Here’s my #1 Tip for getting great photos of people (and other subjects), no matter where you are.
It’s all about Aperture!
Aperture is the same as f-stop, usually designated by f-# . The # is a fraction of the lens opening. The lower the number, the larger the opening – yes it’s math. Sorry about that. So f4 is 1/4 of the entire lens opening.
I frequently use a 70-200 f2.8 lens so I can blur out distracting backgrounds. Yes, it gets a bit tricky to nail focus, but done well, the results are so worth it!
Back Up & Zoom In
Also remember that the more telephoto the lens, the more blur in the background. Although you can get great shots with a 50mm f1.8 (and I dearly love my 50!), I feel like 200mm zoom (or 4x closer than 50mm – 4x narrower field of view), gives me even better backgrounds. It “compresses” and “narrows” the field of view (angle of the lens left to right), concentrating that much more attention on the subject.
Want an easy formula? Here we go…
- Start with your most telephoto lens
- Set your ISO first – always! For still subjects outdoors, 200 should be fine. If your subject is moving, you can go to 400 iso.
- Place your subject far away from any background objects if possible (not up against a wall please!). Watch so that there are no bright colors, high contrast shapes behind them. If there are, start by YOU moving from side to side just 1 step and see if that distraction is out of the picture?
- Back up – you need to start about 10′ away from your subject or so…
- ZOOM IN – depending on your lens, 200mm or 300mm is what you’re looking for. Crank it out until it stops.
- Set you aperture! The easiest way for me is to set the top dial to A mode for Nikon, or AV for Canon, and then turn my thumb wheel to the lowest number. Typically f5.6 in most consumer lenses.
- For SLR users – Look through the lens – eye to camera. See the numbers on the bottom of the viewfinder? Make sure your shutter speed is at least 60 – or 1/60 of a second. If it’s lower, adjust your ISO to a higher number.
- Remember to check your background! Sidestep to avoid poles, bright spots, distracting colors & shapes.
- USE FLASH! Which is also a whole other multitude of posts. Lets just say if you’re within 15′ of your subject, flash outdoors can REALLY improve your images! Yes, even the tiny built-in flash on the top of the camera. Push the little lightning bolt button to make it pop & fire!
If I’ve confused you at all, I hope to see you at the next Digital Photography 101 class where we get you started in the direction of learning more about your camera. I’m sure your people photos will improve even just doing the BACK UP & ZOOM IN trick.
Want to learn more? Join me in an upcoming photography class at Evendale Cultural Arts Center in Cincinnati Ohio.