Xpert Advice: Creating Sharper Portraits in Camera

The secrets to getting sharper portraits in camera are a lot simpler to figure out than you’d honestly think. There are three key components: light, contrast, and stability.

To start, we always recommend stopping your lens down just a bit. With Fujifilm’s lenses and the X Trans Sensor’s 1.5x crop factor though, you generally don’t need to. Part of this is due to a slightly deeper depth of field vs medium format or full frame 35mm sensors. If you have a camera with the company’s 24MP sensor like the Fujifilm X-T2 and Fujifilm X Pro 2, then you’re guaranteed to get really sharp results to begin with. That’s easy, right?

Let’s talk about light. The absolute best way to take the fullest advantage of any lens is to add a flash to the scene. Off-camera flash can render results that deliver details that aren’t clearly visible in the scene otherwise. These are called specular highlights and it can mean the difference between smoothed out skin or seeing details in a person’s pores. Additionally, what a flash does (like the EF-X500 flash), is deliver something called a flash duration which cuts down on ambient light in the scene and puts more emphasis on the subject overall. That brings us to contrast.

One of the best lessons you’ll learn as a photographer is how to fool the eyes of other viewers of your images. The biggest and best tip: the deeper your black levels are in the photo, the more you can fool someone into thinking that the image is sharper. To do this, it’s sometimes best to use the more contrasty camera profiles like Astia, Pro Negative High Contrast, or Acros. The key here is that the eye ignores the blacks and instead focuses more on the colors. When combined with the highlights that a flash can deliver, you’ll get images that not only look sharper at 100%, but also as a whole.

Last, let’s talk about stability. Ever hear about the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds? It dictates that in order to get an image free of camera shake, you need to shoot at a reciprocal of your effective focal length. So that means that since the Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR renders around a 50mm field of view, then you need to shoot at 1/50th at minimum. With the 90mm, you’ll probably want to shoot at 1/160th.

Keep these in mind, and you’ll be shooting sharper portraits in no time.

Xpert Advice is a monthly collaboration between the Phoblographer and Fujifilm designed to teach you photography tips and tricks in a bite-sized package