© Peter Dressel Photography

What’s The Best Aperture For Professional Headshots?

headshot of a young actress

The best aperture for professional headshots usually but not always depends on what you want the background to look like

Best Aperture For Outdoor Headshots.

When I’m shooting outside and want a blurry background I’ll use an aperture of F2.8 or wider.  The photograph below was shot at F1.8 with a fixed 85mm lens and a shutter speed of 500.  

Corporate headshot of a female lawyer

Why Such A Fast Shutter Speed?  

When I’ve shot at 2.8 or wider with a shutter speed of 200 using a telephoto lens I’ve had occasional blurry images from camera shake.  If I use a shutter speed of 500  I can shoot with confidence that my subject’s face will be tack sharp in every shot. Don’t find this out the hard way in Lightroom after the shoot is over.  Crank up your shutter speed.

What If My Widest Aperture Is Only F4?

The headshot below was shot at F4 at 125 with a Canon 24-105mm lens.  I have a nice blurred background and my subject’s face is in full focus.  The longer 105mm focal length helps to blur the background at F4.  

professional headshot of a immigration attorney

One thing to remember, the farther your subject is from the background the more out of focus the background will be. 

So while you save for that super fast lens, set your kit lens to it’s longest focal length and get pleasing results at F4.

One note on the 24-105mm lens.  Make sure the lens stabilization switch is on.  If it’s off the results can be disastrous. Again don’t find this out the hard way in Lightroom after the shoot is over.

Best Aperture For Professional Studio Headshots

For studio headshots I’m shooting with strobes around F11.  My backgrounds are solid colors or painted canvas backdrops and I’m not looking to blur them.  At F11 all of my subject will be tack sharp. 

Headshot of a middle aged male financial advisor

Artistic Professional Headshots

A recent client, a writer, asked for a more artsy look with most of the photograph out of focus. You can see the effect in the photograph below.  I shot this with an 85mm lens at F1.8 with a 500 shutter speed and used the modeling lights on my strobes as my light source.

Professional headshot of a NYC slam poet

Should I Shoot At Wide Open Apertures To Cut Down On My Retouching

In my opinion…..no.  If you want to avoid retouching hire a retoucher.  It’s one thing to blur the background but I believe the face should be in full focus.  Having just a small portion off the face in focus is fine for artistic portraits but if I’m photographing a business professional or an actor I want the entire face in focus.

If you’re interested in working together call me for a free consultation 917-536-7277

© Peter Dressel Photography