What’s bright, gives wonderful, round bokeh and is perfect for portraits, sports, street and product photography? Give up?
It’s Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens. This beauty fits on both full frame and cropped sensor cameras.
The ideal portrait focal length is said to be twice to two and a half times the normal focal length. So before diving into the 85 let’s take a look at focal length and what it means in regards to sensor size. First, here’s a definition or two.
As a portrait and wedding photographer, you have got a lot to think about and have a lot of responsibility. You must consider exposure, composition, lighting, lens choice, flattering the subject and posing. On an engagement session or wedding you are capturing one of the most important days of a person’s life. Now, add on top of that you may have a very limited time to capture these images! It is a lot to think about!
When I was first photographing couples, it seemed overwhelming to manage all of these things AND to remember a wide range of poses. I always wanted to capture a variety for use in the album, or in a guest book, or a wall cluster, or simply to give the couples a variety to choose from. When the time came for me to photograph the couple and I only had a few minutes to do so, I seemed to only be able to remember 2 or 3 different poses! I tried to remember 10 or 15 poses, and they never seemed to ‘stick’ especially when I was under pressure.
This February I was invited to join the fast-paced and inspirational conference called Seniors Ignite. The conference, this year hosted outside of Las Vegas, focused specifically on senior portrait photography and all elements involved– lighting, posing, business, inspiration and more! The event helps elevate senior portrait photography through lecture by those leading the industry and also a great deal of hands-on shooting through their senior model program.
High school seniors around the country can apply to be part of the program through their host studio, and a limited number are selected to come to the event and be photographed in fashion-editorial style shoots at the annual conference.
There is one question that is asked of me most often when I am teaching photography. That question is “Which lens is your favorite”? That’s such a terribly difficult question for me to answer. Lenses are like children, I love them all and hate to play favorites.
All kidding aside, I carry 5 lenses with me everywhere I go. Sigma’s 35mm F1.4, 50mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4, 24-70mm F2.8 and the 70-200mm F2.8. Most of my boudoir shoots are done in studio. My studio is very small (about 10’x10’) so I most often shoot with my 50mm due to size constraints. What if I want to take my client out to the rooftop though? (I’m bringing out the 70-200mm for that!) or into the vestibule (only the 24-70mm will do there). I would be unprepared without the other lenses.
Learning to use manual settings in your camera will provide you with the ability to create the beautiful exposures you desire. The exposure in your camera is determined by several different settings. Exposure refers to the lightness or darkness of the image. The settings are: 1) the aperture, the lens opening, which lets in light and controls the depth of field; 2) the shutter speed, the speed by which the lens lets in light, and 3) the ISO, which controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. The right combination of these three settings will give you a nearly perfect exposure and give you the effect you want for your image.
Prime lenses are designed for exceptional imaging at a single focal length. Unlike zoom lenses that easily span a given focal range and variable field of view with a twist of the zoom ring, the field of view and focal length remains constant. If you want to take in less of the surroundings with a given prime lens, you’ve got to physically move closer, and to take in more of the scene, you’ve got to back up. But of course, as you move, the angle of view remains the same all the while.
More and more I find my self shooting one of three Sigma prime focal length lenses in the studio… the 50mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.4 and the 150mm f/2.8 OS macro. I noticed that zooms were making me a bit lazy. Hey! It’s a lot easier to twist a zoom ring that it is to move a 300 pound studio stand even if it is on wheels. So why do I do it? A couple of reasons. Perspective, perspective, perspective. I shoot full frame Canon cameras. Their normal focal length is almost 50mm. That’s about the same angle of view as we see with our eyes. I use the 50 mainly for full length photographs.