Front Bokeh Portraits: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

Hi everybody welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography, right here on AdoramaTV. I’m mark wallace and this is Emily and we’re in London we were planning to go out and shoot about and get some nice environmental portraits and some really cool stuff but it is freezing outside and so we really don’t want to do that, but we do want to do is sort of emulate the look of being outside and so what we decided to do is say; hey Emily wear your coat, we’re going to come into the studio and there’s a trick that we can use to create some look that, it’s not going to look like we’re outside, but it’s going to give some depth to our portraits to make them look a little more interesting than they would if we just had a flat background. Now you can do this at home you don’t need a lot of stuff in fact we’re going to be shooting with the ambient light that we have here in the studio we just have a couple of LED panels that are illuminating me right now, so you can use those at home or whatever light you happen to have, it doesn’t really take anything fancy but the thing that you do need to have, well you need three things; one you need some LED lights like these little guys right here, you can get these at almost any little craft store. You also need to have a tripod for your camera and you need to have a lens that has a really wide aperture that can give you amazing bokeh. So I’m using a 50mm, 1.4 so if you’ve got an 85mm, 1.2 or 50mm, 1.4 or whatever it is? You just need to have a lens that has a really wide aperture, that’s going to give you bokeh. So what we’re going to do in this setup is we’re going to use these little lights, we’re going to put them in front of Emily and that’s going to give us something that is out of focus, some nice bokeh in front of the subject, instead of what we’d normally do which is put our bokeh something out of focus, behind our subject. That’s going to give our portrait some depth and it’s going to make it look really cool so let’s get started right now. Let’s start shooting and so I have my LED lights right here now what you’ll notice is when you put these in front of the lens, they go out of focus if they’re really close and that is especially true if you have a lens that has a really wide aperture like a f1.4, f1.2 aperture so that is key. Make sure you have a 50mm or longer lens with a really wide aperture and we’re going to be putting the bokeh, the out of focus stuff, in front of our subject, instead of behind the subject, which is what we normally do so it’s front bokeh. I guess that’s what you would call it, alright, so to do this there are few things that we have to really pay attention to, and one of those things is motion, and our shutter speed in here, we don’t have a lot of light but we have enough ambient light to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/90 of a second and so I’ve already used my built-in light meter to see that at f1.4, that wide open aperture the correct exposure at ISO 400 is 1/90 of a second so we don’t have to worry too much about cameras shake, but what we do have to worry about, because we’re really close to our subject, we’re shooting f1.4, that means our depth of field is really shallow and that means if my camera moves or if Emily moves, just a little bit, she’s going to be out of focus, so to combat that, what we’ve done is I put my camera on a tripod. That keeps me from moving around and then we have Emily standing on a little mark, so there’s a line on the floor, and so I said Emily stay there and don’t move around when we’re taking pictures, so she knows, that she has to pose, hold that pose, I’ll take a picture then she can move, hold the pose, take a picture and I’m shooting with the Leica so, I’m manually focusing everything and so it’s a little bit trickier than your camera that has autofocus, okay so that’s what we have. We have; ISO 400, an aperture of f1.4, In this light, which is super bright we’re shooting at 1/90 of a second, we’re focusing and then taking a picture so I’m going to do that first, just to show you what this looks like, so Emily look right into the lens, beautiful, and Emily is a fantastic model and so just with this light we have something that looks really good but it doesn’t look environmental, like we’re outside it doesn’t have any depth. So now we’re going to add these lights. Now one of the most important things to do when you’re doing this is you have to shoot in manual mode if you let your camera do all the exposure stuff, as soon as you put these lights in front of the lens, the lights are going to confuse the built-in light meter and your exposure is going to be all wrong. So this is shot in manual mode again f1.4, 1/90 of a second, ISO 400 so we’re going to focus on Emily like that and because I’m shooting with the rangefinder, I can’t see through the lens so I’m using Live View to place these lights, so I can see sort of exactly where they are, when I get to a place I like, BAM! I’m going to take a shot, put these little bit further away like that to take these, or out so we don’t have quite as many in the shot. Keep my hand out, beautiful just like that. I love that. Okay and that’s all there is to it you’re going to have to play around a little bit use Live View, that’s going to help you achieve this, move these closer and farther away from your subject. Use maybe one or two of these little lights, clump them all up together and so once you start doing that you’re going to see some really cool results we’re going to shoot, I’m going to throw these into Lightroom and then I’ll show you my results Alright well I love those pictures Emily. I think that we did a really good job with what we had and it doesn’t take a lot, just some imagination, some LED lights, a wonderful model and a wide open aperture and you can create that depth in your image. Well thanks for joining us for this episode of Exploring Photography, Emily thank you for being here. Don’t forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV It’s absolutely free, click on the button subscribe today and also check out the Adorama Learning Center for all kinds of information on bokeh and shallow depth-of-field all the stuff that we did today so check it out again it’s free, so do it right now.

100 Replies to “Front Bokeh Portraits: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. Great tips. But don't assume just cause ppl aren't using Leica they aren't using manual focus or doing just as much work as u. Kinda feels like u tryna bring yourself up and others down

  2. Great tips, I love it. I have been using the exact light but on the background to created some effects but now I will definitely try it out to the front of the subject, thank you again.

  3. It's so strange to see that background and not see Gavin in front of the camera instead. Still a great idea.

  4. Leica shaming at 3:20.

    "And I'm shooting with a Leica, so I'm maaaanually focusing everything and so it's a little bit trickier than your camera that has autofocus…..


  5. I' m shooting in Manual with a 1.4 lens, but still the metering turns the live-view dark if the lights are too close. Perhaps my settings for live-view are amiss? I'm shooting with a Canon 700D

  6. can you use those craft lights to simulate golden hour lighting? i thought i saw a trick like that before but cant find it now

  7. Hello, I have the foot and the garland, but I did not understand all the explanations … (opening / speed / iso / manual mode or A or S?). Please write them down before I learn English 🙂

  8. what LED lights are those? I noticed they aren't battery run? Are they charged up? They weren't plugged into a wall or anything…
    how can they stay lit? I would love it if anyone knows where to get these and explain what they are

  9. I want to thank you for your videos; they are clear, informative, and useful. How do I submit a question that you may be able to answer in one of your subsequent presentations?

  10. Great idea! I'm a sucker for bokeh, and more so than direct-light bokeh, I find reflective-light bokeh – off of foliage (trees, flowers, tall-golden-grass) is even a more beautiful effect.

  11. Absolutely amazing!! I bought a 50mm lens with 1.8 aperture, I'm going to get some lights from the dollar store and shooting some photos. Question, where did you get the backdrop? Looks awesome

  12. I'm super annoyed, your channel should really have more subscribers. Come on people, Mark's lessons are clear, informative and honest. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. You are awesome

  13. Great Idea and photo's. I also tried LED lighting and I noticed that you have a similar problem which I have – a green colour cast on the models skin. How do we overcome that problem or is it because I assembled store shop LED lights and not specifically photographic LED lighting?

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