I would really like to be able to take a photo like the one found here:


Can somebody please help me how I should shoot such a photo, and what kind of post-processing has been used? What type of lens should I use? Any suggestions would be useful.

Some of the things that I like to know about this photo:

  • What type of lens was used?
  • What type of Photoshop filter that was used and gave it this vintage look?
  • How could she focus on the lips?

I have a Nikon D3100. I am very new to using DSLR cameras, so any comment that can help me replicate this would be appreciated.

(More images from the same photoshoot can be found on the photographer's blog, A New Simple Something / Rosa & Siavash — she seems to be a great photographer.)

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify what it is your trying to achieve? We always appreciate sample photos...but what specifically about the sample do you want to replicate? The pose? The lighting? The sharpness, focus, and depth of field? The number of complimentary factors that make up a photograph are considerable, and we need a little more help from you to offer you the help you need. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jul 28, 2011 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, this image is copyrighted according to the Flickr page. It's probably a usage violation to upload it here. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 28, 2011 at 6:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mark: Could you replace the actual image with a link to the Flickr page? As Craig stated, the image is copyrighted, and without permission we don't have the right to host it here. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jul 28, 2011 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ The whole series at the photographer's blog is very nice; I've gone ahead and added a link to that. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jul 29, 2011 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see anything special there. You can take a shot like this with any "portrait" prime lens with wide enough aperture. Doesn't look like any filter or processing other then the standard stuff. (sharpen the raw image, adjust exposure, etc.) Looks a shot straight out of the camera to me. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2011 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


Here's what I see:

  • The lighting is fairly soft, and warm. My hunch is that the photographer used diffused natural lighting (such as sunlight through a curtain). You could achieve the same with a diffused strobe (ex: through an umbrella) and gels or white-balance tweaking though.
  • Whatever the light source, it's coming from camera right, somewhat behind the model.
  • The lack of deep shadows suggests lots of ambient light (relative to the key light), or a reflector/fill light. I'd guess the former; note that the background is pretty light too.
  • It's reasonably noisy, so it was probably taken with a high ISO. (This depends a lot on the camera though.)
  • The depth of field is quite small; note the difference in focus in the neck area of her blouse. That suggests a wide aperture.
  • It's not very sharp, even in the areas that are in focus. I'd guess that the photographer did not use a very sharp lens. It may even be a point-and-shoot camera; the noise, lack of sharpness, and low resolution give me that feeling.
  • It's a very mysterious, suggestive framing/cropping.

I don't think there's necessarily any fancy Photoshopping going on -- nothing obvious to me at least. Most of this you could achieve in-camera.

By "focusing on the lips", you probably mean that the rest of the photo is more blurred than her lips & face. This is achieved through a shallow depth of field. Getting that effect is a big topic, but the short version is to shoot with a wide aperture, longer focal length, and closer distance to the subject as possible. Actually focusing on the lips is just a matter of taking control of the camera's focusing system; once you do that, the shallow DoF makes everything else blurry.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the DoF is too thin for a point and shoot (most at least). The lack of really sharpness combined with the thin DoF suggests its probably just shot with a 1.4 or 1.8 lens wide open and many of them aren't real sharp wide open. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jul 28, 2011 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Craig, when you say it's reasonably noisy, what is it that leaps out at you? I ask in fear, because my Canon T1i (Canon 500D) goes to ISO 1600 at the drop of a hat if I let it, and I'm wondering what noise I've been adding to my pictures... \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael H.
    Jul 29, 2011 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @khedron: take a look at the blue areas of her blouse; it's not very uniform colouring. It could be artefacts of the focus/resolution/compression though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2011 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @khedron: Don't worry too much about noise. Different cameras will handle different ISOs better or worse. ISO 1600 isn't terribly high these days. It can be mitigated in post-processing (especially with a high resolution), and it's often not a big deal anyway. There's much more important factors to concern yourself with. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2011 at 16:57

I believe you trying to achieve shallow Depth of Field (DoF), where you can always use a DoF calculator to help you out.

DoF in this photo is quite thin, let's say it's 10cm. By calculation, to achieve that:

  • With a 85mm f1.8 on DX sensor, you need to stand 2-3 meters away from the subject
  • With a 50mm f1.8 on DX sensor, you need to stand 1-2 meters away from the subject
  • With a 18-55mm kit lens on DX sensor, zoom in to 55mm on f5.6 and stand within 1 meter away from the subject

ps/ Above will able to demonstrate the shallow DoF you after, but not necessary the framing you desires. Hence you have a wide variety of lenses for different tasks.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the resolution is pretty small too. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a close crop from a much larger pic, so that the framing/zoom wasn't much of a consideration. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 28, 2011 at 15:01

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