Camera Settings for Shooting Portraits

To enable me to capture images with appropriate settings (and not have to kick myself when I get home for having wasted a photo opportunity due to inappropriate settings) I apply what I call the SAIFFER settings (Shutter-­Aperture‐ISO-­Focus-­Focal Length-Exposure-­Raw).

This is a close-up from the above portrait. The image at the top of this post is SOOC (straight out of camera – no editing and no crop). It was captured at f/2.8 with an 85mm lens. The image demonstrates the shallow depth of field when working at close range with a wide aperture. Anything wider and you risk the eyes being sharp and the eyebrows being slightly out-of-focus.

SAIFFER Settings Set up your camera with the following settings:

  • Shutter Speed: Use1/60 sec or faster (using slower shutter speeds may result in subject blur). I will often raise this by setting the ISO to Auto and choosing Fast from the ISO AUTO Min. SS setting in the Menu of my A7RII.
  • Aperture Priority: Use approximately f/4 for full frame sensors or f/2.8 for crop sensors. Use the maximum aperture if your lens does not open to these wider apertures. I may choose to shoot with a wider aperture than f/4 if I am using Eye-AF on my A7RII (image above was captured at f/2.8).
  • ISO: No higher than 800 – I may make an exception to this if I am shooting with a full-frame sensor but I would still prefer to find a location with brighter ambient light if possible.
  • Focus and Focal length: 50-85mm (equivalent) and ensure the eyes are sharp.
  • Exposure: Ensure there is no loss of detail in shadows or highlights (adjust if required by reviewing the histogram on the camera).
  • Raw: Set the ‘Quality’ to Raw.

One of the creative tasks during my one-on-one training sessions and workshops is how to create professional looking portraits (I supply the model).

This is an extract from my new book ‘Introduction to Photography: A Visual Guide to the Essential Skills of Photography and Lightroom’.

It is available from all good book stores and Amazon US , Amazon UK and Amazon Australia

NOTE > For users of recent model Alpha cameras I would recommend setting the Focus Mode to AF-C (Continuous AF) and using Eye-AF when shooting models who may be moving.


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  1. Pingback: The 40-Second Portrait | Mark Galer

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