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Thread: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

  1. #1
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    Default Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    hey guys. i occasionally get some of my friends to pose and i take shots of them. however, some of my shots sometimes dont turn out too good. as i'm new to portrait photography, would appreciate if you guys could help me out with a few of my queries

    1) i use mostly a 50mm f/1.8 on my 350D. not because everyone says it's a good portrait lens. but rather because i think it's easy to frame with the 50mm prime. it's bright as well. however, do any of you ever shoot at f/1.8? my experience with shooting at f/1.8 is mixed. generally, the face of my 'model' is sharp. but then her body is kinda soft. e.g. her face is sharp, but maybe from the neck downwards, can see some obvious softening. is it because i set it at f/1.8? or is there something that i missed out? what apertures do you all usually shoot at? i mostly shoot outdoors, late afternoon.

    2) how do you use bounce flash outdoors? there's nothing to bounce on right? i have a bounce card. getting a stofen omnibounce soon. thinking of perhaps a eastgear orion softbox instead. anyone used the eastgear one? anyway, what kind of fill flash do you guys use in the daytime? bounce card with flash straight up 90deg? or omnibounce at 45 deg? i'm using sigma 500 super. i'd rahter not use a reflector cos i dont usually have an assistant. yah...so not that feasible for me.

    3) whihc metering mode on 350D do you guys use? i notice there is no spot metering on 350D? there is partial, evaluative, and one more...can't rem. anyway, was thinking that if spot metering was used, and you meter the model's face, wouldn't then the face be nicely exposed, but then the background completely blown? especially in a backlit situation?

    yup....thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    To be honest, I don't do much of this kind of photography and hence know very little. But since nobody has posted in the last few hours, I'll offer what I can:

    1. Going based on the photo tests I saw at one of the threads here on the 50mm f/1.8, the images are soft anyway if the lens is used wide open, and the real sharpness comes in at around f/2.8 onwards. Some users even mention that wide open, the lens is noticeable sharper at the center than it is towards the edges. At that focal length and at f/1.8, the DOF is also narrow, which explains why most of your subject's features appear soft. They are actually out of focus. Attempt f/2.8 on some shots and see how the results turn out. Open up as necessary to achieve the DOF you need.

    3. There is something on the 350D that's called the AE mode, and that should allow you to lock the exposure for a particular object and allow you to recompose the scene before actually shooting. When this happens under strong backlit conditions the background will be blown-out. If you want a correctly-exposed background, then use evaluative metering and activate the popup flash, which will act as a fill-in flash.

    If the flash is too harsh, diffuse it a little with a handkerchief or tissue paper. There's also a thing called Flash Exposure Compensation, and I don't quite understand how it works. But if we dial it down into the negative values, perhaps it'll result in a weaker flash?? Someone might be able to fill you in on this.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    1. Most lenses are soft wide open, sharpness increases when u stop down. However, the problem you are facing here is the lack of depth of view. Depending on the situation, the shallow DOF may be what you are looking for since many people find it pleasing as it accentuates the subject from the background. It also gives a more 3 dimensional effect. Just have to note that important points in your picture (eg, BOTH eyes) should be in focus.

    2. You are correct that there's nothing for you to bounce light on outdoors. I find the omnibounce to be totally useless in this aspect. Generally, a bounce card works better. Of course you can use a reflector to bounce the flash, but you either need a helper or a reflector holder (looks something like a lightstand but comes with additional clamps). Angle wise, it really depends on the effect you want to achieve and the shape of the face.

    3. Which ever metering mode you use, flash is mostly used as a fill in (unless at night). So, your aperture/shutter speed should be set such that the background is correctly exposed. Then the flash will help to fill up the shadows of your subject. Settings may vary depending on direction of ambient light.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    so what do people usually do in outdoor portrait flash photography? put the flash straight on? wouldnt that mean the light becomes harsh?

    or would there be a benefit using the bounce card at a 45deg angle. or even a stofen omnibounce at 45deg? or perhaps omnibounce straight on just to provide a little diffusing or softening effect?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    As far as my limited knowledge of flash photography tells me, using flash for outdoor photography (day) where ambient light is sufficient as main source of light is for situations where ambient lighting is inadequate. The most classical example being, your subject is back facing the light source. In which case, a silhouette/underexposed subject will occur. A fill in flash will reduce this underexposure.

