How to focus a self portrait at f/1.2

Apr 3, 2016

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

How to focus a self portrait at f/1.2

Apr 3, 2016

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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1-2-selfie-top

Focusing a self portrait is hard, but focusing a self portrait at with Canon’s 85mm f/1.2 lens fully open is almost impossible. F/1.2 is so shallow that even the slightest movement will make your eyes blurred and your nose (or ears) tack sharp.

While definitely difficult, it is not impossible, and British photographer Joseph Parry nailed a workflow to make it work. (if you don’t believe it’s possible, just look at how sharp the eyes are at the portrait above.

1-2-selfie-full

At 1.2 even your breathing movements can get you out of focus. So it is crucial that you stay still once you’ve focused. Now, this is always an issue with self portraits, but the Depth of Field on f/1.2 makes it a super human task.

The “secret sauce” lies in using a Canon 6D and its associated Cannon Connect app (iOS, Android).

Joseph suggest a weird yet effective flow of holding the tablet (or phone) in a certain awkward way when focusing:

  1. connect the camera and the tablet
  2. hold the tablet almost between you and the camera (a bit to the side so you can focus on your eyes)
  3. Focus by zooming WAAAAAY into the eyes, and move your hand to the shutter button
  4. lower the tablet and shoot.

If this does not sound intuitive, following the video will show how easy it can be. You would still need some practice, but at least it will move the portrait into the realm of possible:

YouTube video

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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12 responses to “How to focus a self portrait at f/1.2”

  1. Ernest S Avatar
    Ernest S

    My low-tech method is manual focus and a string. I set up a tripod or light stand, focus where my eyes would be, tie a string to the ballhead attached to the camera and cut to the length I need. I just walk over to where I have to be with the string and put it next to my eyes.

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      Great idea brother!!!

      1. Ernest S Avatar
        Ernest S

        I wish I could take credit for it.

        I saw them doing it at the local mall in a portrait studio. I thought it was a great idea, so I borrowed it. I think they even had strings on the lights so they can just move them instead of adjusting power levels….

  2. Don Barnard Avatar
    Don Barnard

    or you could use a piece of string and the self timer or remote and be done with it…

  3. Dirk Beichert Avatar
    Dirk Beichert

    Actually the 7D2 with a face detection AF when using live view created some very good results for me. Maybe in 70-80% it hit the focus spot on (with a 50 1.4 set to 1.8 that was however). The advatage is, you just hold the remote shutter and click away and you can focus on your facial expression (which is what should make a portrait good).

  4. Nikon Avatar
    Nikon

    Time for some canon advertizing, eh? That’s pathetic, how much do they pay, ya?

    1. Dillan K Avatar
      Dillan K

      I bet that’s what you say on every Canon related article. I’m sure you do not have similar criticism for Nikon related pieces.

  5. Marcin Gawron Avatar
    Marcin Gawron

    What about the post retouching?

  6. Niels Vlug Avatar
    Niels Vlug

    This is not f/1.2

  7. Ignasi Jacob Avatar
    Ignasi Jacob

    Or asking your neighbour to take this shot.
    It could be a nice beginning…