How to Get Sharply Focused Photos with a Wide Aperture

Shooting with a wide aperture allows you to drastically isolate your subject from the background and play around with bokeh, making it a neat technique for portrait photography. However, it also comes with a cost: the focus tends to be sharp only towards the center of your frame. Irene Rudnyk shows us how to get our subject sharp throughout your frame even with apertures as wide as f1.2.

Irene Rudnyk has been shooting dreamy portraits in natural light, and the wide aperture of her 85mm f1.2 helps her make her subjects stand out. One of the questions she gets often is how she gets sharply focused portraits with such a wide aperture. Her answer? Using her camera’s auto focus (activated by half-pressing the shutter) to focus around the eyes in the center of her frame, and when that’s locked, recompose to how she wants it. She demonstrates how easy this technique is in the video below.

Of course, this is just one way to achieve this result, like setting the focus points of her camera to move them around her subject. An issue with this technique is you can’t really make drastic changes to your composition because the plane of focus changes so you don’t get the focus right where you want it. Others suggest that this method works best when you’re working with smaller apertures because the deeper depth of field covers a bigger focus area and the change in composition won’t affect it much.

Also, the limit to this is it only works when you’re shooting with your subject far away, which puts more of your subject in that central area where the focus is when you’re shooting with a wide aperture lens. Still, Irene has found this to be a method that works perfectly for her, as we can see in many of her behind-the-scenes videos and photos.

If you want to know more about this technique, Matt Granger also explains this in detail in his video here.

Screenshot image taken from the video by Irene Rudnyk