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View Full Version : From Diffusion to Disillusion : Portrait Woes



vegabros
03-06-2005, 06:19 PM
Today I went to the park with my wife to shoot some portraits. I bought a diffusion filter for my Canon Rebel EOS 35mm camera (I got it back around 1997) and I shot some pictures. I was using a lens hood and shooting with 400 film.

But I have to say... I'm a bit disappointed with my results. It just seems like my shots were just out of focus (even though I shot at high shutter speeds). Not the look I wanted. I'm chasing a "glamour" portrait look. Where it seems more dreamy and glowy... and not just "out of focus" .

I'm thinking it's either my old camera, my lens, the filter, or maybe the lighting wasn't favorable. Or... it's possible... that maybe it's just me :rolleyes:

I figured shooting outdoor shots around 4pm, like the pro did for me and my wife would not be that hard. Especially since I don't need a tripod or external lighting.

Any suggestions? Any resource or tutorials for shooting beautiful portraits?

Thanks,
Leo

ReF
03-06-2005, 08:25 PM
i'm going to take a blind stab at this and say that maybe the camera couldn't focus properly if the filter was placed on the lens prior to focusing?? try getting a focus lock first, then place the filter on and take a shot. if it still comes out terrible then maybe it's the filter...

Samuel Lo
03-06-2005, 08:44 PM
Today I went to the park with my wife to shoot some portraits. I bought a diffusion filter for my Canon Rebel EOS 35mm camera (I got it back around 1997) and I shot some pictures. I was using a lens hood and shooting with 400 film.

But I have to say... I'm a bit disappointed with my results. It just seems like my shots were just out of focus (even though I shot at high shutter speeds). Not the look I wanted. I'm chasing a "glamour" portrait look. Where it seems more dreamy and glowy... and not just "out of focus" .

I'm thinking it's either my old camera, my lens, the filter, or maybe the lighting wasn't favorable. Or... it's possible... that maybe it's just me :rolleyes:

I figured shooting outdoor shots around 4pm, like the pro did for me and my wife would not be that hard. Especially since I don't need a tripod or external lighting.

Any suggestions? Any resource or tutorials for shooting beautiful portraits?

Thanks,
Leo

Some kind of diffusser/softener have different index, the most extreme one can blur the image a lot. Softener is a bit "mild" in the effect. If your autofocus system is alright I think you can try a diffuser with a smaller index, or just use a softner instead. The most effective way to use a Diffuser/softener is under sunlight, not under shade area. Don't forget the Pro always apply the softener on the enlarger in the darkroom, not on the Lens.

vegabros
03-06-2005, 10:11 PM
Interesting...

I did have my filter on before I focused... but it didn't seem like my camera had such a hard time, it would beep quickly indicating it was focused.

How would I lock the focus? Because if I press the shutter button half-way and let the camera focus, then put on the filter, wouldn't I have to refocus the camera?

Samuel: So do you suggest using photoshop over filters? I'm using a 35mm now, but I'll be getting a 20D (or D70... or 350D) soon.

- Leo

Samuel Lo
03-07-2005, 09:02 AM
Interesting...

I did have my filter on before I focused... but it didn't seem like my camera had such a hard time, it would beep quickly indicating it was focused.

How would I lock the focus? Because if I press the shutter button half-way and let the camera focus, then put on the filter, wouldn't I have to refocus the camera?

Samuel: So do you suggest using photoshop over filters? I'm using a 35mm now, but I'll be getting a 20D (or D70... or 350D) soon.

- Leo

Not at all. After the shooting, you can ask the D & P Lab to add softener in the dark room if you are using 35mm film. Photoshop will be a good idea too.

ktixx
03-07-2005, 12:01 PM
How would I lock the focus? Because if I press the shutter button half-way and let the camera focus, then put on the filter, wouldn't I have to refocus the camera?

