April 23, 2014, 06:30:44 AM

Author Topic: Portrait photography - suggestions  (Read 4253 times)

plam_1980

  • Guest
Portrait photography - suggestions
« on: July 18, 2011, 08:48:41 AM »
Hey everybody,

I wanted to ask for your suggestions, I am trying to improve my skills in portrait photography which I am doing at home, only as a hobby. Currently I have 550D with the kit lens plus 50 mm f1.8. I have already invested in 430 EX II flash, which I am expecting to arrive these days (I have half a room cleared for shooting but really no place for any other lighting and the room is not so bright).

I have the funds to improve my equipment and I was wondering between 5D mk2 or 7D + better lens. Also what lens would be more appropriate?

All other ideas and additional recommendations will be highly appreciated

Cheers,

Plamen

canon rumors FORUM

Portrait photography - suggestions
« on: July 18, 2011, 08:48:41 AM »

triggermike

  • Rebel T5i
  • ****
  • Posts: 105
  • Canon Shooter
    • View Profile
    • mike fossler photography
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 08:58:38 AM »
If you intend to upgrade for portrait use, the full-frame 5d mkii is the proper choice. Some may recommend you wait as a mkiii version may be on the near horizon, but there is no certainty there.

Depending on the style of portrait work you want to pursue, other equipment is almost certainly going to be needed (monolights, backgrounds/supports, scrims, grids, etc.) The 7d is also a great camera and allows savings to be used for thes other items - something to consider.

bvukich

  • Spam Assassin
  • Administrator
  • 5D Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 724
    • View Profile
    • My (sparse) ZenFolio Site
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 09:26:46 AM »
For portraits, there would be no real advantage of a 7D over the 60D or 600D, besides micro focus adjustment.  But I would recommend going with the 5D anyhow.

If you like shooting portraits with the 50/1.8, and it is a focal length/FoV you are comfortable with, I would also pick up the 85/1.8, or if budget allows the, 85L.  For your next lens after that, the 135/2L is an excellent value.

steven63

  • Guest
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 09:34:24 AM »
Get the 5DmII and shoot outside (weather permitting) until you can get the proper lighting for indoor shoots.  In a pinch, becaue of it's low light capabilities, the 5DmII will be more useful indoors than the 7D.  For portrait shooting you will love the files the 5DmII produces.

Alternatively, you could get the 7D and pick up another flash with the savings v. the 5DmII.  That's how I started - with the 7D and purchased two 580exII flashes/soft boxes because I could control them from the 7D.  Works great for indoors because you can turn one flash way down and the other a bit stronger to give the soft shadow effect on faces - all from the camera.

Still, I prefer to shoot outside with my 5DmII...and the 7D for that matter.  There are just so many other options available outside than in a stuffy room.

Don't forget lenses.  If you go 5DmII you will want L glass with it as soon as possible.  It won't be forgiving with low end kit glass.

So I guess my advice is go 5DMII IF you can buy the glass to go with it right away.  Otherwise get the 7D with a fast L lens first.  The glass is more important than the body.  Work on your skills with that setup and then maybe by the time you feel good about where you are, the 5DmIII will be out!




plam_1980

  • Guest
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2011, 09:57:56 AM »
Thank you all for the usefull insight, it is highly appreciated

What about the glass, I know it is most important, but what is best for this situation?

I mean isn't anything above 85mm too much for a room?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 10:01:08 AM by plam_1980 »

Mt Spokane Photography

  • 1D X
  • *******
  • Posts: 7718
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2011, 10:45:59 AM »
Thank you all for the usefull insight, it is highly appreciated

What about the glass, I know it is most important, but what is best for this situation?

I mean isn't anything above 85mm too much for a room?

i'm assuming the wider than 85mm recommendations were for a lens to go with a 5D MK II.  Remember, for a FF sensor camera, the focal length you will want for the same composition as your crop will be 1.6* the focal length used on the crop.  50mm on crop use 85mm on FF, 85mm on crop use 135mm on FF.

Wide angle on FF is 24-35mm, and wider than that is a superwide.

neuroanatomist

  • CR GEEK
  • *******
  • Posts: 12815
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 11:04:55 AM »
I have the funds to improve my equipment and I was wondering between 5D mk2 or 7D + better lens. Also what lens would be more appropriate?


What sort of budget are you working with?  The 85mm f/1.2L II on a 5DII is an excellent combination for portraits.  But the 85mm f/1.8 on a 5DII is nearly as good (I often stop down from f/1.2 on my 85L for a little more DoF), and will produce better results than a 7D + 50mm f/1.2L, as an example.

The 135mm f/2L is excellent for head shots (an 85mm f/1.8 will give you similar framing on an APS-C body like yours).

