Maximizing shallow depth of field: Steps you can take in the studio to add depth to your portraits


posted Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 10:14 AM EDT


Beautiful portraits come in all varieties, but commonly they are shot with a shallow depth of field, that’s why many of the standard “portrait lenses” have fast maximum apertures, such as the recent Nikon 105mm f/1.4E. As professional photographer, educator and frequent contributor to Adorama TV Gavin Hoey says, there’s more to shallow depth of field portraits than shooting with a wide aperture.

First, let's take a look at the gear Gavin uses for the shoot in the video below. His camera is an Olympus E-M1 Mark II and the lens of choice is an Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED. Lighting is provided by an Olympus FL-900R flash shot through a Glow ParaPop 38” Portable Softbox. This setup takes advantage of high-speed sync, but if you want to shoot with a wide aperture in a bright room without using HSS, check out this video from Gavin Hoey.

First things first, you want to use the fastest lens you have and open up the aperture as wide as it goes. The next thing you need to think about when wanting to maximize the depth of field is the background. A dark background won’t give much of a sense of depth, but a background with texture or a pattern will have more depth than a solid background. What about the distance between the model and the background? All else equal, the greater the distance between your subject and the background, the greater the sense of depth will be and the softer your background. There are more steps you can take to maximize a shallow depth of field, check them out in the video below.

To see more of Gavin Hoey’s work, follow him on Instagram. For more great educational content, check out Adorama TV on YouTube.

(Via SLR Lounge. Index image.)