What you can do is autofocus, put the filter on, switch to manual focus, and take the picture. If you need to you can fine tune the focusing slightly.
Ken

jamison55
03-07-2005, 01:41 PM
Soft effect filters are some of the most difficult to use requiring a bunch of experimentation to nail the correct settings...and even then (as with anything) cheap filters will often give you less than stellar results. Another reason why "pros" can charge the $$$...

A couple of suggestions:

- Try to use the filter at different aperture settings. Most work well at wider apertures.

- Play around with the angle of your "key light". SF typically looks really good with a backlit subject, so at the 4:00 hour position your subject so that the sun illuminates the back of her head, and use a reflector or low power flash to put a little fill on her face. This is a popular glamour lighting technique that looks really good w/a SF filter.

A DSLR will be much cheaper to experiment with than a film camera (where you have to pay for every click of the shutter), and if you are really serious about SF effects I'd recommend the Canon 135 f2.8 SF. I tried various cheap SF filters before and was never happy with the results. It wasn't until I bought this lens that I found SF that looked good enough to sell to clients. It is a tack sharp telephoto on a 1.6 CF camera...and cheap at <$300.

vegabros
03-07-2005, 04:11 PM
I bought my filter for $12 at RitzCamera... did seem too good to be true, but then again I thought that since it was just a filter it would be good enough.

I need to invest in a better flash, I have a 5 year old speedlight (you can't rotate it).

Good suggestion on the back lighting Jamison! And like Ktixx said, it will probably be best to focus manually.

If this still doesn't work, then I will try Samuel's approach... :)

Jamison, you feel I should invest in a speedlight 580 or will the sigma you recommended on another thread be good enough?

Will the 135mm on the SF lens be a little too telephoto for portraits?

- Leo

jamison55
03-07-2005, 06:30 PM
Hey Leo,

After using my Sigma at a wedding this weekend, I'm still getting inconsistent results. Don't know if it is the Canon flash metering system or if the 580ex would be an improvement... For now I will switch back to my Sunpak 383.

As for the lens, if you are building a kit on a tight budget it is not a versatile as a good fast zoom...say the Tamron 28-75 f2.8, and you can add a nice soft effect in PS for now.

If you do the the extra cake for the 135, it is really a remarkable lens for the price. Don't have any examples of my own to upload at this moment, but found a few examples from this guy at PBase: http://www.pbase.com/image/35253351

--JAMIE

vegabros
03-07-2005, 06:45 PM
I can't find the 135mm f/2.8 SF anywhere. When I search for it, and I end up getting a lens hood as my result.

You think they stopped making it?

- Leo

jamison55
03-08-2005, 03:14 AM
Nope: http://www.adorama.com/CA13528AFU.html?searchinfo=canon%20135&item_no=13

dwig
03-08-2005, 07:20 AM
You should note that a true "diffusion" filter does not produce the "dreamy and glowy" look seen in classic portrature. That result is produced by "soft focus" lens attachments and true SF lenses (like the one shown in the Adorama link, above). Also, 99.99% of the attachments on the market are garbage and their naming conventions are very non-standard.

Nikon's Soft filters are a mix of diffusion (reduces contrast) and soft focus. They work well, but are balanced too much on the diffusion side for my taste. The classic Zeiss Softars (the ones with small dimpled "lenses" distributed across their surface) are the best at producing results similar to true SF lenses, though they work well only at large apertures as do the true SF lenses.

"Good" softfocus is hard to achieve on small format cameras. It is produces by lenses with under-corrected spherical aberation. Stopping down a lens _ALWAYS_ reduces this type of aberation so wide apertures are manditory. Due to the physics invovled, it is rather easy to achieve good SF on 4x5 and 8x10 and not too difficult on 6x6/7/9/. Its a challenge on 35mm and increasingly difficult on smaller formats like the common APS-C dSLRs and the even smaller digital P&S cameras. With 35mm, you need apertures no smaller than f/4 and the smaller digital formats probably need more like f/2-2.8, at the smallest, to achieve "good" results.