Photos that pop have a lot of impact and if you have seen those type of photos where it looks like the subject is jumping out of the frame and wondered how to do it all will be revealed in this tutorial.
Making subjects “pop” and stand out is a great effect and looks impressive. There is a common misconception this effect is difficult to achieve, or it could be the pro photographers wanting us to think it is more difficult than it actually is, however this effect really is quite simple and there are two ways of doing it, as follows:-
1. Using a wide aperture to make your photographic subjects pop
Using a wide aperture and shooting wide renders a shallow depth of field resulting in a sharp subject (provided you get the focus bang on of course) against a nicely blurred out background.
Only the top end and professional grade zoom lenses are “fast” however with a maximum widest aperture of f2.8 (at the widest) they aren’t fast compared to prime lenses. Top end zoom lenses are also damn expensive and cost several times more than prime lenses. Considering the top end zooms don’t open as wide as prime lenses and also cost several times more it makes sense that if you want to shoot wide and make your subjects pop and jump out of the background a prime lens is the way to go.
There are prime lenses with maximum wide apertures of f1.2 (which are stupidly expensive), prime lenses with maximum wide apertures of f1.4 (which are expensive but still affordable) and prime lenses with maximum wide apertures of f1.8 (which are cheap as chips). Out of the three the best value for money are the f1.4 primes.
Even though the f1.8 primes are cheap they are also poorly made (more like a child’s toy than a serious bit of photography equipment), slow to auto focus and soft used wide open. For these reasons it is wort digging a little deeper and spending more for am f1.4 lens.
You need to be careful shooting at wide apertures and make sure you nail the focus. The shallow depth of field means that being slightly off with the focus could render important parts of the subject (the nose, ears or eyes for example) soft, which is not good as you need to ensure these features are always sharp. When shooting at very wide apertures you need to take control over the focal points and, rather than letting the camera choose them annually select them yourself. You don’t need to manually focus and using autofocus is fine, but you do need to take control over the focal points and select them yourself.
There is a learning curve in getting the most of these super-fast prime lenses used wide open, so don’t expect to go and get awesome shots right out of the box. Spending a bit of time learning to use a fast prime lens wide open is definitely worth it, so hang on in there and it won’t take too long.
An alternative to the super-fast prime lenses is a fast prime lens, which have maximum wide apertures of f2 – f2.8. These lenses are more forgiving than the super-fast primes and whilst you still need to be accurate with the focal point you don’t need to be spot on. In my opinion an f2 – f2.8 is a great lens and one to have in the lens bag.
The two prime lenses I use to make my subjects pop and stand out are........
SIGMA 50MM F1.4 ART
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 50mm/80mm/ Aperture:- 1.4 - 16/Min focus:- 15.7”/ Dimensions:- 3.35” x 3.94”/ Weight:- 28.7oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:- $950.00/£620.00
My ultra-fast prime lens of choice is the Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART and it is a fantastic lens. In fact, I would go so far to say it is the best 50mm f1.4 lens currently available.
If you want the best image quality this is the lens to get as the image quality is awesome. Photos taken with this lens are sharp (and I mean super sharp), bright and vivid and distortions/fringing are not a problem. This lens is sharp wide open at f1.4 but stop it down and the sharpness gets even better.
The build quality of this lens is second to none. It is tough, durable, weather sealed and bullet proof. The downside of this is increased weight, but in the big scheme of things this lens really isn’t that heavy.
This lens is not cheap but then you do have to pay for quality, and this lens is pure quality. In my experience it is worth saving up a bit longer and spending a bit more for a lens that is going to last and, trust me, this lens will last. This lens is an investment and will end up paying for itself.
Buy the Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
If you prefer a slightly wider lens the Sigma f1.4 ART is also available in 35mm guise, which other than the shorter focal length is identical to the 50mm version.
CANON EF 35MM F2 IS
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 35mm/ 42mm/ Aperture:- 2 - 22/ Min focus:- 9.4"/ Dimensions:- 3.07" x 2.46"/ Weight:- 11.8oz/ Image stabilization:- Yes/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:-$550.00/£445.00
Another wide aperture lens I use to make my subjects pop is the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens, and I have to say that it is one of my personal favorite lenses of all time.
Given this is a mid-range lens, and not a professional grade L series lens the build quality is superb. This is a strong and sturdy lens that feels well constructed in the hand. This lens isn’t weather sealed, but given its cost this isn’t really surprising.
The image quality of this lens is awesome, and better than many lenses costing several times more. This lens is sharp wide open, and when stopped down a little it becomes ultra-sharp. In addition images taken with this lens are bright and vivid, but not oversaturated.
This lens has a quick and virtually silent auto focus, even when the light starts to fade. This lens has image stabilisation, and whilst many people consider it unnecessary for a lens with such a short focal length it is very useful and allows you to get sharp hand held shots using pretty slow shutter speeds. It is very good in low light.
This is a mid-range Canon lens and whilst it is not particularly cheap it’s not too expensive either. However you look at it, this lens is great value for money and gives a lot of bang for the buck.
All in all this is a great lens and if you want to make your subject stand out and pop this lens will achieve the effect you’re after. Buy the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.