaller aperture, less light comes in and thereby you have to adjust the time of exposure to counter that.
    so as this shot is blurry already id recomment to crank up iso too, so your shutter speed stays the same.
    in addition i would suggest to use the same technique as when shooting a gun. breathe out...hold still..shoot.
    good luck
    edit..started writing this...went for coffee..now i am too late to the game. but youve already gotten all the info you asked for
  6. Anyway, keep in mind that the DoF is a "fuzzy concept", a gradual effect, not only related to magnification and aperture but also to the image size and viewing distance (amongst others). Calculations are interesting to get an idea, maybe just a coincidence, but far from being precise if all related parameters are not taken into account.
  7. Looking at the picture and the technical info you listed I would like to add the following
    A 300mm wide open will inevitably result in a very shallow DoF. Yes, stopping the lens down will improve that, but it will (at such close range) remain shallow nevertheless.
    A better option might be to use a 'shorter' lens like a 135 or 85mm (but you'll be close to your subject which could influence the spontaneity).
    Also stopping the lens down will result in a sharper/less OoF background, which you may or may not find a problem.
    And lastly, when looking at the picture, it appears to me that the focus is in the forward part of the picture (the hair falling over the - from a onlookers point of view- left side of her forehead) is very much in focus, while the eyes seem a lot softer.
    Aiming the focus point more precisely on the eye/eyes may very well result in getting the nose and mouth sharper (I don't want to start a discussion over possible front focus, those discussions usually end up in too much pixel peeping).
  8. On portraits, generally speaking if you go the eyes sharp, you're OK.
    Kent in SD
  9. I know we're only seeing a small-sized image here online, but what exactly is wrong with the picture you've posted Brian? The nose and mouth look perfectly acceptably sharp to me, and it's a charming picture. Stopping down sufficiently to bring the ears and nose-tip into crisp focus would render the background more obvious and perhaps distracting.
    If it's just that parts of the image appear a little more blurred when pixel-peeping, then stopping down won't affect that very much. There's really no such thing as depth-of-field if you magnify an image sufficiently; you have one plane of truly sharp focus and one only - regardless of aperture.
    If the picture is acceptably sharp at the scale you would normally view it, then you have the correct aperture already. Forget the pixel-peeping.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    My reaction is similar to Rodeo Joe's. As a small JPEG, I think this image looks fine and the face is in focus. The hair to the left (our right) seems a bit out of focus, but that is ok. Maybe the OP is looking at a much larger version on a large monitor, and the impression could be different.
    You might want to stop down to f5.6 for a bit more depth of field.
  11. I think it looks fine too in the size that it is posted. If however you print it big or look at it zoomed in, you will see that things are not in focus.
    And that is the whole thing about DoF. Depth of field is what is acceptable sharp to the eye. It is highly dependent on magnification and viewing distance. It's also dependent on post processing such as sharpening.
    So if you're shooting for big prints and want everything to look sharp you need to stop down but if the end image is web sized then it's fine.
    For portraits is usually perfectly acceptable to just have the eyes in focus. It depends. Available light shooters often use large aperture lenses and only the eyes in focus and everything else is creamy and out of focus. Studio shooters usually stop down enough so the entire subject is in focus but are often shooting against plain backgrounds.
    A 300mm lens is an not commonly used for portraits unless special shot like full length shots from a distance. Tight head shots are commonly done in the 100-150mm range on FX.
  12. If the framing is the same, it doesn`t matter the focal length used... DoF will be practically the same.
    So it is matter of taste (perspective), longer lenses will provide a flatter look, shorter lenses (shorter focus distance) will provide a "closer" (feeling wise) look, maybe.
    Personally, at such magnifications, I use to choose the optimal aperture of the lens (say, f8 in FF), simply because DoF will be shallow enough and resolution will be on the highest side. You`ll also have a slight focus error margin. I know some will consider this an aberration :)
    If you take care of the background, out of focus areas are not of an issue. Just place your subject at a distance.
