Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus on the eyes and take the shot.

Thoughts and execution

Despite a shallow depth of field seems to be almost a necessity in present photography, I usually try to include context and compose if possibly with back-/ foreground. Some of this had to do with what I photograph but also, up to last year, I only used Micro 4/3 and ASP-C camera’s. The depth of field with smaller sensors is intrinsically more than with larger (full-frame) sensors. I also shoot a lot with “zone-focus” at short distances where I actually want maximum depth of field to get the biggest chance to get the subject in as sharp as possible. Depth of field (aka back/fore-ground-blur where the depth of field behind the focal-point is always bigger than that in front) can be influenced by aperture, focal distance and focal length where wider aperture, shorter focal distance and larger focal length decrease the depth of field and vice Versa.

For this exercise, I used a very uncomfortable focal-length of 28mm in 35mm. This lens is not specifically suited for shallow depth of field, indicated by the advice in the brief to use 100mm e.g. However, getting close with a fast lens (f1.7) could do the trick sufficiently, was my idea. Because this would implicate very uncomfortable subject distance (1-2 feet) I recalled a very nice statue of a great Dutch artist, Carel Willink (B 1900), made by his wife. The statue was perfectly suited for this exercise, not in the latest by its position in a small park next to a busy road to the Rijksmuseum.

Leica Q2, 28mm – f1.7 at approx. 50cm

In this portrait, the busy background fades almost completely. The close focal distance and the very wide aperture of f1.7 are about the best this Leica camera can do. As a comparison, the same subject/distance and focal length of 28mm, but now with the camera’s/lens’s smallest aperture of f16. the difference is substantial and almost a completely different image.

Leica Q2, 28mm – f16 at approx. 50cm

Again, this is the camera’s maximum capability at aperture f16 and near it’s closest focal distance before stepping into the macro setting. The image has a completely different atmosphere, you can see people, cars, billboards. Because of the closeness, the depth of field still isn’t great, but sufficient to see the difference.