Shoot At The Widest Aperture Setting for Basic Portrait Photography

I started off to learn photography with a prosumer digital SLR camera. My initial thought was to learn basic portrait photography, without spending much on equipment. Back then, this equipment was new to me, and I don’t have a good background of which portrait lens is best for me. Neither do I know about the term ‘aperture’ and ‘focal length’, nor knowing how this 2 terms affect the photographic results.

Are you one of the self-starter, yet troubled by deciding what is best for you?

You may say, “This is not the main concern, because purchasing a new digital SLR usually comes with a general purpose kit lens”. I agree, it is either a standard zoom lens or a telephoto zoom lens. Even today, I have also noticed that most amateur photographers use kit lens as well. There is nothing wrong with this, and this was what I did back then.

After months of diligence learning in portrait photography, I realized that the results of portrait shoots does not has maximum emphasis. In particularly the background, it looks equally as sharp as the subject. Shouldn’t the background supposed to be blur? Have you experienced this before?

Please read on to learn about the causes and basic criteria for good portrait photograph.

  1. Using telephoto zoom lens, wide angle lens, or macro lens is not the key factors for blurring the background. However, it does contribute to the portraiture composition. The main criteria for good portrait is selecting wide aperture for your lens.
  2. The aperture of lens refers to the round mechanical openings located at the center of lens. It control the amount of lights passes through and into the digital SLR sensors.
  3. Aperture is expressed as F-stop, e.g. F2.8 or f/2.8. The smaller the number, the larger the lens opening.
  4. Most of the general purpose kit lens comes with aperture of f4-5.6 or f3.5-5.6.
  5. Be selective. Always shoot at the widest aperture setting. Recommended to own a lens with adjustable aperture. At least f/2.8 or lower.
  6. This basic feature enable the photographer to create a shallow depth of field. Capable of blurring the background, thus, emphasizing a sharp focus on the portraiture.
  7. Simplest settings on for the camera’s body is to use Aperture Priority auto-exposure mode, also know as AP mode. Otherwise, select fully manual mode and experiment it with low F-Stop.

After all, just be reminded that selecting the right lens with wide aperture is very important for good portrait photography. Below portrait photograph has clearly demonstrated the use of  widest aperture setting.

Baby Portrait with Wide Aperture Setting
Baby Portrait with Wide Aperture Setting. Specification: 50mm, f1.8

Flickr Photo credit to R.Gringo’s photostream.