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Portrait Tips | How To Get Good Portraits In Bad Locations

By Wendell Weithers on September 25th 2017

One of the marks of a maturing photographer is their ability to overcome limitations. Whether it’s your skill, your gear, or your creative vision, the road to competence is littered with broken barriers.

The challenge of visualizing a great shot in the midst of a problematic setting requires a combination creativity, and technical know-how, and courage. To help you bring that into your work, Photographer Manny Ortiz shares three tips to make the most of shooting in bad locations.

Details, Details, Details

The ability to visualize the possible shots in a setting and detect features, such as patterns or leading lines, will increase your options for capturing a great image in any given location. Knowing how your lens will frame your subject and including those elements will help you make the most of your setting.

Use a Wide Aperture Lens

A mid-telephoto to telephoto lens with a very wide aperture help to compress the image and is a life saver when shooting in a setting that contains a lot of distracting or unsavory elements. You’re able to isolate your subject within the composition of the frame while throwing the background out of focus. To make the most of these lenses characteristics, you need to be able to see what your lens sees before you shoot.

Focal Lengths starting found in a fast 70-200mm range can help you cover this.

Full Frame Zooms
Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 FL ED – $2,796.95

Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 ED VR II – $2,096.95

Sony 70-200mm 2.8 GM OSS Lens $2,598.00

Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II – $2,099.00, Canon 70-200mm 2.8L $1,349.00*
Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens – $1,299

*Lens not image stabilized

APS-C Zoom
Sigma 50-100mm 1.8 DC HSM Art Lens – $1,099

Full Frame Primes 

Canon 85mm f1.4 – $1,599.00, Canon 85mm f1.8 – $349.00
Nikon 85mm f1.4 – $1,596.95, Nikon 85mm f1.8 – $476.95
Sony 85mm f1.4 GM – $1,798, Sony 85mm f1.8 – $598.00

Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens – $1,199.00
Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD – $749.00

Don’t Be Afraid

Accept the fact that every shot you take won’t be amazing. In fact, over the life of your photographic endeavors, you’ll reject more photographs than you’ll keep. Know this, accept this, and get back to shooting. Don’t let a setting or images that don’t initially pan out the first time, discourage you from the trying something new.

[REWIND:  HOW TO MAKE STRONG BLACK & WHITE IMAGES USING GRADIENT MAPS]

Check out more great stuff from Manny, here.

Considering a 70-200mm lens?

TAMRON SP 70-200MM F/2.8 DI VC USD G2 | LENS REVIEW

NIKON 200MM F/2 VS. THE 70-200MM F/2.8 | MATT GRANGER

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LENS: 24-70MM OR 70-200MM?

Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

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