We hear more and more stories of photographers making the Fujifilm X Series their go-to kit for portraiture. The series is ideal for this style. The lightweight equipment allows portrait photographers to nimbly adjust around their subjects and the vivid colour processing makes subjects look stunning.
Get the most out of portraits with an X Series kit by following these tips.
Fill your frame with complementary colours.
You chose your X Series likely in part for its vibrant colour processing. So make colours pop perfectly in your portraits as you play with contrast and hue. To the extent, you control attire and scene for your shoot, find colours that complement each other and especially those in your subject’s eyes and skin. If necessary, look at a colour wheel to strategize your fashion and setting.
Not all portrait photography requires studio space or time slots for your subjects. Get to the streets and capture portraits from the urban bustle. For this style of portraiture, use the XF23mmF1.4 R, which has a 63-degree angle of view, or a similar wide-angle lens to capture both your subject and your scene in detail.
On streets, at events or in studio, permit your subjects to move freely, and then follow them for candid portraits. Make sure to get them in the act of something viewers can understand, and look for moments when their hand position adds emotion. For these fleeting moments, you want a lens with a quick autofocus sensor. Go with the XF23mmF1.4 R mentioned above or the XF35mmF2 R WR.
One way to make your subject a focal point in a portrait is to use bokeh, the blurring of out-of-focus regions. To get this effect, portrait photographers favour lenses with wide maximum apertures. While the XF23mmF1.4 R and the XF35mmF2 R WR both fit this category, the XF56mmF1.2 R is the optimum Fujinon lens to achieve sharp bokeh.
You can add a creative layer to your composition by placing your subject behind a framing foreground image. Tree branches, plant leaves, window frames and another person’s shoulder are just some of your options for framing. This style of composition works well with the bokeh effect, as you can accentuate the spatial gap between your subject and the framing device.
One of the reasons why people choose to buy a camera is for portraiture, or more specifically, so one can take photos of friends and family. This may be the reason why you purchased an X Series camera or even why you might be considering one.
Let’s assume you have an X Series camera in your hand for the first time and wanted to capture a portrait. Looking down at the dials on top of the camera may leave you feeling quite lost about the settings you should use to capture the perfect portrait. It is a common ‘freak out’ moment among many first time users, so don’t worry.
In this article we will explain how to capture a portrait if you are just starting out using automatic mode and if you wish to grow in your photography level 2 explains a more professional approach to portraiture using aperture priority.
Level 1 – Beginner: Automatic Mode
Fujifilm X Series cameras are built from the ground up to enable anyone to capture a perfect photo no matter what their experience. The balance of intelligent design, research and development combined with incredible image quality boasts itself in all modes of the camera, including the automatic mode.
Sometimes just picking up a camera and turning it on to capture the moment is all you need to do. It can be a great starting place to invigorate your creative spark and really get you into photography.
To start operating your X Series in Automatic mode change the following settings pictured below to the red ‘A’.
Depending on the Fujinon lens, you may also find the ‘A’ setting on the aperture ring.
The settings we will explore in this article (and pictured above) include shutter speed, aperture and ISO. These three corner store settings will form the base of your photography skill over the years and understanding them will take time so don’t worry if it doesn’t all sink in to begin with.
Basically, by setting the camera to auto you tell it to automatically calculate how much light should be let into the camera, how much of the subject should be in focus and how light sensitive you want the camera to be. These three settings are shutter speed, aperture and ISO respectively.
The second step when photographing in automatic mode is to ensure you select automatic focus or ‘S’ on your camera. Selecting this mode will ensure whenever you half-press the shutter button to take a photo of a stationary object (in this case a person) the camera will autofocus on the subject automatically.
Tip:If you are photographing children, turning the focus mode to ‘C’ for Continuous as this is the best option for moving subjects.
So you see, this mode isn’t all that hard to use. You will be surprised what success you can generate when photographing in automatic mode.
Tip:Did you know the Fujifilm X-T10 has an automatic switch that overrides all of the cameras settings? This feature makes the Fujifilm X-T10 a perfect choice for entry level photographers.
If you want to take your photography to the next level it’s important to learn a few things about aperture priority and F-stops.
Level 2 – Professional: Changing your aperture (F-stop)
Changing the what?
F-stop is a term that refers to the amount or value of light coming in through the lens and it’s commonly referred to as aperture, something we briefly talked about when describing automatic mode.
Aperture, put simply is an adjustable sized hole in the lens you can change. The aperture is measured by numbers (F-stop), and selecting one of these numbers will determine how much of the subject is in focus. We will explain the numbers that appear on the lenses further through images for a clearer comparison, but first, do you remember when we talked about the corner stone settings that will form a basis of your photography?
Aperture is one of those corner stone settings, so this means whenever you manually choose a priority setting, like shutter speed; aperture; or ISO, the camera will automatically take care of the remaining two modes. In this case, we would be changing the aperture by manually selecting the F-stop found on the lens, the shutter speed and ISO would then be set to automatic ‘A’. The jargon for this would be to say we are shooting in ‘Aperture Priority mode’.