  13. The actual focus is on the hair about 2 inches in front of the face. Had you gotten the focus on the eyes, it would have looked right. Yes, a little more depth-of-field would have helped, but it would not have solved the problem of focus error.
    You might consider re-examining the focus settings or using manual focus. Simple focus and recompose is a very iffy proposition. Dynamic 3D tracking would help. But in my view, there is no reason in the world why the subjects eyes should fall on a focus point.
    Pictures are not framed based on focus points, but are framed on whatever artistically is best -- which is almost /never/ on the focus point (or any other given point). For me, manual focus in an FX DSLR always works best Though for some people it takes a little practice, it is worth doing.
  14. looks like there might be a bit of motion blur causing loss of sharpness, so you might want a faster shutter (at least 1/FL; 1.5/FL being more optimal, so, 1/500 or thereabouts with a 300mm on FX). but in general, 5.6 should render the entire face sharp.
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    EXIF date show that the shutter speed was 1/500 sec. At that shutter speed, even @ 300mm, I kind of doubt that motion blur would be an issue, unless the subject was moving quickly (e.g. dancing, jumping, running ...), which is apparently not the case.
    Anyway, I am afraid that this JPEG is way too small to evaluate critical focusing or motion blur.
    I am not a fan of those really shallow depth of field, f1.4 portraits where one eye is in focus and the other eye is not. I think it is a good idea to stop down a bit so that both eyes, nose and mouth are all (apparently) in focus. Otherwise, the viewer's brain may try to resolve the out-of-focus areas; I find that distracting.
  16. It looks like it may be an unprocessed Raw file straight out of the camera. I ran it through Lightroom and added clarity, vibrance, saturation and then a small amount of sharpening in PS. It looks fine and could probably use less sharpening.
  17. a little overcooked, yeah. but i think the point has been made that the original image was ok.
  18. Thank you all for your contributions and suggestions. Something for me to think about and try.
    It just so happened that whilst visiting a sister, she was taking care of her granddaughter.
    I had the 300mm lens on the camera and if I had planned to shoot a portrait then of course I would have used a different lens. I took several images of my great niece in raw the processed them in Lightroom. The enclosed file has been touched up with photoshop and I post it in a larger format so perhaps you can see more detail.
    btw. Once again (I said in previous post) I reiterate that I am very very happy with all aspects of this lens.
  19. Just to point out what has been said above... personally, at such magnifications, f4 is too shallow. At f8, DoF is doubled, better to have both eyes, nose and specially the lips into focus, but still shallow enough to keep some blur in the back hair and a diffused background. I know it`s matter of taste.
    I think the lens is perfectly suited for the portrait. Very nice model, BTW. :)
  20. It's fine. On my laptop the full-size image shows up at the equivalent of around 48 inches wide. A 4 foot print rarely looks sharp anywhere when you stick your nose right up to it. But a framed 20" x 20" print from that shot would look absolutely stunning hanging on the wall. You'd certainly never have got that clarity from 35mm film no matter how tightly focused.
    I'd be more worried about the apparent posterisation noticeable in the crimson of the lips and the shadow areas in general. You might want to look at your colour management settings in LR and PS Brian. I'm not convinced that some of Adobe's products don't have bugs in their space conversion algorithms. The original small JPEG shows no such tonal discontinuity.
  21. Brian
    I think it looks terrific the way it is.
    Nice shot
  22. It depends. . With a 300mm I would have liked f11 if possible. At least f5.6.
  23. As Rodeo Joe pointed out, the posterization in the second image is quite noticeable. I also find the image pretty contrasty. I converted it to B&W just for fun to minimize the posterization, and I reduced the contrast quite a bit. I used PSCC raw converter's sliders to decrease highlights and increase shadows. Up close in the original image you can also see the DOF is so shallow that the near eye is slightly out of focus while the far (her right) eye is sharp. As others have stated, with the 300 mm lens you might want to decrease the aperture to gain a little more DOF. Very nice portrait!

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