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Dramatic Beauty Portrait With the Sony A7II | How We Shot It

By Miguel Quiles on February 11th 2015

I recently started shooting studio portraits with a shallow depth of field using my new Sony A7II camera. Read on as I explain the details of how I created this image.

The Photo
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How I Shot It

My goal with the images from this session was to shoot a number of portraits using studio strobes at a shallow depth of field. In order to shoot at f/3.2 with multiple studio strobes, I used an ND filter of at least 3-stops to make sure my exposure was correct. I recently recorded a tutorial detailing the process of shooting strobes using ND filters and am releasing that very soon. In the meantime, here’s a list of the gear I used to create this image as well as the camera settings.

The Equipment & Settings

The Lighting Setup

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While the setup might look a little complex, it’s actually pretty simple once you realize what the lights are doing. I wanted to have big, bright catch-lights in the subject’s eyes so I used 2 large softboxes and placed them close to my subject’s face. All of the strobes were at the lowest power setting in order to keep the highlights from being completely overexposed. The kicker light was set a couple clicks above the lowest setting just to add a bit of a highlight to separate her from the backdrop.

[REWIND: SIMPLE 3 LIGHT SET-UP FOR A FITNESS PHOTO SHOOT | BTS WITH MIGUEL QUILES]

Post-Processing

As a commercial photographer, I make money when I’m behind the camera shooting. With all of the projects I’ve been working on lately I decided to outsource the post-processing for this image. Fortunately, there wasn’t much that needed to be done. My model that day had amazing skin. Shooting at a shallow depth of field also created a natural blur on her skin which gave the image a soft, dreamy look straight out of the camera.

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Final Thoughts & Tips

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I was really excited to have this image win “Photo of the Day” on the Fstoppers website. This test shoot ended up being a great image for my portfolio. If you’re looking to go out and create a similar look, keep in mind that you’ll have to keep your strobes at their lowest power settings. Also, when shooting with a shallow depth of field, there is a big advantage to using a camera that has an EVF (electronic view finder). It will allow you to zoom in and fine tune your manual focus setting. Take every opportunity you can to try out new styles of photography and push your creative boundaries.

Behind The Scenes Video

I had a GoPro camera in the studio and set it up to record while I was shooting. Here is a quick BTS look at how this image was created.

If you’re planning on attending WPPI this year, be sure to stop by the Savage Paper booth on Monday, March 2nd from 10:30 – 11:15am for my live demo “Creative Business Headshots with Collapsible Backdrops.” I’ll be demonstrating a similar technique and answering questions, so be sure to stop by and say “Hi!”

Miguel Quiles is a commercial wedding & portrait photographer based out of New Jersey. He’s been involved in the photography industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since that time, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities through the medium of photography.

As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level.

27 Comments

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  1. Ian Johnston

    I am hoping someone can help. I recently tried using my A7ii with off camera flash for a portrait. However, when properly exposed for the flash, the EVF is black. So i was having to crank my iso up to focus on the subject, then crank it back down before taking my shot. What am I missing? (Firing speedlites with Pocket Wizards)

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    A retouching article would be so cool on how you made the image pop!

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  3. Andrew Sebrell

    Is it accurate to say that with this camera you could save $100s-1000s by purchasing Lenses without Image Stabilization? For instance, one could purchase the Canon L 70-200mm f/2.8 vs purchase of the Canon L 70-200mm f2.8 IS II? Are the differences in those two lenses greater than just the Image Stabilization so that you would still want to invest in the IS II? Does the A7 II perform better paired with Lens IS??

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    • Miguel Quiles

      That’s a great question. That is definitely one of the big advantages having a camera with stabilization built into the body. I haven’t done any scientific testing on this just yet, but I do plan on exploring it more in the future.

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  4. Andy Martin

    You are using two soft boxes, But I only see one catch light in the final image? This is confusing with the setup you show.

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    • Miguel Quiles

      If you look at the left eye really closely, you’ll see a hint of the softbox catchlight on the left side of the eye.

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  5. Marlin Woodruff

    Great article, awesome video, loved that the retouching was so subtle…. well done.

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  6. David Pino

    Ill be honest, the thing i’d like to learn most about this shoot is, who did your post process? Like most photographers, I’d rather spend a bit more and produce more images than spend time Post processing my days away. But as we all know and can all see, without the post, images are just images (needs that post umph for quality). Soooo, if we may know, who did your post and if we ha a ball park figure, we’d love to know it.

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    • Miguel Quiles

      I use a bunch of different retouchers that I found on Model Mayhem, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. There are many out there with different skill sets based on what type of photography you specialize in. Price ranges go from $10 for a more novice retoucher to several thousand dollars for some of the bigger retouching houses. Check out some of those sites and find one whose style best fits your type of photography.

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  7. Joao Coelho

    Would you mind sharing where you outsourced the post processing and how much did it cost?
    Tx for the article and the video!

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  8. Will Gavillan

    Actually Miguel, I meant which Lee model hood you used, not the filter? Btw, I went to your headshot 101 session tonight. Great job, very informative

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    • Miguel Quiles

      Thanks for coming out! Hope you enjoyed it. The hood I used was the Lee Filters Medium hood. It runs around $200.

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  9. Will Gavillan

    Actually Miguel, I meant which Lee model hood you used, not the filter? Btw, I went to your portrait

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  10. J. Cassario

    Great work Miguel, as always my friend

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  11. Will Gavillan

    I’m curious what model lee filter hood you used with a7ii

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  12. Visan Chao

    Love it!!!

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  13. Thossare Thossare

    my neighbor’s step-sister makes $63 an hour on the computer . She has been fired for seven months but last month her paycheck was $21310 just working on the computer for a few hours. try here…………………..

    ++++++++++++> W­W­W.J­O­B­S­Y­E­L­P.C­O­M

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  14. brett ford

    yes, like the post. not too ott. whom did you use?

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  15. Steven Mole

    Great shot, big fan of the retouch too.

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  16. Michael Lin

    Great shot Miguel! May I ask how large (dimension-wise) are the soft boxes you used?

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  17. Chris Nigul

    She’s really pretty. Awesome shot!
    Since speedlites are less powerful does that mean you could get away without using ND filters?

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    • Miguel Quiles

      Thanks! The problem with using speedlites is that you’ll need multiple flashes to be able to use softboxes that are that big.

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    • Trey Mortensen

      I have 2 24″x24″ softboxes and they do well with speedlights, but they are square. A vertical softbox would be more difficult to fill, but if your clever, I’m sure you could manage (although it might be difficult). Miguel, correct me if I’m wrong, but for a similar effect, you’d probably want two speedlights on one side (probably easiest in 2 separate square boxes).

      Anyways, I’m still amazed by those Sony A7’s. Can’t wait to see what Sony comes up with next.

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  18. Brandon Dewey

    great image

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