Portrait photography fully brings out the charm of your subject, and expresses their unique view of the world. The ideal camera for portrait photography not only reproduces the subject’s skin colour well, but also has a highly accurate autofocus sensor system. Find out more about the performance of the Nikon D500 as I share my impressions from using it. (Photo and report by Hideki Kono)
Nikon D500/ AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G/ FL: 85mm (equivalent to 127mm in FX/35mm format)/ Manual exposure (f/2.5, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 100 / WB: Direct sunlight
When taking backlit portraits, you have to decide whether to give priority to the shadow or highlights due to the impact of the difference in brightness. When taking portraits outdoors, the overall refreshing feel of the photo is often prioritised over any blown highlights that may occur. And on the D500, the depiction has more persistent highlights, giving them a greater sense of depth.
Nikon D500 / AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G/ FL: 35mm (equivalent to 52mm in FX/35mm format)/ Manual exposure (f/5, 1/1,250 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Direct sunlight
When shooting instantaneous movements, look out for the camera’s continuous shooting and AF tracking performance. With a continuous shooting performance of up to 10 frames per second (fps) and high accuracy AF tracking, the D500 allows you to create satisfying shots even for active portrait photography.
Nikon D500 / AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G/ FL: 85mm (equivalent to 127mm in FX/35mm format)/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/500 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Direct sunlight
As we approached the middle of the shoot, with the model feeling more relaxed, I decided to aim for a close-up shot with an emphasis on her facial expressions. A fast continuous shooting speed (10 fps) is effective for bright, cheerful smiles, while a slower one (3 fps) is better suited for more serious expressions. The sound of the camera during continuous shooting also has an effect on the model’s facial expressions.
Nikon D500 / AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G/ FL: 85mm (equivalent to 127mm in in FX/35mm format)/ Manual exposure (f/2.5, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Direct sunlight
I stepped back and tried to take a pull-back shot using the f/1.4G. The AF sensor, which is the same as that used on the D5, has greatly progressed from previous models, allowing for high-accuracy focusing. With the extremely high-resolution 20.9 megapixel image sensor, the camera is able to convey the expression (nuance) of the model even when depicted at this size.
In my opinion, the D500, which is highly praised by photographers from various genres, is excellent even for portraiture photography. When it comes to cameras, there are two key capabilities that I look out for: the first is its ability to reproduce skin colour, and the second is AF sensor accuracy.
In portrait photography, reproducing the skin colour is everything. When compared to the D3S, which belongs to an era that was characterised by the warmth of colour, the ability to reproduce skin colour has changed considerably to reproduce beautiful skin colour that appears even more natural and has a sense of translucence. This alone is reason enough to get hold of the D500.
Moreover, when you look at the AF sensor arrangement that is spread across the entire image area on the D500, the focus points that were previously concentrated on the centre are now spread out to the peripheral areas. Having a lot of focus points in the peripheral areas in particular provides a great advantage for portraiture photography. This dramatically improves the focusing accuracy at times such as when your camera is in the portrait orientation or in the evening when there is low contrast.
By setting the Multi selector center button for zoom preview, the view can be expanded in an instant, which is handy for checking the focus. It is also always a good idea to have the Store by orientation function enabled for portraiture photography, as you will use the portrait orientation often.
Lenses that I would recommend for making the most of the benefits provided by the D500 are 85mm and 58mm prime lenses. It is easy to take photos due to the sense of distance provided by these focal lengths, and the bokeh achieved is large and beautiful.
To improve in portrait photography, you don't need to master all of the many functions on the D500. Rather, the key is to first get used to the basic functions that allow you to concentrate on operating the camera smoothly, and to be able to have fun interacting with the subject.
Kono discovered his interest in photography in junior high school. By the time he was in high school, his photos were constantly making the shortlist in contests organized by photography magazines. At the age of 23, he became a professional photographer, mainly for advertising and fashion magazines. He has since published more than 150 photo collections and books of actors and actresses, and various artists from around the world. Member of the Japan Photographers Association (JPS)