portrait with eye focus

Focus on Portraits

Portrait Photography offers a lot of creative space, from standard portraits to artistic fantasy portraits. There’s something for everyone. One of the most important things in portrait photography is focusing correctly. In this article we will focus on portraits in particular. Here you will find tips to lay the foundation of your portrait photography.

Depth of Field

While capturing your portrait, it is important that you decide the depth of field you want. You will see this later on your photo and eventually on your print. There are several factors that determine the size of the depth of field. For example, you can choose a deep depth of field of f / 7.1 so your background is also sharp, or a shallow depth of field of f / 2.8 so that the sharpness is on the model and the photo has a beautiful bokeh (artistic blur) in the background. Other factors that play a role in the depth of field are the distance from the model to the camera, the distance from the model to the background and the sensor size.

In the above photos you can clearly see that the hair in the first image is already out of focus and even on the sides of her face the focus is already fading. This was taken at f/1.4 meaning the image has a shallow depth of field. In the second image, her eyes, nose and lips are in focus as well as most of her hair. This image was taken with a much deeper depth of field using f/9.0

Eye Focus

You always want to focus on the eyes. The eyes are the first point of reference someone will look at. This applies to portrait photography as well as wildlife photography. A great example of this is the photo by Gustav Kiburg below. It is therefore important that you always check whether this point is actually sharp. It would be a shame when you find out that your eyes are out of focus when you receive your photo print.

Photo by: Gustav Kiburg

Check your photo at 100%

An easy measure to check whether your photo is in focus, is to view your photo at 100%. This is a method we’ve discussed in a previous blog post. This method also allows you to check for small errors and spots. 


Follow these steps to view your image at 100%

  1.  Open your photo in Lightroom, and click CTRL + Z. This ensures your image is blown up to 100% 
  2. If you have not done it yet, it is useful to browse the photo from top left to bottom right in this way, so that you can check for spots easily.

Use our tips to focus on portraits and tag us in your creative portrait on instagram!