I created this space as a place for me to share these loves and passions of mine; what makes my heart beat and colors my days alive. My hope is that this blog is filled with the realness, the rawness, the beautiful, the heart stirring, gut aching, shakey nervousness, slow and pensive, wild and thriving thoughts and moments of LIFE.
A few weeks ago I launched a new “ask anything” series and I am so excited to be answering one of the questions that was asked in the comments, but has also been asked in person! Annika wrote: “I love the look of your pictures and have been wondering how you get that lovely soft look. Is it just with your camera settings or do you edit the pictures in photoshop or lightroom? And if yes, how do you edit them or what are your favorite camera settings for the shootings? Oh, and do you usually use a reflector to light up the faces? Can’t wait to read your next posts! “
This is an amazing question, and the answers are a little meaty! I would LOVE to break this question down into a couple parts! So for today, let’s talk about camera settings! I am going to assume (for the sake of this post) the softness Annika is referring to is bokeh. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about when I say bokeh, here’s a fun definition:
1. the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.
If you read my “Tips for Shooting Manually” post, then you read all about aperture and depth of field (DOF). When I shoot I normally shoot “wide-open”. Which means I choose a very large aperture (remember, the larger the aperture the smaller the number! f/1.4 is a LARGE aperture), which lets a ton of light in, and creates a very shallow DOF. Most of the time I like to hover around f/1.6 – f/2.0. I rarely go past f/2.8 unless I am working with a large group with multiple rows of people, or macro shots! Nailing focus takes practice when shooting with this large of aperture, but once you’ve got it down, the bokeh is so worth the hard work you’ve put into practicing!
Although bokeh definitely adds softness to images, there are also a couple other factors to take into consideration. The first is GOOD LIGHT! Oh friends, I cannot stress this enough. Light is everything. You can have a stunning location, but if there isn’t good light you will not get those creamy images everyone talks about! I almost always backlight my subjects. (This just means the source of light, most often the sun, is behind my subjects). If I am shooting mid-day, I try to find as much even, soft light as possible. (read: open shade!!) If I am unable to find enough shade, or evenly lit shade, then I look for natural reflectors (Think light cement, sand, a white building) to bring a little more even light on to the subjects’ faces. And although most wedding timelines don’t always permit this, my favorite time for portraits is during golden hour. That hour before sunset where the sun is soft, and a pretty golden color!
The next two components to soft, airy images is post-processing, and medium (film vs. digital). I cannot wait to dive into this, but I want to stop here for this week, and dive into some examples to give everyone a feel of what my settings tend to be! (note, settings for images will be directly below!)
Shot on Nikon D800 with Sigma 50mm f/1. 4 Art Series Lens
Aperture: f/1.8, Shutter Speed: 1/1000, ISO 320
*shot just before or right at the start of golden hour*
Nikon D600 with Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
f/2.8, 1/3200, ISO 160
*shot during golden hour in beautiful Sydney Australia*
Nikon D800 with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Series
f/2.0, 1/800, ISO 100
*shot midday, in open shade*
Nikon D800 Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Series
f/2.8, 1/1000, ISO 125
*shot midday in open sun*
Nikon D800 with Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Series Lens
f/1.6, 1/1250, ISO 640
*shot just during “golden-hour” on overcast day*
I hope this helps! I can’t wait to continue this series. As always leave any questions or comments below, and have a wonderful weekend!