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Old 30th August 2010
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Best portrait settings?

Okay, so I have some Minolta glass that I use for portraits, because it goes down to 2.0

My question is, is it okay to use a 45mm lens for portraits, seeing as balck in film they suggest 90mm lensess for portraits, and when you put a lens on a digital it's the equiv. to 2x that making a 45mm lens the same as a 90mm.

Then I also wanted to know what the best settings in aperture priority for portraits would be. I know the ISO shouldn't exceed 400, but should I have it more soft than sharp, more or less contrast, and more or less contrast. Also what should I have other settings set to, like noise reductions, high/low key, etc.

Thank you in advance.
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Old 31st August 2010
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Graham_of_Rainham Graham_of_Rainham is offline
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Re: Best portrait settings?


Forget all about lenses and settings, that is so much less important than getting the lighting right for the subject.

Different subjects need different lighting and the most important thing by far is to know what you want the end result to look like from the start rather than try to shoot with what you have got.

An f2 lens can give you such a shallow DoF that you will have trouble getting both eyes in focus unless the head is square on to the lens, which is not a very flattering pose for many subjects.

I often shoot portraits with anything from 28mm to 200mm (35mm eqiv) as sometimes perspective that is produced by a certian focal length can enhance features depending on the composition. A fixed length is not always the best, although I do use my 50mm f/2 macro for a lot of shots.

Always remember that a good portrait session must have a good interaction going on to get the best out of the subject.

Have fun.


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Old 31st August 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

Well I know about the lighting. I've got that down for the most part, I'm just trying to pull every last bit I can out of my equiptment as well. And I know the f/2.0 has a shalllow DoF, I actually like that because it lets you emphasize stuff better.

Thank you for your reply though
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Old 31st August 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

Originally Posted by BigBCC View Post
Well I know about the lighting. I've got that down for the most part, I'm just trying to pull every last bit I can out of my equiptment as well. And I know the f/2.0 has a shalllow DoF, I actually like that because it lets you emphasize stuff better.

Thank you for your reply though

f2?? Focus on the eye

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Old 1st September 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

Shoot raw files if possible, then you will have much more control over sharpness, contrast. white balance, colour saturation, etc. at the processing stage. If shooting JPEGs I would suggest turning down the contrast and especially sharpness as more can always be added when processing but if you've over sharpened in camera it's not so easy to put right.

Low ISO will help with fine detail and lack of noise, but there may be times when your subject would suit a B&W conversion from a noisey image to get a harsh, grainy effect. Noise reduction in camera is not needed at low ISO and can be clumsy and overdone at high ISO. Far better to use a specialist noise reduction program when processing, if you have one.

Generally avoid high key or low key unless you are after a specific effect. These settings don't automatically provide a special effect for you, they merely under or over expose to a pre-determined value and it's nothing you cannot do with normal exposue compensation. An example of when you might choose high key would be when you want a light, dreamy efect of, say, a young girl backlit against a white background. Conversely, low key may well suit the hard, angular face of a street-toughened male, strongly spot lit to emphasize certain features as he emerges from the dark shadows. You will need to experiment with these type of situations, but the beauty of digital is that you have instant playback allowing you to assess the success of your shot and adjust and re-shoot if necessary.

Oh, and one last setting - Auto gradation. Avoid this like the plague. It takes away all exposure control from you, the photographer, and puts the camera in charge. You don't have a clue what the camera is doing and the camera doesn't have a clue what you are trying to achieve. It attempts to process exposure adjustments to selected areas of your image to its own criteria and if it tries to pull out too much detail from shadows that you want left as shadows you can end up with more noise than a Led Zeppelin gig even at low ISO.

Have fun and let us know how you get on.

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Old 1st September 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

Zuiko has good advice, but if you are looking for typical studio type settings, with the flashes set up for the required distance & aperture etc, a good starting point in M is shutter speed at the normal flash shutter speed of your camera (or nearest setting) such as 160 for the E420 & f8 @ ISO 100. The flashes can be adjusted for the best strength, distance, spread, filters etc & adjusting the aperture on the camera for variations in exposure. That is a fairly rough starting point.

If you are using an attached flash (eg FL50/R) then bounce flash in a room with a white ceiling is good & for best clean photos use ISO 100 (if possible with enough exposure) & again starting with f8 for enough DoF (if that is desired & if there is sufficient exposure).

That is some of my starting points.
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Old 1st September 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

What you don't really want with female portraits is too sharp a lens although I suspect an old Minolta won't really be like that. The ZD 50mm f2 can be too sharp if you get close to your subject and the resultant image can often require some softening in Photoshop.
How ironic, as for the most part we are all after sharper lenses!

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Old 2nd September 2010
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Re: Best portrait settings?

Thanks for all the comments. Hopefully soon I'll be able to set up a studio, but at tghe moment I'm broke, but I may have some odd-job outdoor portrait sessions to shoot for a couple of my friend's parents and stuff.

I really enjoy my camera, and I always shoot with RAW+JPEG, but again, thank you for all the replies.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Best portrait settings?

for portraits consider what you want to include
then include that
anything else needs to be subdued or well out of focus
the eyes are first and then you may have some clothing, hair and props
i try to use the 45 end of my 17.5-45 since as you pointed out a good focal length for portraits is 90 or over
this flattens perspective...the nose.. and if you get close enough blows out any background
i have used on 35mm either 105 or 200 as well
and on occasions a 55 macro.. really close to get a 'personality' shot
all took what i needed and no more
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