Many portrait photographers photograph in Aperture Priority to ensure they utilise the best depth of field their lens can offer. The resulting picture is a subject in focus separated from the background by blur. If you are to take one thing away from this article, remember the following as it will make a huge difference to your portrait photography:
To obtain a shallow depth of field change the aperture to the smallest number (ie F2.8) Think small F-stop = small amount in focus
Image result: The person will be in focus and the background will be very blurred.
To obtain a large depth of field change the aperture to the largest number (ie F22) Think large F-stop = lots in focus.
Image result: The person will be in focus and the background will also be in focus.
Another important thing to keep in mind when manually photographing in Aperture Priority is to ensure you have a knowledge of the numbers on the front of your lens. Let’s use the popular kit lens, the Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 lens as an example.
Breaking down the numbers the 18-55mm describes the focal length of the lens. 18mm describes the widest angle of the lens, whereas if you were to zoom in the maximum focal length it would be 55mm. This makes sense when written, but what about the accompanying numbers, the F-stop values?
The listed F-stops of F2.8-4 describes the limits of the aperture (remember that hole in the lens). It is also true to say that the F-stop values on the front of the lens correspond to the focal length of the lens.
For instance, if you zoom out to the widest point of the lens you will be able to select F2.8 as the maximum aperture ensuring you get the maximum depth of field the lens can offer.
However, if you zoom in to 55mm (to get closer) the maximum aperture decreases to F4, or in real world terms the hole in the lens gets smaller, therefore letting in less light.
Understanding these numbers will provide a greater insight into lens pricing and the amount of depth of field the lens offers. The easiest way to remember this is if the lens has a fixed aperture, for example the XF50-140mmF2.8 then no matter if you zoom in or out the size of the aperture is the same value – F2.8. In other words there will be no light loss. Whereas in our example of the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 there will be some light loss at the longer focal length.
So what does this mean? Can you still take great portraits at a focal length of 55mm at F4 using the standard kit lens found on most X Series cameras?
Yes, of course, you can! The only difference is the amount of subject matter that will be out of focus when compared to a photograph at F2.8. Remember when we said, “To obtain a shallow depth of field change the aperture to the smallest number (ie F2.8)”.
Tip:To take the best photo using the XF18-55mm at 55mm we would encourage you to increase your distance away from your subject and zoom in while photographing in aperture priority at F4.
The other alternative, if depth of field is important to you, is to consider a specific portrait lens that has a small aperture. This may help explain why there are so many lenses available for X Series cameras. For instance, did you know there is an excellent portrait lens available in the form of the XF56mmF1.2 lens?
Can you guess what the photo will look like if you were to photograph in aperture priority at F1.2? We leave you to answer that in the comments below…
Hopefully, by reading this article and coming back to every now and again, these explanations may help you in the future. Remember, it’s not important to remember everything noted here when you start out, that’s not the point, rather what we want you to learn is just one thing at a time.
Learn ‘that’ one thing so it becomes second nature, and over time you can increase your learning. Other ways you can learn photography may include joining a photography club, attending a photography meetup, workshop or photowalk and lastly, when it comes time to purchasing a lens, we encourage you to visit an expert at a retail store – their knowledge on specific lenses could save you all the Googling!
My work as a photographer has been characterized largely by my choice of subject matter and composition. Best known for photographing dancers against uncommon backdrops, I frequently get asked why and how I choose the backdrops that make it into the final frame. The truth is, when I travel (other than researching photography laws in each respective country), I don’t spend much time researching the “best places to photograph”.
Why not?I prefer to be surprised by the places I visit and let them speak to me as I make my way into the unknown. Avoiding preconception of a physical location helps my process: I believe it helps me to create more honest images. Honest, because the final output reflects my own discoveries as opposed to try to emulate what I have seen others do – even subconsciously. This can be frustrating at times, but frustration is a part of the creative process which welcome with open arms. Much as necessity is the mother of invention, frustration can be the propeller of creativity.I found myself traveling in Mexico City, where I was able to enlist and schedule several dancers before my trip. I had a full schedule of shoots before landing. Yet, I had no idea where was I going to photograph. While the thought frightened me, it also motivated me. Throughout the trip, I relied both on the advice of my dancers and local Fujifilm X-Photographer Jaime Ávila who, out of his own initiative, pre-scouted a few places for me (thanks a lot, brother!).However, seeing is believing. In spite of their local knowledge and willingness to help, it is not until I am at the actual locations that I face the real challenges: Will this location work for me? How can I make this place my own? How can I translate it into my visual language? My mission is to make the dancer the protagonist. It’s my responsibility to feature him or her in the location while creating a narrative evocative of the city. I can only achieve this through patience and observation.
No matter where I am, I need to observe what makes each place unique. And, more importantly, what is unique to me at that particular moment in time. That takes time and some trial and error – that’s where patience needs to kick in.
You CAN’T avoid heavy traffic in Mexico City….so you used it to your advantage.
