Where to place focus point for portrait?

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by famous amos, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. famous amos

    famous amos New to Mu-43

    Feb 12, 2012
    I have started taking amateur indoor portraits as well as street portraits. I am using the Olympus 75mm f1.8. So I have learned to place my autofocus on the eyes of whomever I am photographing.

    I am trying to take portraits with a cinematic look. Like this:
    Blitzwinter in Lucerne | Flickr - Photo Sharing!


    Dislike Coke | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    These are the closest style that I could find at the moment.

    For achieving a very sharp difference between the subject and background, would pointing the focus point at the "outline" of their face be better than pointing it at their eyes?

    When I shoot at f1.8 and point it at their eyes, the outline of their face sometimes is out of focus and I don't see the sharp contrast between the subject and background.

    So what I was thinking was pointing the autofocus at the outline of their face, stopping the lens down to maybe f2.8 or so, so that there is about half a foot in front of the subject's side of the face that falls in the range of focus. Would that work?
  2. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Real Name:
    I pretty much always focus on the eye.

    Anyways I think it depends on the distance to your subject. For a head and shoulder portrait or closer, I would shoot at f2 to ensure the face is in focus. Would you like to share some of your photos? It's always more helpful when we can see what you're doing.
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  3. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    Agreed with Vin, I always shoot for the eye.

    If you focus on the side of their face with too thin a DoF, that's what's going to be in focus - so you run the risk their eyes will be out of focus. If the eyes aren't in focus it's almost impossible to ignore as that's where the viewer will naturally zero in on looking at a portrait.

    The sharp delineation between subject and background has a lot to do with distance between camera, subject, and background, not just the aperture choice. You may actually need to stop down to get slightly more in focus (e.g. in that first shot it's at f/2.0), but if the background is further from the subject you will still get a nice isolation effect like you see there.

    Not sure if any of that helped :tongue:
  4. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 12, 2011
    Madison, WI
    If you're trying to get the eyes and outline of the face in focus, you need to stop the lens down (and/or increase your shooting distance). On the OM-D at 10ft from your subject, the depth of field for the 75mm at f/1.8 is about 3.4 inches. Stop it down to f/2.8 and you've got 5.4 inches. As Jay said, you can increase the background blur/isolation by increasing the distance between subject and background.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. mdg

    mdg New to Mu-43

    Aug 22, 2012
    Great info!
    Fin's reply caused me to do a web search for online DOF calculators. For example, this one : Depth of Field Calculator.
    And I used to wonder before why getting in focus pictures of kids indoors with PL 25mm wide open at f/1.4 was so difficult :smile:
  6. Kenny

    Kenny Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 9, 2012
    KL Malaysia
    This is a great thread for amateur. How about 45mm 1.8? What should I do to make the whole head sharp for shooting shoulder to head portrait?
  7. Mogul

    Mogul Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 9, 2012
    What camera, lens, ISO, range?

    For a 2X, 42mm, 6 feet, focus on eyes. Use auto ISP; bracket if needed, fill flash of 1/4 to 3/4 as needed.
  8. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Add hair lights. :)
    • Like Like x 1