Lesson Of The Month
Using A Telephoto Lens For Outdoor Portraits

Photos 2001, Ben Clay, All Rights Reserved

In order to demonstrate the basics of outdoor portraiture, we brought a local model and our photography crew to a beautiful nearby beach. Careful planning and the right equipment allowed us to achieve stunning results. Being equipped with a range of lenses for your camera enables you to achieve the exact cropping and background you want. A telephoto lens is particularly useful for outdoor portraits because it has a longer focal length than a standard or wide lens, allowing you to minimize your background. It also prevents the distorted perspective that can happen with a shorter lens.

To illustrate this, we first shot our model with a standard 80mm lens on a Contax 645 medium format camera.

Our result demonstrates a perspective and an angle of view similar to that of the human eye, with both the model and the background in sharp focus (Image 1). As you can see, the large pilings diminish rapidly in size while the model is relatively small in the frame.


To change the look of the shot, we replaced the standard 80mm lens with a 350mm telephoto lens. Putting on a longer lens acts like a telescope in that it magnifies your subject and makes it appear much closer. This brings attention to your subject while eliminating much of the background. Because this lens is so powerful, we had to move away from our model to create a greater distance between her and the camera. To reflect a warm light into the shadowed areas of the model, our stylist positioned a Photoflex 422 Soft Gold Litedisc just below the camera's field of view (Image 2). This filled in the shadows with a warm, even light.


The result looked good, but the highlights were still too bright. To knock down the highlights in the model's hair, our assistants held a Photoflex 772x772 translucent Litepanel over the model's head to diffuse the bright afternoon sun. The result shows an evenly lit shot with a warm summery feel to it (Images 3 and 4).


For our second location, our stylist changed the model's outfit and we re-positioned her with the ocean and sand behind her (Image 5). This initial shot shows the results using a standard 80mm lens with direct sunlight. Notice how the light is dramatic, yet provides too much contrast on our model (Image 6).

To reduce the extreme highlights and fill in the shadows, we replicated our previous setup using the Litepanel overhead for diffusion and the soft gold reflector to fill in the shadows. We were able to reduce the amount of background and come in tighter on the model, by switching back to the 350mm lens and backing up 20' or so (Image 7).


You can clearly see the difference this makes in these two shots. The first, shot at f/4, shows a very soft, almost abstract background (Image 8). The second, shot at f/11, makes the background more recognizable (Image 9). Which you choose will depend on your subject and background. This lesson will be posted in the free public section of the Web Photo School at: www.webphotoschool.com You will be able to enlarge the photos from thumbnails. If you would like to continue your digital step by step education lessons on editing, printing, and e-mailing your photos it will be on the private section of the Web Photo School. Shutterbug has negotiated with WPS to offer our readers a special 33 percent discount rate of $30 per year. To enroll at this discount just go to: http://shutterbug.webphotoschool.com and fill out the Shutterbug questionnaire which will help us to publish lessons for you in the future.


Changing Your Background With f/Stops
By adjusting your f/stop, you can easily change the look of the background. The higher the f/stop (f/11-f/22), the more the background will remain in focus. Conversely, a smaller f/stop (f/2.8-f/5.6) will throw the background more out of focus. Remember that in order to render a good exposure, the shutter speed must be adjusted to accommodate for your f/stop. As with many SLR cameras, the Contax 645 can be set to an Aperture Priority mode. This allows you to choose the f/stop you want and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed for the correct exposure. Note: When using Aperture Priority it is important to use the spot metering mode for the best exposure for your subject. To do this, focus on a middle-toned area of your subject (here we focused on the model's denim jeans) then press and keep the shutter halfway down to lock the shutter speed. Next, choose the cropping you want and press the shutter the rest of the way down.

Photo Tips
1. When shooting film on location, it is always a good idea to use a Polaroid back to check for composition and exposure. It also shows the model, stylist, and Art Director how the shot looks before committing it to film. Once everyone is able to view this preview, adjustments can be made to the lighting, posing, clothing, background, and so on. Once these details are finalized, the photographer can then focus on the interaction with the model (Images 10 and 11). 2. A makeup artist, or stylist, can make a tremendous difference in the final outcome of a shot. While you are busy focusing on the model's expressions and positioning, the stylist concentrates on the details: hair, makeup, clothing, props, etc. (Image 12). Our stylist purchased clothing and props, handled all pre-shoot preparation and was with us on location to attend to details throughout the shoot. If you can afford to use one, we highly recommend it.







Technical Equipment Cameras: Contax 645, Olympus 2100 (for setup shots) Lenses: Carl Zeiss 350mm f/4 and Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2 Accessories: Contax Polaroid back; heavy-duty tripod Digital Film: Lexar 64MB CompactFlash card Lighting Equipment: Photoflex 772x772 Litepanel frame with white/translucent fabric; Photoflex 422 Soft Gold Litedisc; Photoflex Litedisc Holder; Photoflex LS-2200 Litestand

Carl Zeiss Optical, Inc. (800) 338-2984 fax: (804) 530-8315
Contax, Division of Kyocera Optics Inc. (800) 526-0266 fax: (732) 560-9221 www.contaxcameras.com
Lexar Media Inc. (510) 413-1200 fax: (510) 413-1261 www.digitalfilm.com
Olympus America Inc. (631) 844-5321 fax: (631) 844-5262 www.olympus.com
Photoflex (800) 486-2674 www.photoflex.com