I am using a Nikon D610 and mostly I can get nice landscape shots with long exposure (with f/8-f/11) range using a 35mm f/1.4 lens. However now my issue is, I want to take pictures of a person in front with a nice landscape as the background on the 35mm lens. If I open up to f/1.4 I can get nice shots but then background is blurred out.

On the other hand, even with tripod if I go with f/8+, there is not enough light, and the long exposure will blur the person.

I want to find a compromise for best possible results in such conditions that I can capture the background along with the person.

I am wondering is there anything I can do with camera technique?
Or perhaps something with software like take two shots at f/1.4 with the subject in focus and then the background in focus and somehow blend them together?
Or perhaps take under exposed and over exposed shots and try blending them; unfortunately what I know it makes a fake HDR look, how can I achieve natural looking shots with tack sharp pictures of both subject and background for evening shots in the Alps?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you let us know what ISO values you have tried? \$\endgroup\$
    – user456
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickM, depending upon situation i can take clean shots upto 6400 ISO, but still the background just not tends to be sharp enough unless i remove the subject in front, then all is okay \$\endgroup\$
    – Rizwan
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 13:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually if it is just the landscape, i alwasy keep the ISO lowest possible and compensate light with long exposure and it seems to work perfectly well \$\endgroup\$
    – Rizwan
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you don't want to use flash you can always try focusing at the hyperfocal distance, this could allow you to keep everything in focus without stopping down too much. If you can stop down to f5.6 then your hyperfocal distance will be at about 24ft with a 35mm lens. The DOF will extend from about 11ft in front of you to infinity. Crop to your liking. \$\endgroup\$
    – moorej
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @moorej Cropping changes the magnification factor from sensor to display and thus changes the depth of field for the same focal length/aperture combination. To put it simply, you are magnifying blur that was too small to be seen by your eyes before and making it larger. Now your eyes can tell the difference. photo.stackexchange.com/a/39273/15871 \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


You can either use a flash to expose the subject (you won't be able to see them walking into or out of the frame), or you can, as you suggest, take two shots and blend them in Photoshop - a matter of a few minutes work.

Making an exposure blended shot would require the subject to stand preternaturally still between shots for a decent effect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks, i don't want to use flash but have not yet tried the blending techniques, i will invest some effort in this direction and see how it goes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rizwan
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Make sure the person doesn't walk out of the frame after the flash has gone off or the background will show through them. They don't have to be perfectly still but any large movements could cause a black outline in the final image, or the background bleeding through. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Walk in or out before or after the flash — it doesn't matter which. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 good answer. I have a question: Why does the blend of exposures require the person to stand still? Does that mean you suggest having the person in the image that exposes the landscape, too? Why not photograph the landscape on it's own, without a wrong exposed person that's removed in post processing anyway? Then have single shots of the person exposed well. I guess that would make post processing a lot easier. (this assumes use of the tripod mentioned in the question) I probably missunderstood you, please elaborate. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @null I think the point was that using existing light to make a single exposure with small aperture would require the subject to stand impossibly still. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 19:44

Use a long exposure (with the subject sitting still) and a flash. Inevitable subject movement will cause blurring, but the flash fixes at least one sharp image in place. The light balance will be better if the natural light puts the subject in the dark: in that case giving it a -0.3EV flash (or even a bit more) will not give it overexposure.

Use second-curtain flash: you don't want to capture the subject while getting startled by the flash. Red-eye will be a concern; using off-camera flash might be a good idea.

Here is an image using flash and 30s exposure. It's not exactly the primordial portrait, but you see the combination of long-term exposure with use of a flash.30s exposure, flash for foreground


If done right, these kind shots can look amazing. One technique is to have your subject stay perfectly still for the 25 - 35 seconds you need for the exposure. Some photographers do this really well; Paul Zizka comes to mind. The other common technique is taking several exposures and masking in Photoshop. Depends on how skilled you are with masking, this can produce very realistic but on the other end of the spectrum very unrealistic results.


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