“I did this modern beauty session with a colleague as an opportunity to concentrate on my art and have a little fun while also using the experience to help another photographer who would become one of my second shooters for weddings.
Our model showed up just as storm clouds started to roll in, which made me nervous that we were going to lose an incredible opportunity to work with her in the bright sun.
Instead of the beautiful back lighting I’m used to working with, these incredible blue and gray storm clouds rolled in and provided me with incredibly dynamic light and rich colors, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was thrilling!
Even more thrilling was that for 15 minutes, we were stranded under a picnic area while the rain let loose. . .but once it stopped we were left with a rainbow and some rolling clouds.”
Chris’s Photography Tip:
Super-sharp, focused images are an art, especially when working with portraiture and a shallow depth of field. However, this will also give you the opportunity to distinctly separate your subjects from the background. For this, I love using prime lenses as I find they give me the ability to turn my backdrops into creamy bliss!
But I also have a little secret: you do not have to take your f/1.4 lens and shoot it at f/1.4 to blur the background! I do ‘wide open’ on occasion, but not for every image. There is a very beautiful look that comes from proper use of a lens wide open and I love to play with that concept, but I also love when my subject has clarity and detail.
By stopping down to f/2.8 (I found that to be the sweet spot on my 85mm f/1.8G) I am able to create a deep enough focal plane to have my whole subject in focus and still blur the background.
Another trick is to use a fast shutter speed! Nothing obliterates focus on an image like a little camera shake, right? I keep my shutter speed at 1/250 or faster unless I’m using speedlights, even if it means bumping my ISO.
Lastly, the one thing that absolutely changed my life when it comes to focus was when I learned how to toggle and choose my focus point! The focus-recompose technique is really popular, but with our high-resolution camera bodies and f/1.4 glass it’s not the most reliable way to compose a frame. The slight movement during the ‘recompose’ part is very likely to knock your subject out of the thin focal plane you’ve created by shooting at wide apertures.
I generally have my camera set on a single focus point that I choose by using a toggle on the back of my camera, and I center that point right on their eyes. I then follow that with a press of my back-button-focus to activate it.
This works well at weddings, and even with moving children! Just make sure to see the scene in your mind, fix your focus point, and wait for the scene to happen in the frame you’ve composed.
Good quality glass, a clean sensor, good exposure, and a proper post processing sharpening workflow also contribute to pin sharp focus.
If you follow these tips, you’ll get a sharp, beautiful focus and creamy, blurred backgrounds.
Chris used a Nikon d700 with a Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens to capture these images.
See more tips on Camera Settings.
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