How to Shoot Better Portraits with Your APS-C Camera

For more stories like this, please subscribe to The Phoblographer.

The world loves to hate on APS-C cameras. But I think the hate is often misplaced and wrong. APS-C cameras can do a wonderful job with image quality. More importantly, they’re usually some of the leading options for press photographers. Because you folks were curious about this and put it into our search engine, we’re helping you get better portraits with an APS-C camera. Take a look and our tips, and hopefully you’ll find them helpful.

No. Do Not Embrace the Fix It in Post Mentality

Fixing it in post-production doesn’t always work. If you do that, then technically, you wouldn’t really even need a proper camera. You’d do it all with your phone or even a smaller sensor camera. Instead, you’re using an APS-C camera. And you should work to get everything as best you can in-camera. 

How to Embrace the Smaller Sensor

First off, the smaller sensor has a few advantages. At wider apertures, more of a scene will be in focus. So if you’re shooting environmental portraits where you need some background, this is ideal. Here’s a tip from another post we did on shooting environmental portraits:

“If I’m not going for more of a model-like look to the image, I won’t do much posing. The main reason for this is that if you’re shooting someone who may not be comfortable in front of a camera, barking at them to turn their head slightly to the right, not that far, a little more my way, no not like that, will intimidate them, make them feel more self-conscious and will kill the mood of the image.”

Faster Lenses and Longer Lenses

For APS-C cameras, getting the traditional super blurry background takes a bit more work. You really need longer lenses and faster aperture lenses. If you shoot with Fujifilm, you can get their great 50mm f1 lens. Otherwise, you can grab some of their even longer lenses, like their 90mm f2. Basically, you just need to go longer and faster–or really lean into one of those.

Longer lenses tend to flatten how a person can look too. Arguably, subjects look a lot more flattering when you use longer lenses.

Use Off-Camera Lighting

Off-Camera lighting is probably the biggest thing here. Lighting is so super important to photography. You can go ahead and use LEDs, but I don’t think they really do the lenses and sensors any justice. The big thing about off-camera lighting is specular highlights. This is one of the best ways to make images from an APS-C sensor camera look like they came from a full-frame camera. Basically, specular highlights are little details that are brought out primarily with a flash. You can’t get them otherwise. So the sharpness, clarity, and crisp look are just that much better. 

Embrace Creative In-Camera Looks

Your camera sensor can do creative looks. If you shoot Fuji, then there are so many film simulations. If you shoot Nikon, there are lots of fun creative profile looks you can apply. If you shoot Sony, you can find them usually pretty buried in the menu system. I believe in using every tool you have and using what the camera can give you. So why not do it? Deviate from the otherwise sterile look that a camera will deliver.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.