EYV 2 Exercise 2.4

The brief

Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus on the eyes and take the shot.

My shot

f/4.0 1/125 ISO 800 focal length 100.00 mm


I asked my 91-year-old ex-mother-in-law to be my model when we met up for a coffee this afternoon. She was a little apprehensive because she’s due to have her hair done tomorrow and felt it was a mess, so said she’d let me use her if she didn’t have to see the photos. There was a nice light from the window beside our table, and when I saw the photos on the LED screen I knew she’d like them and loaded them onto my laptop to show her. She was surprised and pleased to find that she looked much less bedraggled than she’d imagined.

This exercise has taught me a new way to take flattering portrait shots. The lens I used had a maximum aperture of f/4.0 so I used that. My previous default approach has been to use a 50 mm prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. This new formula gives a similarly shallow depth of field and natural-feeling perspective, although I’m aware that by taking the photo against a blank wall I didn’t make full use of the potential for the soft-focus background to frame and lift the shot in the way it could have done if there had been some kind of feature and a little more distance behind her.