The D850 is equipped with numerous functions necessary for portrait photography. In this article, we look at how to use these functions and fully utilise the ambient light to take more appealing portraits. (Photo and report by Hideki Kono)
Although the D850 is an ultra-high-performance D-SLR, it is the basic performance of the camera’s core features, namely focus, autofocus accuracy and speed, high ISO sensitivity, and accuracy in reproducing skin tones, which matter most in portrait photography. When a new camera is launched, the first thing professional photographers would take note of is how much the basic performance of these features have improved.
In this regard, the D850 sees splendid upgrades. In addition to the high-precision and wide-area autofocus sensors inherited from the D5, the D850 offers low-noise image quality even at high ISO sensitivity, as well as remarkably rich gradation in shadows. It also boasts beautiful reproduction of skin tones, a feature brought over from the D810, and improved high-speed continuous shooting performance to capture the beauty encapsulated in every moment, making the D850 the next step in the evolution of photography. The result? A camera that is more than capable of taking portrait photography to the next level.
D850/ AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 1/400sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: 4760K
There is a tendency in portrait photography to compose the subject at eye level, usually with the subject standing. However, you can make use of differences in elevation to shoot at creative angles and finish your photo in a way that captures a sense of movement. In unstable shooting locations, it can be difficult to look through the viewfinder with the camera at an angle. At such times, consider using the tilting LCD monitor and taking photos using live view.
The position where the subject is standing is also important. With an eye on the direction of the light, look for a semi-backlit position. The outline of your subject will clearly stand out, resulting in a photo that brings out a sense of three-dimensionality. Here I used the blue sky as the background, which added a refreshing feel to the image. However, if you get up close to your subject and look up from a low angle, the model may not look good. Remember to use a well-balanced composition for your shoot.
When shooting from a low angle, prop the camera against your knee, the stairs, or another solid surface to position it for the shoot, allowing you to obtain a stable composition and less chance of camera shake. Check your composition using the screen monitor in live view, but be sure to use the shutter button, instead of the touch shutter, to release the shutter, in order to prevent camera shake.
D850/ AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G/ FL: 58mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.2, 1/400sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: 4760K
When taking a portrait photo in a dimly-lit room, to determine the exposure, a good idea would be to first shoot using a brightness of +1 EV and -1 EV in Aperture-priority auto mode to determine the direction of your preferred brightness. Then, use manual exposure to set and adjust the brightness. If you are shooting handheld, keep an eye on your shutter speed, as camera shake tends to stand out on the high-resolution D850. The usual rule of thumb for determining the shutter speed to minimise camera shake is "1/focal length" seconds. However, this does not apply for the D850. On the D850, use the rule "1/focal length" seconds times 2 or 3, because a fast shutter speed is necessary. Utilizing the light that is streaming in from the window, determine your exposure based on highlights on the face. If there is a large area of shadow, use a reflector board or similar object to supplement the light.
"In locations where the use of a tripod is prohibited, increase the ISO sensitivity and shoot handheld. The D850 can obtain sufficiently high image quality up to around ISO 3200, to satisfy even the most discerning eye of a professional photographer. During the shoot, increase the ISO sensitivity, starting from ISO 800, to obtain a shutter speed that minimises camera shake. For this shoot, I did not experience camera shake when I used a 58mm lens with a shutter speed of at least 1/30sec. To determine if your shots have been affected by camera shake, I recommend checking the sharpness of the subject's hair or eyebrows.
Kono became interested in photography in junior high school, before regularly entering contests run by specialist photography magazines in high school. 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)