Realistically, though, what makes a portrait is light (the same could be said about any photograph, I suppose...).  IMO, the best place to spend your money is on lighting, and a 430EX II alone isn't going to cut it.  Look at modifiers, especially softboxes (for a Speedlite, I like the Ezybox Hotshoe).  You'll need more than one, and light stands, too.  Better yet, monolights will allow more flexibility (opinions vary, but Paul C. Buff offers economical options of good quality).  Look into radio triggers.  Backgrounds and a support stand for them.

Don't get me wrong - a FF camera and fast prime do great indoors, too.  Here's an example:


EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM @ 1/60 s, f/1.8, ISO 400

This was shot with a single 430EX II bounced off a white ceiling, and at f/1.8 on FF the fabric right behind the subject's head is blurred out (as is her left eye - see what I mean about thin DoF?). 

My point is that I think you'll produce better results with your current body (though I'd recommend getting the 50mm f/1.4 and/or the 85mm f/1.8 ) and control over light - both with the lights and the practice to use them.  For the cost of the 85mm f/1.2L II, you can get a decent set of monolights, stands, softboxes, radio triggers, and backgrounds. 

Want a practical, real-world example?  Go into a portrait studio, and you'll often see them using APS-C bodies and kit lenses (e.g. Canon 50D or Nikon D90 with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens), along with a standard 3-monolight setup (key light, hair/accent light, and background light) and pull-down backdrops.  Yes, you can spend thousands on a FF body and ultrafast primes - and they're great for portraits.  But the reason the 50/1.2L, 85/1.2L II and 135/2 are used for portraits is that they deliver a thin DoF which allows you to blur out a busy background and focus attention on the subject.  That's necessary outdoors - but in a studio setting, you have control of the background.
EOS 1D X, EOS M, and lots of lenses
______________________________
Flickr | TDP Profile/Gear List

canon rumors FORUM

Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 11:04:55 AM »

epsiloneri

  • 7D
  • *****
  • Posts: 344
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2011, 11:09:49 AM »
It depends a little bit on what kind of portrait photography. If you mean portraits in a studio-like setting, then your lighting options become much more important than both the body and lens. A large soft-box on a dedicated stand would probably be your best investment, with the possibility to fire your flash remotely. Those are used for more "traditional" portraits and give very pleasant results without sharp shadows. The next steps are filler lights, a second soft-box, "hair" light, background lights... well those are really not necessary but give you options to play around and vary your setting. You could also think about ways of controlling your background.

Do you have a good reason to upgrade your body? 550D is very capable and will produce IQ as good as the 7D. The 7D has other advantages, not applicable to hobby portraiture. The 50/1.8 is already a very good portrait lens for crop, but the 85/1.8 is even better (for closer portraits).

550D to 7D is not worth an upgrade for your needs, IMO. If you want an upgrade, the 5D2 makes much more sense. Then you would need a longer lens, however; if on a budget, the EF 70-200/4L USM or EF 100/2.0 USM would be two very good alternatives for portraits. The zoom would give you more framing options, while the prime would give you the option of a really shallow focus depth. As the 5D2 is getting a bit old, I would suggest you hold on to your 550D for now. Perhaps you can buy one of the suggested lenses to play with while you wait for the 5D3 to come out.

unfocused

  • 1D X
  • *******
  • Posts: 1766
    • View Profile
    • Unfocused: A photo website
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2011, 11:13:51 AM »
Okay, I was typing while some others were posting. I think we are on the same page.

Portraiture is all about two things: the subject and the light. Neither one is going to be affected by a different camera body.

The first thing you have to do if be able to fire the flash off-camera. The only reason to move to a 7D would be so that you can use the built-in infrared transmitter. But, you can do the same thing by buying an ST-E2 or one of the Chinese knock-offs.

You need to modify the light. The simplest and easiest way to do that is with an umbrella. Very easy to use and gives very nice, soft light. Buy one that allows you to convert from shoot-through to reflective, so you can practice with both techniques.

After a few weeks with one strobe and an umbrella, you'll want a second and then a third strobe. Then you also start wanting other light modifiers (soft boxes, snoots, bounce adapters, etc. etc.).

Personally, I'd recommend the 580EXII for your next strobe purchase, primarily because of the availability of the accessory battery pack. It's very frustrating and embarrassing when your strobe can't keep up with the pace of the shooting and you can avoid that with the extra speed and boost of the battery packs.

Spend a lot of time reading and experimenting. The Strobist website is a good place to start. Photoflex also sends out lighting lessons to people who sign up on their website. They are very good. And, Joe McNally's books are entertaining and good as well.

I'm not saying don't upgrade you camera at some point, but if you really want to learn about portraiture, you'd be better off investing in lighting equipment at this point. Camera's change all the time, but the basic design of an umbrella hasn't changed in probably 50 years.