Mexico City is the largest city in the world with an immense population of 20 million. Instead of avoiding crowds, I decided to incorporate the fot traffic as a key element of this photograph.
Here in Mexico City, more so than architectural elements, the one thing that has caught my attention is its density. LOTS of it. There are as many people in the streets as there are cars. While the density initially felt like a hardship, I took the time to discover how to use it to my advantage – and more importantly, how to use the density to tell the story of my experience here. Instead of running away from it, I decided to place the dancers between congested areas of people and between heavy traffic lanes.
To my advantage, working with FUJIFILM X Series gear has been a great blessing in these types of situations. Surfing waves of people, I was carrying equipment so light that I was able to move easily through the crowds. Having lightweight gear and fast autofocus, I jumped in and out of traffic swiftly (and safely).
Also, I have used the lightness of my X-T2 in combination with its burst mode to create slow exposures in areas where there are a lot of people moving. The result is an image of a magnificently elegant dancer standing strong with a blurred sea of moving people. I rarely carry a tripod; these images were easily created handheld.
I have been using the tilting screen quite often to shoot from extremely low angles. Shooting from low angles often helps in diminishing visual background noise.
My journey in Mexico City started with many revelations about my own process and creativity. I found myself slowly unraveling the unknown with the help of X Series and a true sense of adventure and exploration…
I’m often asked, “How excited are you for your next trip?” The truth is, the anticipation for adventure never really kicks in until the abrupt lift off from the airport runway – signifying the beginning of a new chapter on my photographic journey.
After a 4-day long tour traveling with musical artist Marshmello through several states, we ended our final show at 3:30 AM in Las Vegas on a Sunday night. Immediately following the show I rushed up to my room to grab my bags and headed straight for the airport. After a 5:00 AM flight, I arrived at LAX where I met my cousin Haroon and childhood friend, Joon. Despite running on no sleep, we made our way to our connecting flight. A short layover and a several hour flight later, we arrived in Cuba.From the moment we exited the airport doors of Jose Marti International, taxi drivers lined the terminal swiftly coaxing the array of people to follow them to their cars. Being able to speak Spanish has proven valuable on many occasions, and helped us find a fair deal for such a late time of the night. The 30-minute drive from the airport to our apartment in the city of Vedado felt like Havana’s version of Tokyo Drift, lead by an aggressive local cab driver in his beat up old school car. Weaving through pedestrians, alleyways, and several animals we made it to our apartment in one piece. Upon arrival the driver insisted the price was higher than he had agreed upon, introducing us to our first taste of the local Cuban hustlers. After relentless persistence from the driver, we settled for a new deal and made it up to our apartment to call it a night. As I went to bed, I couldn’t wait to explore the city of old Havana, Habana Vieja, in the morning.Before I visit a new destination, I always do my research to ensure that I’m well prepared, know what to expect, and plan out locations to shoot. After taking our first cab ride in an old school car, or coche viejo, to Habana Vieja, I quickly learned that Cuba is by far the most unique country I’ve ever visited. The shock factor of wandering the post-apocalyptic streets of Habana Vieja made it nearly impossible to comprehend what I was seeing. The streets were lined with colorful decaying buildings guarded by locals who spend much of their day on their front porch observing their surroundings. From stray dogs to barefoot kids running through alleyways playing soccer to the cigar-selling hustlers on every street corner, the ambiance of the city was something you have to physically experience to believe.The most exciting aspect of this trip was the addition of my Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my X Series arsenal. After my first day with the camera, I immediately fell in love with the system. My favorite aspect of the X-Pro2 is the aesthetic of the body. The sleek, classic design avoided the intimidation of the locals when I kindly would ask for their portrait or to enter their residence. Whether the body was accompanied by the compact FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS, XF35mmF1.4 R, or the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, the camera always stunned the locals when they asked to see the images.While I did encounter a couple strict denials from potential subjects, the sketchiest moment of the trip took place when I noticed a very interesting opportunity for a photograph of a mother and her infant son. When I approached what appeared to be their home, I realized it was the gateway to an entire storage lot of bike taxis. Slowly making my way forward, I called for the attention of the mother to softly introduce myself and ask for permission to take a photo. As she shook her head no, a dog that looked like a hyena out of The Lion King on steroids emerged from the darkness and bolted towards me, snarling and foaming from the mouth. I took off, and after a few blocks I made my way back to meet with my friends, avoiding whatever plans the mutant dog had for me.As the day continued, we explored just about every neighborhood we hadn’t seen in the area. Thanks to my cousin’s strong sense of direction, we continuously encountered new people, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and a wide variety of subjects throughout the day. From the reflective puddles, to the daily life of the Cubanos, to the hissing hustlers of the streets, there were endless moments to photograph. We ended the day off along the seaside Malecón street for sunset. The array of classic cars, ocean views, and fisherman lining the Malecón made it one of my favorite spots in all of Havana. I was able to document the experience in all of its glory with the help of my X-Pro2 and FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS lens. After a very eventful first day in Havana, I could not wait to experience what the city would have to offer throughout the rest of the week.