Tutorials

Portrait Photography – Take Your Photography to the Next Level

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Taking portraits?
Need some advice?

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One of the reasons why people choose to buy a camera is for portraiture, or more specifically, so one can take photos of friends and family. This may be the reason why you purchased an X Series camera or even why you might be considering one.

Let’s assume you have an X Series camera in your hand for the first time and wanted to capture a portrait. Looking down at the dials on top of the camera may leave you feeling quite lost about the settings you should use to capture the perfect portrait. It is a common ‘freak out’ moment among many first time users, so don’t worry.

In this article we will explain how to capture a portrait if you are just starting out using automatic mode and if you wish to grow in your photography level 2 explains a more professional approach to portraiture using aperture priority.

Level 1 – Beginner: Automatic Mode

Fujifilm X Series cameras are built from the ground up to enable anyone to capture a perfect photo no matter what their experience. The balance of intelligent design, research and development combined with incredible image quality boasts itself in all modes of the camera, including the automatic mode.

Sometimes just picking up a camera and turning it on to capture the moment is all you need to do. It can be a great starting place to invigorate your creative spark and really get you into photography.

To start operating your X Series in Automatic mode change the following settings pictured below to the red ‘A’.

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Depending on the Fujinon lens, you may also find the ‘A’ setting on the aperture ring.

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The settings we will explore in this article (and pictured above) include shutter speed, aperture and ISO. These three corner store settings will form the base of your photography skill over the years and understanding them will take time so don’t worry if it doesn’t all sink in to begin with.

Basically, by setting the camera to auto you tell it to automatically calculate how much light should be let into the camera, how much of the subject should be in focus and how light sensitive you want the camera to be. These three settings are shutter speed, aperture and ISO respectively.

The second step when photographing in automatic mode is to ensure you select automatic focus or ‘S’ on your camera. Selecting this mode will ensure whenever you half-press the shutter button to take a photo of a stationary object (in this case a person) the camera will autofocus on the subject automatically.

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Tip: If you are photographing children, turning the focus mode to ‘C’ for Continuous as this is the best option for moving subjects.

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So you see, this mode isn’t all that hard to use. You will be surprised what success you can generate when photographing in automatic mode.

Tip: Did you know the Fujifilm X-T10 has an automatic switch that overrides all of the cameras settings? This feature makes the Fujifilm X-T10 a perfect choice for entry level photographers.

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If you want to take your photography to the next level it’s important to learn a few things about aperture priority and F-stops.

Level 2 – Professional: Changing your aperture (F-stop)

Changing the what?

F-stop is a term that refers to the amount or value of light coming in through the lens and it’s commonly referred to as aperture, something we briefly talked about when describing automatic mode.

Aperture, put simply is an adjustable sized hole in the lens you can change. The aperture is measured by numbers (F-stop), and selecting one of these numbers will determine how much of the subject is in focus. We will explain the numbers that appear on the lenses further through images for a clearer comparison, but first, do you remember when we talked about the corner stone settings that will form a basis of your photography?

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Aperture is one of those corner stone settings, so this means whenever you manually choose a priority setting, like shutter speed; aperture; or ISO, the camera will automatically take care of the remaining two modes. In this case, we would be changing the aperture by manually selecting the F-stop found on the lens, the shutter speed and ISO would then be set to automatic ‘A’. The jargon for this would be to say we are shooting in ‘Aperture Priority mode’.

Many portrait photographers photograph in Aperture Priority to ensure they utilise the best depth of field their lens can offer. The resulting picture is a subject in focus separated from the background by blur. If you are to take one thing away from this article, remember the following as it will make a huge difference to your portrait photography:

 

To obtain a shallow depth of field change the aperture to the smallest number (ie F2.8)
Think small F-stop = small amount in focus
Image result: The person will be in focus and the background will be very blurred.

