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Shooting Portraits Wide Open vs Stopping Down: The Breakdown with Miguel Quiles

Shooting Portraits Wide Open vs Stopping Down: The Breakdown with Miguel Quiles


In this video I’ll show you guys how changing your aperture can give you completely different results, when you’re shooting portraits! Welcome back to The Breakdown. My name is Miguel Quiles. I am here in downtown Denville, New Jersey with Ashley once again, and forgive the sound of the traffic, because we are kind of on the side of a road right now. I will kind of add this as a little extra bonus piece to this video that if you’re looking for a really cool interesting place to shoot, sometimes you’ll end up like me where I’m just driving around town, and I’m like hey this looks like a really cool place, let me stop and take photos! This is literally just the side of a random road, and you’ll see how the pictures will turn out. It’s kind of a cool spot, but what we’re going to talk about today, is selecting your aperture, and how that impacts what your portraits actually end up looking like. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to take some photos with the 85 mm, 1.8 lens. Now let’s show you the difference between taking a portrait wide open at 85 1.8 versus taking a portrait at maybe something like a f/5.6 or an f/8. So to start off with, we are shooting with a 6500, and we’re going to shoot these shots wide open now. One of the things that’s really helpful for me is. I have the electronic viewfinder that gives me a live exposure. So I could actually see as I’m dialing in my settings, what the end result is going to be. It’s going to come in handy right now. So Ashley, what I’m going to have you do is, you’re going to stand right here in front of me. We’re going to use this small reflector, it’s just the silver, maybe a foot-and-a-half reflector. It’s pretty small, I’m just going to have you hold on to that, and I want to keep this simple. You can definitely get a reflector stand that would be much better for your models, and your subjects, because they don’t have to hold the reflector, but we’re going to keep it really basic, because maybe, I don’t know, maybe you don’t have a stand, and you just want to make these types of portraits work. So you could have your model hold it, just like this. We’re going to dial in our settings, we’re going to be at f/1.8 ISO 100, and we’re going to try 1 over 320th of a second. We’re going to see what that looks like here, and so we’re shooting wide open, and the goal here when you’re shooting portraits, is you want to blur the background, and I think this is probably the most common way that people will shoot portraits is to shoot whatever wide open is on your lens. So if it’s at a f/1.8 or f/1.4, very common to shoot portraits that way. Now the advantage of it is, if you have a really distracting background, you’re going to blur the background, and it will make your subjects stand out. However on the flip side, what it also does is, it actually eliminates skin texture, because what happens is, I’ll get her eyes perfectly sharpened in focus, but then everything else just kind of gets blurry. Her skin gets blurry, her ears get blurry, That could be okay, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in post-production retouching the photo, you can shoot it up 1.8, and it’s going to blur pretty much everything except the eyes, which is good. What I like to do is, I like to get a lot of texture in the skin. I like to have portraits that kind of have like a high definition type of look, and in order to do that, I shoot at a higher f-stop to accomplish that, so I want to show you the difference between shooting and wide open, and then we’re going to shoot this right now at an f/5.6, which, if you have a kit lens you should be able to even shoot it in f/5.6 and it’s going to end up looking really good. Now if I bring my f-stop up to 5.6, so I’m going to have to change my ISO, and my shutter in order to be able to take this photo. So we’re going to bring our speed down to 1/200th of a second, and I’m actually going to bring my ISO up to 1/320th. Now you might be asking me well why do you have to shoot at 1/200th if she’s not moving. The key is that I want to minimise the blur that’s happening for me hand holding this camera, as well as her, she might move around. So if I shoot it at a 200th of a second, that should hopefully get us a really nice sharp shot. So if I’m at a 1/200th, I have to bring my ISO up to compensate. So that I could be at f/5.6 so again that lands me at f/5.6 1.3 or 1/200th of a second, ISO 320. I want you to really take notice of the differences between shooting at f/1.8 vs. f/5.6, and obviously as I like continue to increase my aperture, if I go to f/8 and f/11 you start to get more detail in the skin, more texture. It does create a little bit more work for you in post-production, but it looks pretty cool. All right so that is the differences between shooting at different apertures when you’re shooting portraits! Let me know what questions you have in the comments section below. While you’re here make sure that you follow Ashley on her social media platforms that are going to be linked in the description for this video. Follow me as well, I post images all the time, sharing my settings and all that kind of good stuff, also follow Adoramatv. Subscribe to their channel here on youtube they have new videos coming out all the time, including my show which comes out every other Thursday, and also check out the Adorama Learning Center there’s a lot of great articles there as well, that will teach you everything you need to know about photography and videography, and all that good stuff. Thanks for watching The Breakdown once again I will see you in the next video

