As you cradled your first ever digital SLR (DSLR), you were probably excited. You honestly thought you wouldn’t have to do much thinking anymore and that things would be a breeze!
It’s almost always the same drill, a new camera arrives and a proud owner unboxes it. After charging its battery, they decide to take it for a test run. The test invariably includes taking pictures of things they’ve photographed a dozen times before with their regular point-and-shoot or with their camera phone. All they’re thinking about is how effortless photography would subsequently be. Only, they’re just very much mistaken.
The truth is, the magic isn’t just in the camera itself. Whether you shoot indoors or outdoors, adding “oomph” to your photographs requires something from you. Even a seasoned professional cannot create a true work of art unless they focus on key elements such as exposure, focus and white balance. So, if you’re armed with your DSLR and are looking for something challenging like shooting portraits outdoors, there are certain pointers that can make your experience gratifying. You will also end up capturing some excellent portraits if you stick to these guidelines.
1. Depth of Field in Portrait Photography
In simple terms, depth of field (DoF) is the space in front of and behind a sharply focused subject in a picture. For varying situations, you can have a choice in aperture opening to set your desired sharpness in a photograph. If you choose little sharpness, it is called a shallow DoF. A large DoF is when you aim for everything to appear very sharp. As subjects need to be clearly defined in a portrait and you can sacrifice the focus off other elements, it is best to choose a shallow DoF.
Three main factors influence DoF:
At the highest aperture, you will have the lowest DoF – any decrease in aperture will increase your DoF. At f/4, the DoF will be shallower than at f/16.
Lens’ Focal Length
If you have a wide angle lens, meaning it has a short focal length, you will have a large DoF. In other words, using a 20mm lens will give you a greater DoF than making use of a 200mm.
When you are focusing on distant objects, you have a greater DoF compared to shooting subjects that are up close.
For outdoor portraits, it is best to make use of Aperture Priority mode, which lets you control the aperture while the camera manages the shutter speed. Being able to manipulate your DoF can vastly improve your results. You should also use a lens with a long focal length for great outdoor portraits; anything above 75mm should do the trick. First, they will help narrow your viewing angle and provide a shallow depth of field. Next, they help in the issue of lens distortion. You will be able to shoot a portrait with a good perspective from afar without having to be in your subject’s face.