Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter
The easiest ways to deal with any kind of visual flaws in your subject is to use make-up. Having a make-up artist available for your portrait subjects during a shoot makes the subject feel “special” and she’ll enter the session with a completely different attitude than she otherwise might. The best possible make-up will also make her confident and that confidence will transfer into how she interacts with you during the portrait session.
Another way to minimize retouching is to slightly—I’m not talking about blowing out any highlights here—overexpose the portrait making it just a little lighter and brighter than your flash meter or in camera meter says is “correct.”
Next consider soft focus which can either be done in-camera or in postproduction (which can be a subject for a future post.) Doing it in-camera involves using a soft focus filter or a soft focus lens. The classic and hands-down best soft focus filter is the Zeiss Softar that uses tiny lens-shaped structures to produce the soft focus effect. Despite softening the highlights, the basic focus remains sharp up to the edges, an advantage that makes focusing easy. And you’re going to have to focus manually through this filter because your AF will probably go crazy. B+W offers the Softar in two strengths including I (mild) and II (stronger) and the degree of softening is not affected by the aperture selected.
Another approach is to use a soft focus lens such as Canon’s EF 135mm f/2.8 SF and that method has some advantages over using filters. The lens can give you razor-sharp snapshots as well as soft focus shots that don’t have to look blurry. In addition to the zero setting (no soft focus) you have a choice of two soft settings and each one is affected by the selected aperture so a minimum but still noticeable effect will be achieved with the “1” setting and using a small aperture. Even for maximum soft focus shots, focusing with your camera’s AF is quick and accurate.
Using any of these techniques will greatly minimize any retouching challenges later on. The above available light portrait was captured using a Canon EOS 50D and EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens with an exposure of 1/250 second at f/4.0 and ISO 200.
Joe Farace is the author of a new book called “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’d available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.