100 comments on “Shooting Portraits Wide Open vs Stopping Down: The Breakdown with Miguel Quiles

  1. Thank's for this video. It confirmes that very fast lenses are NOT useful for portraits. Marketing keeps hashing and rehashing the same old song : "Buy the most expensive lens and you'll make the best pictures for sur". Are we obliged to believe those nonsense ?

  2. As a former New Jersey resident, who hated the weather with a passion ( I am now safely ensconced in Florida), it is great photography weather. I much prefer shooting outdoors in cloudy and overcast conditions.

  3. I am just wondering , having read many comments about the retouching issue mentioned towards the end of this video, why one would make a video talking about a method of increasing detail in a model's photo and then so retouch them that the details are then lost? At least that's what the "retouched" photos look to me.

  4. Is it me or does it bother you when a supposed professional photographer holds the camera the way he is? The lens should rest in the palm of the hand to give more support, therefore stability to the camera.

  5. Nice video and nice shots. When it comes to avoiding camera shake… You do realise that you are holding your camera in an unstable way aren't you? Other than that, nice work!

  6. This was a nearly 6 minute video that could be 2-3. Better to save details like shooting settings and product details / links for description and/or comments.

  7. Why would you care about her skin texture when in the end you edit photos so much skin looks fake and there is no texture at all?

  8. Way way too heavy on the retouching. You said you like skin texture, but then you turn her face into a mannequin.

  9. your description and story was really good. However, you ruined everything with that retouching. You ironed all the skin textures and you wanted to make a point that higher aperture numbers are great because they preserve the texture. Pointless. Final images look just awful.

  10. He's a fashion and beauty photographer of course they are edited in Photoshop, some more than others depending on what the clients want.

  11. I completely agree with Miguel.

    At f 1.8, crop camera, 85 mm, 1.5 m portrait distance, you will have a depth of field (DOF) of only 2 cm! Just reframing or a slight movement (model, photographer) will result in many unsharp images! Nose and the other eye at least will not be sharp. Most of the time you don't want this. A blurred nose looks strange.

    You have to decide what DOF you want in advance! Use a DOF calculator or your experience.

    Say you want a DOF of 7 cm to get at least all of the skin sharp. You'll have to set f 5.6. For 9 cm take f 8.0.
    Now everything you want will be sharp with some room for movements while framing.
    Sharpness and details are even important if you retouch the image: because for retouching with advanced techniques like frequency separation you will need all the fine details to get exactly what you want from post.

    The retouching of the second image (f 5.6) may be over the top. As a consequence, most negative comments miss Miguels' main point.

    -Regards, Mino

  12. @3:15 uh, but with a cheap kit lens, you are not going to get the HD sharpness Miguel is talking about.
    And remember – the closer you are to your subject (regardless of settings/camera/lens) the shorter the DOF is! He is QUITE close to his subject (maybe 4 feet away). So using that knowledge can gain you greater DOF or shallower DOF with any camera/lens/settings. It's physics.

  13. ISO 1320.. I look at my Fuji C200 hm well.. no portraits for poor film shooter.

    Blurring skin by camera not so good idea, we always can add more softness in Lightroom, but cannot add more details.

  14. Liked the video but I got motion sick watching it, too much motion by video person. (just feedback from a person sensitive to motion.

  15. So you shoot at 5.6 because you LIKE the, as you said, high definition of the skin texture, but then blurred it out in post? Does that really make sense to anyone?

  16. Math and experience show that F/4 will be ideal and if you need all face razor sharp, go down to F/9 if you light condition permit. Regards, Mira

  17. Why I hate new photographers. Way to much on liquifying skin. SCREAMS FAKE.
    Is the model allowed to look real anymore?

    How about this. Shoot film. Have it developed. Show me those. That's how you should learn. Get it right in camera with some reality.

