Thursday, December 29, 2011

High ISO Portraiture

I think my journey into “High ISO Portraiture” began, or at least the seed was planted, many years ago watching television. The memorable scene was a shot of people in the back seat of a car, I liked to look beyond the subjects out the window at the out of focus lights in the background. I was later to learn these out of focus lights are called bokeh. Now bokeh can mean different things to different people but for me, at least in this respect, it refers to the shape or character of the out of focus lights. I will write a blog post on bokeh in the near future but for now, well let’s digress.

In this case bokeh is characterized by what f/stop you use, the focal length of the lens and the distance between the camera and the light.


The shape of the bokeh are indicative of the aperture shape. When the lens is wide open the out of focus light will be round. However sometimes you have to stop down a little when you need a little dept of field.

Lek and Family
Notice the octagonal shape of the light.


The size of the bokeh is dependent on two things. The distance the lights are from the camera position and the magnification of the lens. The closer the lights the larger the bokeh and the larger the telephoto the larger the bokeh.

Focal Length 140 mm (full frame)

Focal Length 70 mm (full frame)

Fun with Bokeh - Focal Length 200 mm (full frame)

Subject exposure for these images was achieved using TTL flash with either an 18 inch softbox or shoot thru umbrella. The high iso allowed me use the “ambient” street lights as fill.

There are many elements and factors to consider when shooting High ISO Portraiture, to many to post all here. You would need a book to cover them all, hope you liked this introduction. Thank you for stopping by!