Finally, while the light is important, it should really be all about the subject. The skill you really need is the ability to put your subject at ease and make them comfortable and natural while shooting. I used to work with a photographer who was very good at lighting, but couldn't relate to the subjects. I found I could get better portraits with a simple setup (often just a single light bounced off an umbrella and then concentrating on talking to the subject and making them feel at ease).

Bottom line: portraits are about people. Lights, cameras and equipment are just accessories.
pictures sharp. life not so much. www.unfocusedmg.com

kennykodak

  • Rebel T5i
  • ****
  • Posts: 106
  • M.Photog.MEI.Cr.
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2011, 11:19:42 AM »
Bottom line: portraits are about people. Lights, cameras and equipment are just accessories.
exactlly...

thejoyofsobe

  • Guest
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2011, 12:03:30 PM »
both the 600D (Rebel t3i) and the 60D have built-in wireless flash transmitters too. as opposed to the 7D they have an articulated LCD screen which is tremendously helpful for taking high and low angle shots.

plam_1980

  • Guest
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2011, 07:42:26 AM »
I would like to thank everyone for the brilliant advices and explanations!  8)

I hope that soon I can share something worth sharing

Good luck to all

dstppy

  • 1D Mark IV
  • ******
  • Posts: 808
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 08:14:16 AM »
My point is that I think you'll produce better results with your current body (though I'd recommend getting the 50mm f/1.4 and/or the 85mm f/1.8 ) and control over light - both with the lights and the practice to use them.  For the cost of the 85mm f/1.2L II, you can get a decent set of monolights, stands, softboxes, radio triggers, and backgrounds.

+1 on this.  Move away from the kit/entry level lenses -- I love 50mm for portraits on the crop and the build quality on the 1.4 is decent.  The 85mm 1.8 however is really high quality as well.

If you take the 85mm outside on a nice day, it takes super shots as well.
Canon Rumors is presently creating photographer shortages in Middle Earth (all the trolls emigrated here)

canon rumors FORUM

Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 08:14:16 AM »

gmrza

  • 6D
  • *****
  • Posts: 496
    • View Profile
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2011, 08:45:56 AM »


You need to modify the light. The simplest and easiest way to do that is with an umbrella. Very easy to use and gives very nice, soft light. Buy one that allows you to convert from shoot-through to reflective, so you can practice with both techniques.

After a few weeks with one strobe and an umbrella, you'll want a second and then a third strobe. Then you also start wanting other light modifiers (soft boxes, snoots, bounce adapters, etc. etc.).



I would agree with that too - a brolly, lightstand and bracket with a coldshoe and brolly holder plus a flash trigger should probably be first on your list.  Then get a piece of white polystyrene to use as a reflector  (or even just buy a foldable reflector - they are not outrageously expensive).

Upgrade your camera and lenses when you find that they are limiting you.

To give an idea - this image was shot with a Powershot G11, using a single Speedlite with a shoot-through brolly and a reflector (which happened to be a monolight with a softbox that was powered off - I was too lazy to use a proper reflector).


http://www.flickr.com/photos/specular-images/5872620108/


If you assume that I could have used a white piece of polystyrene instead of the softbox as a reflector and any piece of black material instead of a studio backdrop then this shot required under $1000 worth of gear.  Not that I would recommend a Powershot as a portrait camera, but it proves the point that camera and lenses are not everything.
Zeiss Ikon Contax II, Sonnar 50mm f/2, Sonnar 135mm f/4

akiskev

  • 7D
  • *****
  • Posts: 326
    • View Profile
    • My flickr gallery
Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2011, 09:49:40 AM »
Hey everybody,

I wanted to ask for your suggestions, I am trying to improve my skills in portrait photography which I am doing at home, only as a hobby. Currently I have 550D with the kit lens plus 50 mm f1.8. I have already invested in 430 EX II flash, which I am expecting to arrive these days (I have half a room cleared for shooting but really no place for any other lighting and the room is not so bright).

I have the funds to improve my equipment and I was wondering between 5D mk2 or 7D + better lens. Also what lens would be more appropriate?

All other ideas and additional recommendations will be highly appreciated

Cheers,

Plamen


Improving your equipment will give you some extra quality in pictures, but improving your skills will make a HUGE DIFFERENCE.
Here's two suggestions by me:
The Perfect Portrait Guide: How to Photograph People
Portrait Photography: Secrets of Posing & Lighting
Flickr | Canon EOS 3 | Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
EF 17-40mm f/4L | EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS | EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L
Zeiss 35mm f/2.4 | Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 | Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 | Zeiss 200mm f/2.8 | Zeiss 80-200 f/4

canon rumors FORUM

Re: Portrait photography - suggestions
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2011, 09:49:40 AM »