Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Why does f-stop matter?, part of Learning Natural Light Portrait Photography.
- Alright, well next I want to talk a little bit about the why and the how of working with aperture, and how we can use that to change the depth of field. Now, we've already been introduced to this topic, but I think we need to give it a little bit more time, and here's why. Often when you capture portraits you'll notice that the artist will use a low aperture value, which basically means that they're able to have this image that they capture at F/28, where the subject's in focus and the background is a blur.
Now, why does that actually matter? Well, I think that matters because that's how we see. In other words, if it's my wedding day, and all of a sudden I see my bride and she's walking towards me, I focus in on her and the rest of the world is an absolute blur. When we focus on things that we really care about, really whatever it is, the way our eyes work is that we focus in on that thing and then we tune out everything else. And the closer someone gets to us, maybe someone we really care about, like my daughter, or one of my kids, the more out of focus the background becomes.
So, one of the reasons why we tend to use this approach with our gear is because we're trying to simulate that. We're trying to create connection with the viewer. How do we actually do that and what does it look like? Well, let me show you with a few examples. Here's a photograph of a friend. This is Kelly, and she is standing in front of a dumpster, and this is F/16. So in this particular image, you can see that there she is, there's a dumpster behind her, and it doesn't look very good. Yet, take a look at this.
I'm just going to drop down my aperture value. Now, all of a sudden, the dumpster's a bit of a blur. All of a sudden, this is actually a usable portrait. Standing in this area in front of a dumpster, it works, right? But then when we take it to F/1.2, all of a sudden, the background is a complete blur. Now, knowing how to be able to work with lenses in this way is an incredibly great skill.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that we're always going to shoot at F/1.2. Sometimes you won't want to, or maybe even need to. In this case, the dumpster was really close to her, so we saw that. If it was further off in the distance, maybe we wouldn't need to blur that out quite as much, but still, you want to understand the overall concept. And you want to be able to really have that in your mind, that this, in a sense, is our before where we can see those distracting elements with a higher f-stop number, and then after the one where it's now just a complete blur, and we can focus in on the subject in this way.
Now, having this understanding really does affect how we work with our gear and what we select to use. For me as a portrait photographer, I have never purchased a lens which doesn't allow me to capture images with a really shallow depth of field. If I was a landscape photographer that would be completely different, because I would want more in focus. So again, the type of gear that we use and how we use it affects, or is affected by, the subject matter. And what we're trying to create, and our own vision for what that is.
And when it comes to lenses, there's something that's important to think about. And that is that they give us this range, right? Just to reiterate for a moment. If we shoot with a low f-stop number, F/28 or something like that, we have one subject in focus, the rest is a blur. If we have a higher f-stop number, well, then we have more in focus. And so with our lenses and our lens work, one of the things that we want to do is say okay, you know what? Aperture is really important. Now you can see why I use my aperture mode as my main setting for my camera. I love shooting with a shallow depth of field, so that's what I prioritize, and the camera kind of takes care of the rest.
Now, when it comes to selecting and choosing the right lens which really matches your vision, there are some other things that we want to think about as well. I like to think about these things kind of like the personality of the lens. Now, these are controlled or defined by the lens's angle of view, or whether it's introducing some compression or some distortion into the frame. So let's talk further about finding the perfect portrait lens, and let's do that in the next movie.
In this course, photographer Chris Orwig shows how to shoot effective portraits in natural light—even when the light isn't great. Chris explains how to find the best light, use open shade to your advantage, and leverage the uniqueness of doorway light. He also goes into camera and lens considerations, creating better compositions, working with people, planning for a shoot, and tackling a live shoot. Plus, he shares some tips for earning income as a people photographer.
- Why back light is great for portraits
- Lighting from the side
- Using open shade to your advantage
- Working with dappled and window light
- Camera and lens considerations
- Choosing the right lens
- Creating better compositions
- Posing and directing subjects
- Preparing for a shoot
- Earning income as a people photographer
- Jumpstarting your professional delivery