Getting the F stop right in portrait photography

Many portrait photographers shoot primarily in aperture priority mode. So do I, but it bit me in the butt when I got it wrong the other week. I was shooting a portrait shoot of three sisters in the park.

I had read that it’s ok to use f/5.6 or so, but I was often quite close to the sisters, and they were often standing behind each other. The outcome wasn’t perfect as only the sister in the foreground was tack sharp, the others got blurrier the further they stood in towards the back.

ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/80

ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/80

The lesson I learned was the following: if it’s just one person, then an aperture of f/5.6 to f/6.3 is fine, you can even go wider (= lower number) if you don’t mind part of the face being blurry. However, if you’re photographing a group of people, then an aperture of between f/8 and f/11 is the way to go!

Check out the complete gallery of this shoot! 🙂


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