    Other applications of flash for outdoor photography is to control the intensity and directions of light. For example, there might be some shadowed areas in your subjects or composition which you don't want, thus you can employ flash to get rid of these shadows. The same applies when you want your subjects to be situated at certain spots where the angle of light is unsuitable.

    Alternatively, you can look for natural reflectors such as a pool, a smooth light-coloured surface (wall, pavement etc). Or you can buy reflectors (cumbersome lah)

    Just my 2 cents

  6. #6

    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    1) You obviously are thinking about having more DOF. There is no hard and fast rule for portrait photography and hence you can take great portraits with paper thin DOF, it is not necessary at all to have both eyes in focus if you have a valid reason not to, but if a shot includes the eyes, it is a good practice to focus on them. At f1.8, do not focus lock and recompose, you'll lose the focus. Try to use a tripod and frame, then adjust your AF point to target the focal point of your choice. I've found this to be the most accurate method. There is also no fixed aperture to shoot at, but you would probably either be a fan of large DOF shots or small DOF shots; large aperture gives you less DOF and a small aperture gives you more. Stopping down to a certain point(sweet spot) will give you greater sharpness, this varies from lens to lens. On the 50/1.8, it's f5.6 IIRC.

    2)Using the flash during the day is usually only for fills. I would recommend that you also get an off shoe flash cord, it allows you to have some more interesting lighting rather than the usual even exposure that you tend to get from direct flash/omnibounce. Even lighting can make a subject look flat btw.

    3) Spot metering is fantastic once you know how to use it, it gives you maximum control over your exposure. You need to meter on the mid-tones for spot metering in order not to blow areas. On occasion however, things(background, white areas esp) will be blown but that is pretty common for outdoors photography. Control the area in which you shoot; move to another if it's not suitable for creating the shot you want. Unfortunately, Canon does not put spot metering in any of it's bodies other than its pro-series bodies. Use center-weighted, it's the next best alternative.

    Btw, Tee showed me some of your stuff we have a mutual friend if you didn't realise.
    I think you need to work on your composition first and other technical issues like posing the model. Don't shoot the back of the model's head unless you have a really good reason! Well anyway, keep working at it yea? It'll get progressively better, trust me.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Some questions about outdoor portrait photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoned
    1) You obviously are thinking about having more DOF. There is no hard and fast rule for portrait photography and hence you can take great portraits with paper thin DOF, it is not necessary at all to have both eyes in focus if you have a valid reason not to, but if a shot includes the eyes, it is a good practice to focus on them. At f1.8, do not focus lock and recompose, you'll lose the focus. Try to use a tripod and frame, then adjust your AF point to target the focal point of your choice. I've found this to be the most accurate method. There is also no fixed aperture to shoot at, but you would probably either be a fan of large DOF shots or small DOF shots; large aperture gives you less DOF and a small aperture gives you more. Stopping down to a certain point(sweet spot) will give you greater sharpness, this varies from lens to lens. On the 50/1.8, it's f5.6 IIRC.

    2)Using the flash during the day is usually only for fills. I would recommend that you also get an off shoe flash cord, it allows you to have some more interesting lighting rather than the usual even exposure that you tend to get from direct flash/omnibounce. Even lighting can make a subject look flat btw.

    3) Spot metering is fantastic once you know how to use it, it gives you maximum control over your exposure. You need to meter on the mid-tones for spot metering in order not to blow areas. On occasion however, things(background, white areas esp) will be blown but that is pretty common for outdoors photography. Control the area in which you shoot; move to another if it's not suitable for creating the shot you want. Unfortunately, Canon does not put spot metering in any of it's bodies other than its pro-series bodies. Use center-weighted, it's the next best alternative.

    Btw, Tee showed me some of your stuff we have a mutual friend if you didn't realise.
    I think you need to work on your composition first and other technical issues like posing the model. Don't shoot the back of the model's head unless you have a really good reason! Well anyway, keep working at it yea? It'll get progressively better, trust me.

    whatt the.......i re read that one line a few times. who are you? haha

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