 

To obtain a large depth of field change the aperture to the largest number (ie F22)
Think large F-stop = lots in focus.
Image result: The person will be in focus and the background will also be in focus.

 

Another important thing to keep in mind when manually photographing in Aperture Priority is to ensure you have a knowledge of the numbers on the front of your lens. Let’s use the popular kit lens, the Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 lens as an example.

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Breaking down the numbers the 18-55mm describes the focal length of the lens. 18mm describes the widest angle of the lens, whereas if you were to zoom in the maximum focal length it would be 55mm. This makes sense when written, but what about the accompanying numbers, the F-stop values?

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The listed F-stops of F2.8-4 describes the limits of the aperture (remember that hole in the lens). It is also true to say that the F-stop values on the front of the lens correspond to the focal length of the lens.

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For instance, if you zoom out to the widest point of the lens you will be able to select F2.8 as the maximum aperture ensuring you get the maximum depth of field the lens can offer.

However, if you zoom in to 55mm (to get closer) the maximum aperture decreases to F4, or in real world terms the hole in the lens gets smaller, therefore letting in less light.

Understanding these numbers will provide a greater insight into lens pricing and the amount of depth of field the lens offers. The easiest way to remember this is if the lens has a fixed aperture, for example the XF50-140mmF2.8 then no matter if you zoom in or out the size of the aperture is the same value – F2.8. In other words there will be no light loss. Whereas in our example of the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 there will be some light loss at the longer focal length.

So what does this mean? Can you still take great portraits at a focal length of 55mm at F4 using the standard kit lens found on most X Series cameras?

Yes, of course, you can! The only difference is the amount of subject matter that will be out of focus when compared to a photograph at F2.8. Remember when we said, “To obtain a shallow depth of field change the aperture to the smallest number (ie F2.8)”.

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Tip: To take the best photo using the XF18-55mm at 55mm we would encourage you to increase your distance away from your subject and zoom in while photographing in aperture priority at F4.

The other alternative, if depth of field is important to you, is to consider a specific portrait lens that has a small aperture. This may help explain why there are so many lenses available for X Series cameras. For instance, did you know there is an excellent portrait lens available in the form of the XF56mmF1.2 lens?

Can you guess what the photo will look like if you were to photograph in aperture priority at F1.2? We leave you to answer that in the comments below…

Hopefully, by reading this article and coming back to every now and again, these explanations may help you in the future. Remember, it’s not important to remember everything noted here when you start out, that’s not the point, rather what we want you to learn is just one thing at a time.

Learn ‘that’ one thing so it becomes second nature, and over time you can increase your learning. Other ways you can learn photography may include joining a photography club, attending a photography meetup, workshop or photowalk and lastly, when it comes time to purchasing a lens, we encourage you to visit an expert at a retail store – their knowledge on specific lenses could save you all the Googling!

7 replies »

  1. Love your work here and thank you for the Tips. I try to keep it either on Manual mode or Aperture mode. I just notice that auto doesn’t capture darker skin tones as well. Thank you again and I’m reposting this great post to my site DeiScribe.com

    Like

  2. Great article thankyou is it possible to get some lessons like this for a XA2 , as the camera set up or dials are different , have been looking for some help but must be looking in the wrong places , many thanks in advance.
    Grant Bason

    Like

    • Hi Grant, glad you enjoyed the article! You can set your X-A2 into Aperture Priority mode by turning the mode dial to the ‘A’ option. Then the aperture value can be adjusted by turning the rear command dial (the plain black dial just down from the top of the camera).

      If you’d like to contact us on 1800 226 355 selecting option 4 (Mon-Fri) we could go through any questions you might have, and recommend further settings to play with.

      Kind Regards,
      Fujifilm Cameras Australia – Neil

      Like

      • Thanks for replying Neil ,as a new photographer with an awesome Fuji camera any help is greatly received I have taken some great pics already with this amazing camera and look forward to taking many more looking forward to more tips on the blog.

        Liked by 1 person

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