Suitable Shutter Speed for Portraits

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by steve_simons, Jan 13, 2004.

  1. Before Christmas, I had to shoot some family portraits of myself and my family, they were for a present for my grandma's birthday (even though the film wasn't processed in time and we had to use Digital Photos we took months earlier). Anyways, I faced exposure problems with shooting the pics. It was dusk outside so there wasn't much light coming in through the windows, I had the room light on, a large halogen light on one side of us, and a smaller light on the other side, but I was getting a shutter speed of 1/25th shooting at f/3.5. I didn't want to shoot f/3.5 either because that meant I was shooting wide angle and had to get close. So... when I'm shooting in conditions like this again, what is a suitable shutter speed for family portraits where I can use a smaller aperture? I was shooting Kodak TMax 400 by the way, and the pics didn't turn out too great, They were actually slightly overexposed because, even using 9.5% partial metering, metering on faces, it picked up some of the shadows and must've tricked my metering :(
     
  2. The shutter speed is going to vary depending on the light. If you really want a rule, always use a tripod and cable release when shooting available light indoors. Then you can set it for your desired aperature and just ask people to hold still.
     
  3. I shot some portraits that were about 1/8 because my light was insufficent, they turned out ok, but I would have rather shot at 1/60 at least (1/125 is good) because it's very difficult to capture instantanious things at lower than that. You always have to say "Ok hold that." More light, more light, more light.
     
  4. You can shoot shutter speeds of 1/2 or 1/4 second as long as you tell your subject to hold still and use a tripod. Obviously this won't work for shoots with children! I find that the softness from slight movement actually improves the image in portraits. Tack sharp images usually aren't as flattering for most people's complexions.
     
  5. m_.

    m_.

    Steve: First of all, you got confused with "wide angle lens" to the aperture setting. F3.5 on a 85mm lens is not wide angle. The wide angle lens refers to any lens that has a focal length length that is smaller than 50mm. It's a physical distance between the film plane and the lens glass element (no so scitifically speaking), while th eaperture ssetting refers to the openning iris in the lens. With the same lighting condition, you only have the choice of, once the aperture is set, shutter speed of the camera and the film speed. If you find, with shutter speed set at 1/125 second or faster, the exposure meter reading below what your prefered aperture setting, then you need higher speed film to "compensate" the camera setting you want. Don't know if all this make sense to you. No offense, but you might benefit from reading a basic photography book or attending a photography class.
     
  6. I'm w/Pat Wilson. To be on the safe side, 1/60 or 1/125th of a second would be a good start for capturing your typical fidgety subjects. If you can't or don't want to use flash, I think your only solutions are faster film/glass or, as Pat pointed out, more light, whether artificial or natural. Wentong: Steve didn't say he was using an 85mm lens. Sounds to me like he was using a zoom & f/3.5, the largest aperture, was only available @ the wider angle settings, which could very well be 35mm or whatever.
     
  7. Steve, Over Christmas, I made a photograph of a friend sitting on his backyard bench with his Miniature Shnauzer. I was using a tripod, a cable release, a 150mm lens and ASA 100 4"x5" film. Because it was a very overcast day with occasional drizzle, and because I wanted a few feet of depth of field, the exposure was f22 for four seconds. To my amazement, the Schnauzer stared straight at the camera, without moving, the entire time, and the photograph came out very sharp. Fast shutter speeds aren't always necessary, as a lot of late 1800s and early 1900s photographs attest to.
     
  8. R_: True, but didn't portrait photographers use special chairs that helped immobilize subjects, @ least back in the daguerreotype era? ------- "Fast shutter speeds aren't always necessary, as a lot of late 1800s and early 1900s photographs attest to."
     
  9. "I didn't want to shoot f/3.5 either because that meant I was shooting wide angle and had to get close." What?? hhmm.. when using low available light, as long as your subjects are all relativly the same distance from the lens, shoot with the lowest F stop your lens can muster.. in that situation, a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 would of worked nice. Put that thing on a tripod with a shutter release cable or a 2 second timer, and you would of had no problems.
     
  10. ^^ What I meant by shooting wide angle at f/3.5 was that, in order to get a shutter speed of 1/30th, I had to use the largest aperture possible on my lens, which is only available at wide-angle. Sorry for the confusiong. And to Wenton Lin or whoever it was that told me to read a basic photography book, I think you should read the post before commenting, first of all, it wasn't an 85mm lens, and second of all, I know enough about photography to be past the basics, this was my first indoor portrait shoot and needed some advice.
     
