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Monday, January 7, 2019

What Camera Settings Should I Use for Portrait Photos?

To take good portraits, you need to use the right camera settings. Let’s have a look at what combination of lens, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO give you the awesome portrait look with a sharp, in-focus subject and a creamy, blurry background like the photo below.

The Gear You Need for Portrait Photos

While you can take portraits with any lens, to get the classic portrait, you need a lens with a wide aperture. Something with a maximum aperture between f/1.8 and f/2.8 is perfect although f/5.6 can work, especially with longer lenses.

Ideally, you’ll also use a normal lens or short telephoto, in other words, a lens with a focal length of between 50mm and 90mm on a full frame camera or about 35mm to 60mm on a crop sensor camera.

The good news is that there are great, cheap 50mm f/1.8 lenses available for pretty much every major camera brand. They’re one of the lenses we recommend you buy first for your camera (check out our guides for Canon and Nikon).

Aperture for Portraits

Aperture is the key to the portrait look. A wide aperture creates a shallow depth of field that keeps your subject in sharp focus while blurring the background, so it isn’t a distraction. What apertures create this effect depends somewhat on the focal length of your lens. In general, if you’re not using an extremely long telephoto, you need to use an aperture of f/5.6 or narrower. In reality, you’ll probably want to use f/2.8 or f/1.8 to maximize the amount of background blur.

The photo below was shot at f/5.6 using a 50mm lens on a crop sensor body. While the background is starting to blur, it’s not quite indistinct.

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