  18. Stop yapping about shit that doesn't apply to the topic. I don't need minutes of you rambling on about things other than appeture's effect on portraits. You're not that interesting.

  19. Hi, i work in aesthetics and we take pictures before and after the sessions of treaments of our patients, so i am wondering what type of camera and camera lens would you recommand to capture the skin problems clearly (scars, acne, wrinkles…). thank you in advance

  20. you like f5.6 to keep details of the skin texture, yet you blur the skin in retouching to the level where it looks like plastic..

  21. Yeeeea use 5.6 to retain that nice skin texture… Then photoshopped the shit out of skin texture.

    I don't mind the fake commercial look and pics are decent, most of women will prefer this over natural look anyway but that texture exercise is bit pointless 🙂

    Perhaps you should emphasise the dof issue and not texture? I'm a lvl2 amateur so I know haha.

  22. Some photogs prefer wide open aperture but my tip is to go two stops down. Ex. Instead of 1.4 shoot at 2.0 or 2.2 that way you don't risk the eyes being out of focus and enough of the skin detail is shown. Also most lenses sweet spot is at this setting. By the way you don't have to stop at this location just to take a headshot😋

  23. detail on the skin? why? you want to see the pores on the skin? it's just doesn't make sense, shooting wide open is softer and that's alright for the human skin, no need for post processing softening, you have that already with the lens. you are trading the valuable more light and shallow depth of field for a factor that is not needed for skin, even later, why you need that detail on the skin? to soften it in Lightroom? this rule is for landscape and cityscape not for portraits, going for details is just a bad habit, like bringing back the shadows on all pictures where darkness is better in the composition. pixel peeping is bad habit, soft pictures are better sometimes, dark shadows are better sometimes, even when you make prints, detail is not everything, you need the see photo in the all of the aspects. i made the mistake about the shadows too but I can correct my edits, that's how it works, we learned bad habits too, but we can change it later 🙂 Digital photography is little messed up with post processing, in the film era you had a very little freedom about processing and it was challenging, in the digital photography we have more freedom but is better to use it like a wise man, less is more 🙂

  24. why would you make a video about showing skin texture and then completely remove all the texture from all the pictures??

  25. I did not like the background in the 5.6 in the first example but I do see the difference in the skin texture. I will do some test with something between 1.8 and 5.6. Thanks for a great video.

  26. So many things wrong with this video, and other commenters have already pointed them out but I’m gonna say it again…

    You pick a “cool location” and then shoot to remove it?

    You want more skin texture, but edit it into oblivion?

    You want to a HD look but you up your ISO even though you have ample lighting?

    What were you thinking? You must not have been.

  27. one of my biggest beefs with lenses is buying an already expensive 1.2 lens to find out it is sharpest at 5.6. So, how much more do I need to spend to get a 1.2 lens that is actually sharp at 1.2?

  28. Yes face texture is improved but i see more light and less noise on wider aperture! On my opinion it’s better take two step away the model and use 1.8 to catch more face textures on your model

  29. After retouching who cares about what aperture was used? She looks like a mummy with plastic skin!
    Just horrible!

  30. I'm sorry but the post-production looks super artificial really more a prime example of how to not post process any image ..

  31. If you took her further away from the wall (last pictures) on 5.6 then the background would be as blurry as the left picture without losing any detail on her face..

  32. I'm curious as too why the shape of the face changed with only and aperture change? Also, it's curious that there is more specularity in the 5.6 examples. Personally I prefer the wide open shots better.

  33. Great tut! Good tips! I have a 1.4 so I usually shoot at 1.8 2.0 or 2.2. But I don't shoot fashion or skin texture like this. I shoot military persons in uniformed ceremonies.

  34. Its interesting that, you was just driving with your model, camera man, reflector, camera mic everything randomly and you found a place so you thought we should park and take photos.

  35. If you want a sharp subject (your sharpest aperture) then put the camera on a tripod, shoot the subject at full open, then do it again at your sharpest aperture, then use photoshop to overlay the shots (so then you have a super sharp subject, and a blown-out background) only works on a tripod though and is obviously a lot easier with a non-moving subject

  36. Would have shot F4, increased the distance between the subject and the background and not airbrushed the hell out of it!

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