Natural light portraits

I have been making portraits for executives and co-workers recently. For the corporate look, I shoot with lights, camera and not much action. The results are perfect for the intended use. However, I have been looking for something that’s closer to my vision of a good portrait.

Fujifilm X-P1 | 60mm, f3.6
Fujifilm X-P1 | 60mm, f2.8

This is where my office window and the Fujifilm X-Pro1 come into play. After I have created the artificially lit, corporate portrait, I ask my subjects to walk over to the window and I pick up the XP1. The subjects face the window and partially turn their heads in my direction. I shoot with the intention of converting to black-and-white, so I’m looking for a high contrast exposure. Because of the dark background, I underexpose a stop or so to insure that I keep the dark shadows, the background stays black and highlights aren’t blown.

Fujifilm X-P1 | 60mm, f3.6
Fujifilm X-P1 | 35mm, f2.5

I have used both the Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 and 60mm f2.4 lenses for these portraits. I think my favourite shots have been made with the 60mm, but I also might be getting better at creating these window lit portraits with each successive session and the most recent ones have been shot with the 60mm. In any case, I am very happy with the results with both Fujinon lenses.

Fujifilm X-P1 | 60mm, f3.6
Fujifilm X-P1 | 35mm, f2.8

Many thanks to my co-workers who “sat” for these portraits and for allowing me to use their portraits in the post.

Although none of the portraits were shot this way, I have also done some testing with the M-mount adapter for the XP1 and the following lenses: 50mm Summilux (2nd generation), 28mm f1.9 Ultron CV and 90mm f3.5 CV. I was expecting great things from the Summilux, as it was my favourite lens on the M9. The photos turned out well, but not stellar. In fact, photos shot with the 35mm f1.4 Fujinon on the XP1 are easily as good as those shot with the M9 and the Summilux. The 90mm produced nice enough results and provides me a longish focal length, but I’m certainly happiest using the Fujinon lenses with the XP1.

(Updated 12/08/01) Notes: I have used both AF and AMF to focus. Because of the shallow depth of field, I use focus peeking to insure that I’m getting focus where I want it. I may have started with AF, but relied upon MF with the help of the magnified view given by pressing the command wheel to insure good focus. This is NOT what is termed “focus peaking.” With the XP1, a press of the command wheel, while in MF only, will zoom in on the focus point, showing a magnified view of your subject. In this case, I was looking at the near eye of my subject. A small turn of the focus ring on the lens tweaks focus and a half press of the shutter release returns the viewfinder to OVF or EVF, depending upon where you where when you pressed the command wheel. Then I recomposed and shot the frame.

With one subject, who was having a hard time keeping still, causing her to go in and out of focus, I also shot in small bursts. To process the photos, I cleaned up the RAW files in LR 4 and converted to B/W in Silver Effects Pro 2.

UPDATE 120811: Based upon a comment below, I am including two nearly identical crops of the same photo. The first is the XP1 RAW file processed with LR4 without any exposure or clarity modifications. The second is the same file converted to a 16-bit TIFF using the RAW Converter from Silkypix. Up to you to decide if one is “better” than the other.

UPDATE 120815: After further comparison of the RAW files converted to 16-bit TIFF and the native RAF files processed in LR4, I find the differences to be insignificant enough to make it a non-issue. By adjusting the clarity slider in LR4, I can achieve virtually the same results as TIFF created with Silkypix. For me, it’s not worth the additional hassle and hard disk space required to take this extra step. LR4 has enough control and options to create what I want with my native X-Pro1 RAW files.

RAW from LR4
RAW converted to TIFF with Silkypix


  1. Really like the clean look of those portraits. Great work!

    May I ask you one question regarding your post processing?
    I wasn’t very satisfied with the amount of detail LR4 pulls out of my X-Pro-RAWs. At least when compared to the results of SilkyPix (which totally sucks at everything else). The .RAF files looked somewhat smeared to me in LR4, and the feared “waterpainting” effect appeared in most areas with fine detail, as soon as some sharpening was applied. Atm, I’m tweaking my RAWs in SilkyPix, just to get a clean 16bit TIFF I can import to Lightroom. This workaround gives me the maximum possible detail (which is incredibly much) and some nice sharp images to treat in LR, but the whole 2App-Workflow isn’t very comfortable. So would you mind telling me how you handle your X-Pro.RAFs in LR to get those great details and avoid this crappy “aquarell look”?

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Patrick, I will respond in detail after I have had a chance to make a comparison of the same file processed in LR4 and SilkyPix. I agree, a two application workflow doesn’t work very well. And, I have had good success with LR4 since they started supporting the XP1 RAW files. The occasional chromatic aberration, but generally very good results.

      OK, have a look at the two examples above. First is straight from LR4 with no adjustments and the second is using the RAW converter from Silkypix. At 100 per cent, there is clearly lots more detail in the second example. At smaller sizes, and perhaps with a print, there may not be as much difference. Anyway, too much detail is not what I’m looking for in a portrait. In fact, for nearly all of the portraits, I reduced the clarity and then increased clarity in selected areas. This gave me softer skin but sharp eyes.

      So, looks like you are correct, if you are looking for the sharpest detail, then using the RAW converter will give you that. Not sure I’m willing to go to that trouble, unless it was really critical to the image I am creating.


      1. Thank you Don for your “detailed” reply ;-)
        I could life with a little less detail too, even since the Fuji sometimes delivers TOO much of it for some kind of photos. But what I’m really concerned about is the “waterpainting effect” which appears in some images, especially when sharpening is applied. May I bother you with some examples, if I find them on my HD?
        Anyway, I think clarity might be one of the key offenders here. Since my usual workflow contains a huge increase of clarity (coming from an Olympus PEN Camera and Photoshop Elememts), I might have worsened a problem that maybe would’nt have been that obvious. Actually, on the day I did not know about this behavior, I got pleasing results with LR4 too:
        Sometimes, not knowing something at all is the best that could happen to you :-D

      2. Patrick, my workflow in LR3 included a lot more clarity increase than it does with LR4. Adobe changed the strength of clarity adjustment when it changed all of the other exposure controls in LR4. I found that while I might have regularly applied +50 clarity in LR3, I now only apply +15 or so. Quite a difference.

        I rarely add sharpening in the Detail panel. So, with LR4, I adjust exposure and add, or subtract, a bit of clarity to find a pleasing image. And with the portraits, I spend a bit more time smoothing out skin irregularities and adding back some clarity to eyes and lips.

        Nice Mannschaft Trikot in the foto by the way. Aber Spanien ist der Welt-und Europameister! Neh? ;-)

  2. “Because of the shallow depth of field, I use focus peeking to insure that I’m getting focus where I want it.”
    nice pictures – but how did you use focus peaking on X-Pro1? My X-Pro1 with latest fimware has no focus peaking feature.

      1. focus peaking is not just magnification – it is DOF highlighting with false color.

      2. Ivan, we are talking about different things. You’ll notice my spelling is “peeking”, which means to look at, not “peaking”. I am using the magnification only to look at focus.

        I don’t know why focus “peaking” would be used in this context. It doesn’t seem to apply to the X-Pro1.

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