In 1992 I bought my first 300 mm F2.8 second hand from Pieter Els a friend of mine. It was a Tamron lens fitted with a Novoflex Pistol Grip. Tamron is a Japanese Product and Novoflex German. They got together to combine this lens with the Pistol grip focusing mechanism.
This was before the Auto focus era. It took me hours of practice to sort out the focus but at the end got it sorted quit well. One comment that Pieter made that day change my photography completely up to today and that was ” You must use this for shooting your wedding Portraits” I ask him why and he said because that will put your photography on a different level and give you an edge above the rest of the wedding photographers. Yes I know…i also didn’t understood what he meant at that stage.
I started to use it and up to today it is still my favourite lens to shoot Portraits, whether it is wedding portraits, kids, families or whatever. The 300 mm just give me the right perspective for portraits and the out of focus backgrounds just fascinates me.
My second 300mm F2.8 lens I bought in 1995. That was a Nikon 300mm F2.8 Af-I lens. The first internal auto focus lens that Nikon brought out. I still got it up to today and still take it for a walk now and then. As sharp as ever and so reliable i will take it to war any day.
Last year I bought the Nikon 300mm F2.8 AF-S lens. This lens got the Silent Wave motor built in and got Nano Crystal coating on it’s glass. A great lens with amazing fast auto focus. I just love to use it shooting portraiture.
If the amount of light allows it I will normally use it between F3.2 and F4. In other words not completely open. I don’t think it is really necessary but I like to just cut out the corners of the lens and just use more of the middle section. Theoretically it just feel sharper but must admit….used it a lot on F2.8 with great results.
Regarding the shutter I sometimes even go down as far as 1/20 sec. But between 1/125sec and 1/2000sec is save. Aperture priority or Manual are the two mode to use. Manual gives you more control over the exposure resulting in less post processing which will influence the quality of your image drastically. For post processing I normally use Photoshop starting at the Raw module.
Shooting portraits with the 300 mm I always opt to use a tripod rather than to try and hand held it. This just give me more control over my composition as a whole and also cut out any camera shake. If handheld the shutter speed must be at least 1/500 sec to minimize camera shake.
Lately I’ve been using a Benro head on the tripod to give me more freedom but for this purpose a ball is more than good enough to do the job. Stay away from normal tripod heads because it restricts your movements to much and just slow you down to much resulting missing some decisive moments in the process which is a great part of successful portraiture.
Using a 300mm F2.8 lens for portraiture is mainly suitable when using available light outdoors. To get this right one must normally shooting into the light using reflectors reflecting the light back into the persons eyes you are shooting. By moving your camera from left to right one can determine how your background is going to look and gives you a lot of control over it. Even a movement of one meter can make a huge difference to you background and also to you photo as a whole.
Here a few portraits that I have shoot over the past few months.