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Thread: Portrait Photography using kit lens

  1. #1

    Default Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Hi,

    I will be trying my hand at portrait photography for the first time next week as I'm helping out in a school magazine interview. It won't be a studio setting or anything formal.

    As of now, I'm working with only a D40 with the 18-55mm kit lens...I understand that the best lenses for portraiture are fast primes and/or those with longer focal lengths.

    Hence I'm looking for any suggestions and tips for taking portraits using only the kit lens...any input is greatly appreciated...thanks!

    (and yes, I've googled "portrait photography, kit lens" before posting this thread)

  2. #2

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Shoot closer to your subject, and further away from the BG if you want less DOF.

    You still have to close down at least a stop for better lens performance, so select your BG carefully to avoid distractions.

    Other than that, all the other basics of good portrait photography applies.

    And keep the portrait relevant to the article.

    All the best in your shoot.

  3. #3
    Senior Member geraldkhoo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Your D40 + 18-55 kit lens can take wonderful portraits... so no worries

    Here are some thoughts for your consideration:

    1. Composition
    You can look through the millions of portrait photos on the internet and have an idea how you want to compose your portrait pictures. Have an idea before starting the shoot.

    2. Lighting
    Make sure there is adequate lighting for the kit lens that you have. If you do not have adequate lighting, you can think of renting a flash, light stand, umbrella, and wireless flash triggers to do the job. It is amazing what you can do with one light. Another way is to borrow some simple Ikea lights and use them to light your shoot.

    3. Know the limitations of your lens
    Because it is a kit lens and not a large aperture lens, you have to understand the limitations. One is the depth of field and bokeh that it can (or cannot) produce. Another is the amount of light needed to take the picture. So have a realistic perspective to the kind of portrait shots you can take.
    A picture tells a thousand words... make yours speak a million!
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    What you have is sufficient though not the best. As a beginner, using natural daylight without the use of flash is the easiest. But do look out for harsh shadows on the face or too strong backlight behind your subject. The best timing for gentle sunlight is 7am-930am and 5pm till 7pm. If you need to shoot between 10am-2pm, do it along shaded corridors of buildings, or indoors with lotsa daylight shining in through large glass windows or doors.

    If I am you, I'll only use 2 focal lengths, 18mm(equivalent to 27mm) and 55mm(equivalent to 82.5mm) to avoid confusing myself. Use aperture priority mode, set the aperture to the largest, for ISO: use auto or use ISO200/400 for nice daylight, for white balance: use AWB or daylight if you like your colors warmer, and concentrate on capturing the expressions.

    Use of 18mm(=27mm): move closer to your subject to get a more engaging portrait, framing it half body or head and shoulders or even tight close up shot of the face(But you gotta have skills to get you subject looking at you comfortably when you are at such close distance). Near distance wide angle shots have distortion at the edges so remember to put subject in the middle of the frame. Near distance wide angle shots produce impactful, engaging portraits when it's done well(even though distortion exists).

    Use of 55mm(=82.5mm): a very well-liked focal length for pleasant portraits. This focal length usually gives a pleasant perspective for portraits. Use of the largest aperture available produces bokeh(nice blurry background) which makes viewer concentrate on the subject without being distracted by background. Note: you still have to look out for "unwanted" subjects in the background like lamppost above the head, dirty tissues or cups, etc. cause they still can get recognized even when the background is blur.

    Good portraits depend more on your communication with your subject than technical skills. Good portraits aren't necessarily the ones shot with the most expensive lenses or how creamy the bokeh is. Good portraits are the ones when your subjects literally speak to the viewers through the pictures. They have life and emotion. They are themselves in the pictures. They aren't putting on a false front in front of the camera.

    Good luck! Cheers! Enjoy!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Thank you for the replies. Very much appreciated!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Quote Originally Posted by verselines View Post

    Hence I'm looking for any suggestions and tips for taking portraits using only the kit lens...any input is greatly appreciated...thanks!

    (and yes, I've googled "portrait photography, kit lens" before posting this thread)
    bokeh is overrated -

    composition is everything you need, everything you want.

    *of course*, isolation is easier with shallower DOF, but hey, here are some photographs taken with kit lenses:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/peteyph...hy/3910490728/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/oley/2187430916/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/haeretik/2535728012/

    one quick tip is to employ the light to help you in isolation.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    from my experience, lenses give the quality of blur. In my opinion, lighting is more important as varying angles/intensities/positions can change the mood of the same portrait.
    You wont see me much less remember me but i am the guy who makes you look good.

  8. #8
    Deregistered shaoken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    As Reportage mentioned..
    The most important is the composition, angles and lighting.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Anson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    It's a "pity" that now of days alot of people is caring on mainly bokeh and forgo the others.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Anson View Post
    It's a "pity" that now of days alot of people is caring on mainly bokeh and forgo the others.
    even if got bokeh, composition bad is composition bad

  11. #11

    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Anson View Post
    It's a "pity" that now of days alot of people is caring on mainly bokeh and forgo the others.
    Agree. Agree. Even street photography becomes "bokeh challenge"... ... lol
    The real test in portraits is communication with subjects, whether verbally or by body language(if they are strangers on the streets). And "no bokeh background" really test your composition. F1.2 bokeh? Cheh... everything one patch blur.. no challenge... hahaha..

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    Quote Originally Posted by verselines View Post
    Hi,

    I will be trying my hand at portrait photography for the first time next week as I'm helping out in a school magazine interview. It won't be a studio setting or anything formal.

    As of now, I'm working with only a D40 with the 18-55mm kit lens...I understand that the best lenses for portraiture are fast primes and/or those with longer focal lengths.

    Hence I'm looking for any suggestions and tips for taking portraits using only the kit lens...any input is greatly appreciated...thanks!

    (and yes, I've googled "portrait photography, kit lens" before posting this thread)
    that 18-55 is one of the best <$1000 nikon lenses i have ever used.

    like what others have said, its about composition. just to add a little.

    example, if u are interviewing ur school librarian, u might want to have him/her proudly standing in front of bookshelves, but of coz, rem that since books comes in all sort of colors, u have to choose a background that is not too distracting. the key here is to relate person-job-article.

    if bokeh is what u are going after, have the subject closer to u and background further will help. for me, shooting wide open on that kit lens should be fine, since i guess u are not displaying it in huge sizes anyway.

    last thing i can think of off hand is the use of ur flash. if u are using pop up flash, u could get harsh lights. try cover ur flash with a piece of tissue paper, acts as a diffuser. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. u have to try. if not, just use natural lightings and possible whiteboards or cloth (like curtains) in the location to reflect the light in the room.

    have fun.
    cameras are not made of tofu

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Portrait Photography using kit lens

    I use an full frame camera body with a 17mm ultra wide
    angle lens for some specialised portraiture.

    Besides appropriate lighting, acceptable composition
    the result will not be good when you know nothing
    about formal portraiture technique.

    You don't need a telephoto lens or a method to
    diffuse the light, all you need is good available
    light technique with your skills in formal portraiture
    and your ability to be comfortable in front of your
    subject.

    In turn your subject will trust and give you full
    co-operation in your endeavour.


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