  11. Christopher, In the very early days, and with some process, special chairs were used. I saw one recently at an exhibition in relation to daguerretype. I am simply suggesting that I have had good experience photographing people with slow shutter speeds when I want to use a slow film and want some depth of field. In the case I described, I was about 10 feet from the subject, which meant, for various reasons, that I needed to use f22 to get a couple of feet of depth of field. And it worked. If you use a tripod, and a cable release, you can make very good photographs of people at very long shutter speeds. If you can get a Miniature Schnauzer to sit completely still for four seconds, it is a bonus.
     
  12. "portrait photographers use special chairs that helped immobilize subjects" yeah, and their subjects looked dead. Some of those exposures could be minutes long.
    For hand holding, the general rule of thumb is that your shuttter speed should not be slower than the reciprocal of your focal length, i.e. 35mm lens at 1/35th, a 105mm lens at 1/105th, a 200 mm lens at 1/200th. Round up to the nearest actual shutter speed. Any shutter speed that is slower dictates a camera support that is more solid/steady that you, like a tripod. Alternatives can be readily appropriated from whatever you've got, with varying degrees of success as dictated by your personal aesthetic or slackness... t
     
  13. Just for clarification, I was using a tripod, as I was included in the portraits. But thanks for the help people, next time I'm either going to use flash or use a longer exposure time so I can use a smaller aperture. (f/8 would be nice) I used flash for my next set of portraits, and like I expected, the people in the back were slightly underexposed and the people in the front were exposed nicely. But I don't have the money for slaves or anything so this'll have to do, I'm not doing it professionally or anything, it's just family stuff.
     
  14. R_: And all I was suggesting was that I haven't had consistently good experiences shooting living persons (or animals) w/anything longer than 1/30th sec. The limiting factor for me isn't my ability to hold the camera steady (e.g., I can easily handhold down to 1/5th or 1/4th sec.), but rather my subject's ability/willingness to hold still. Then again, I usually shoot candid, not formal, portraits. Or maybe I just know too many fidgety people! ;-) ------- "I am simply suggesting that I have had good experience photographing people with slow shutter speeds when I want to use a slow film and want some depth of field."
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  15. m_.

    m_.

    Steve: some clarification from my post: >>You wrote: I didn't want to shoot f/3.5 either because that meant I was shooting wide angle and had to get close. I wasn't aiming at you used a 85mm lens. I was trying to make a point that aperture setting at f3.5 does not make your lens, regardless what focal lens length you use, a wide angle. 85mm lens is widely used for portraiture, therefore, I used it as an example. My fault not to make it claer in the first place. You could have used a 50mm lens at f3.5, that still doesn't make the lens a wide angle. >>you further wrote in response to my posting: I know enough about photography to be past the basics, this was my first indoor portrait shoot and needed some advice. Good for you, but it sounds like you got aperture and focal lens length confused all the same. I wasn't aiming at you not knowing anything about photography. I was suggesting a little more clarification when you do photography. If you know all about photography already, great.
     
  16. Christopher, Sounds like you need to take your subjects off Ritalin 24 hours before the shoot. I like the photo you posted.
     
  17. Wenton, I was shooting 28mm, in other words, i still have no idea what you're getting at. Because this is a zoom lens, and when you're at, say, 28mm, you're max aperture is f/3.5, at 50mm you get f/4.0 and at 105mm you get f/4.5. I couldn't get a decent shutter speed at f/4.5 which meant I had to zoom out to get to f/3.5, f/3.5 is at 28mm, 28mm is wide angle.... that was what I was saying the whole time. Just now in more detail.
     
  18. m_.

    m_.

    In nowhere you mentioned 28mm until now. All you said is f3.5. But...peace!
     
  19. That's right, all Steve said was 3.5 and that he couldn't use that aperture because he didn't want to use wide angle. You then assumed that he had confused aperture with focal length, I assumed that he was hand holding the camera, and he assumed we'd read between the lines and figure out what was going on... whew. Language can be so tricky, glad you've figured it out... or have you? (I'm still not sure)... t
     
  20. He must have a varifocal lens which changes aperture through the range. He only gets f3.5 if he zooms out to a wide angle. The questioner is correct and he is correct to attempt to get a good exposure before worrying about wide angle distortion: some picture is better than no picture. I would rather use at least a 1/8th if it is placed on a tripod. Yes, buy a used flash meter for $90: Minolta IIIF.
     

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