23 Jul 2014
Every time I shoot this gem of an 85mm lens it embeds itself more firmly as my favourite portrait lens regardless of whether I am shooting head and shoulders or full length portraits. (For full length I just stand further back...) This portrait was shot at f2.8 on my crop sensor Nikon D300s and the backgrounds are just wonderful!
It is also not at a ridiculous price point and would generally be within affordable reach of most people who spent much more than the price of this lens on a new Nikon dslr body anyway. The small(ish) expense is certainly worth the jump in IQ that it provides.
20 Jul 2014
The best way to improve your portrait photography is to invest in a Speedlight... or two, and a wireless trigger system to be able to fire those flashes off camera. I use a cheap but reliable Phottix Strato system combined with two Nikon Speedlights and it has never let me down. Just make sure to have the batteries fully charged before you start and keep some spares handy too.
In this shot I have a Nikon SB700 to camera right shooting through a 105cm white umbrella set to 1/16 power and behind the model I have a Nikon SB600 on 1/64 power with no light modifier at all. My camera is at 1/200s, f2.8, and iso 200, handheld. I hate trying to shoot portraits on a tripod preferring to be able to adjust to my subjects movements freely.
When you have a lot of lights and like to work in a studio set-up utilising at least three of those lights for portraits (sometimes more...) then it can be very liberating to get out into the open air and do some portraits on the streets of LA (affectionate term the locals give to our small town of Landskrona) and be restricted to using a simple single Speedlight set-up. I have a Nikon sb700 on a light stand shooting through an umbrella to camera right and a little higher than the subject. Everything is on fully manual for consistent control. The sb700 was set to 1/64th power and triggered wirelessly with a Phottix trigger system. Camera was set at 1/200s, f2.8, iso 400 and I used my favourite portrait lens, the Nikon 85mm f1.8. For good measure, here is a pull back shot of the scene showing the light firing: