How to get sharp and focused eyes when shooting portraits/headshots


Dec 1, 2009
117
1
18
#1
Just want to ask everyone.. when taking portraits/headshots (head and shoulders) how do you make sure your subject's eyes are both sharp and focused? I noticed in some of my pictures, one eye is not as sharp as the other. I'm already using f4.0 or f5.6 since I also want a 'not-so-shallow-depth-of-field' effect. I'f I'm shooting at F1.8 or f2.8, id understand if i get one eye not as sharp as the other. But since I'm already using F5.6, howcome sometimes the eyes are not both sharp?

Let's assume that I'm taking pictures outdoors and the sun is bright as usual and my shutter speed is around 1/250 - 1/500 (no camera shake at all), AF-S & exposure is ok. Only one focus point (the one at the center) is selected. How do you focus the eyes? Do you focus one eye and when AF locks, recompose in between the 2 eyes before you press the shutter? Or straight away focus in between the eyes, use a smaller aperture like F7.1 and press the shutter - to make sure both eyes are sharp and still have a nice depth of field?

Thanks for reading!
 

Last edited:

Reportage

Senior Member
Nov 24, 2008
5,785
2
0
#2
sharpness depends on a lot of factor like tripod used or even the mirror slap itself among others.

best is post a picture so we can all see.
 

Dream Merchant

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 11, 2007
9,659
6
38
#3
Since no pertinent details are provided like camera and lens models, as well as shooting/subject angles, we can only offer generic advise.

Try to

1) use hyper-focal focusing and focus somewhere in the middle of both eyes,
2) use a tilt-shift lens,
3) turn the subject such that the plane along which both eyes lie is more parallel to your film or sensor plane

Manual focusing might be more suited to the above.

All the best. :)
 

voxies09

New Member
Apr 11, 2010
651
0
0
Singapore
#4
even when i am using f2-f2.8, i can still have sharpness in the eyes.. i tried to AF assist to one of the eyes..

each lens has their own sweet spot for sharpness; best is show us a sample pic with EXIF
 

night86mare

Deregistered
Aug 25, 2006
25,541
0
0
www.pbase.com
#5
Just want to ask everyone.. when taking portraits/headshots (head and shoulders) how do you make sure your subject's eyes are both sharp and focused? I noticed in some of my pictures, one eye is not as sharp as the other. I'm already using f4.0 or f5.6 since I also want a 'not-so-shallow-depth-of-field' effect. I'f I'm shooting at F1.8 or f2.8, id understand if i get one eye not as sharp as the other. But since I'm already using F5.6, howcome sometimes the eyes are not both sharp?

Let's assume that I'm taking pictures outdoors and the sun is bright as usual and my shutter speed is around 1/250 - 1/500 (no camera shake at all), AF-S & exposure is ok. Only one focus point (the one at the center) is selected. How do you focus the eyes? Do you focus one eye and when AF locks, recompose in between the 2 eyes before you press the shutter? Or straight away focus in between the eyes, use a smaller aperture like F7.1 and press the shutter - to make sure both eyes are sharp and still have a nice depth of field?

Thanks for reading!
could be many things.

you have to understand how DOF works. it is taking a slice through what you are shooting, parallel to the sensor.

so if you are having the model stand at an extreme diagonal to you, you will need much smaller aperture than f/5.6 to do this.

other factors such as focus point distance to camera, focal length used, etc also play a huge role in all of this, so you have to be more specific. best if you can post up pictures to show what you mean, that would give everyone here a better idea of what is going on, so they can advise you in the best manner.
 

Dec 1, 2009
117
1
18
#6
Ill try to post some pictures for everyone to see.. but i think i get the idea that the subjects eyes must be 'parallel' to the sensor if i plan to use a big aperture like f2.8 (lens is 17-50mm f2.8). If the subject's face is tilted 45 degrees to either left/right, a smaller aperture should be used to have both eyes remain focused and sharp (lets just focus on the aperture; @ 35mm, no camera shake and shutter speed is around 1/250). Did i understand it right?
 

Dec 1, 2009
117
1
18
#7
i was so focused on the eyes and i missed out the concept of depth of field.. thanks for mentioning it to me again :)
 

hori

New Member
Jun 22, 2003
481
0
0
Singapore
#8
i was so focused on the eyes and i missed out the concept of depth of field.. thanks for mentioning it to me again :)
Typically, the depth of field is 1/3 in front of the point that you focus, and 2/3 behind.
 

ahbian

Senior Member
May 23, 2006
2,467
0
0
#9
Ill try to post some pictures for everyone to see.. but i think i get the idea that the subjects eyes must be 'parallel' to the sensor if i plan to use a big aperture like f2.8 (lens is 17-50mm f2.8). If the subject's face is tilted 45 degrees to either left/right, a smaller aperture should be used to have both eyes remain focused and sharp (lets just focus on the aperture; @ 35mm, no camera shake and shutter speed is around 1/250). Did i understand it right?
If your intention is to get a larger DOF, then you can go above f2.8 (make aperture smaller). Can compensate by increasing your shutter speed (longer than 1/250) or increasing ISO.
 

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
13,899
0
0
Central
#10
Ill try to post some pictures for everyone to see.. but i think i get the idea that the subjects eyes must be 'parallel' to the sensor if i plan to use a big aperture like f2.8 (lens is 17-50mm f2.8). If the subject's face is tilted 45 degrees to either left/right, a smaller aperture should be used to have both eyes remain focused and sharp (lets just focus on the aperture; @ 35mm, no camera shake and shutter speed is around 1/250). Did i understand it right?
Yup.. For subject with tilted face away form the focal plane, hyper focal distancing should be applied like what DM mentioned earlier to get both eyes in focus..

And u do not have to restrict to taking at 1/250, depends on the lens u are using..

Typically rule of thumb, 1s for every mm in focal length handheld. (Meaning to say if using an 50mm , a 1/50 shutter duration will suffice) though some might need a longer shutter duration or shorter depends on each individual handheld shooting skills :)
 

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