Can it be done?

2009, Photography

Small sensor cameras have huge depth of field, even at the widest aperture. Many think these cameras aren’t suitable for portraits, but that those trigger me. Can it still be done? I think you can. Get close, use the macro mode, and use the light. Now, these photos won’t be so clean as with a larger sensor camera, but that is not what I want to achieve. And you don’t need RAW either. These photographs are just jpegs.
Waiting patiently by Wouter Brandsma
In the previous post I mentioned that I started using Photoshop again for my post processing. Why? Lightroom is a very capable application, but I miss the ability to do accurate masking. I miss the possibility to soften an image (I don’t like the negative clarity) or to change the blending mode. I like to use the unsharp mask filter in Photoshop to add local contrast. I can do this all much easier in Photoshop and I don’t need something like Nik Silver Efex Pro to get the same results.
Lindsay by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

16 thoughts on “Can it be done?

  1. It can be done, but its somewhat hard to achieve, DOF i mean. When you try to manage with the macro mode it’s a big change that you miss the right moment. But a portrait shooting with a compact is so enjoyable because the model don’t know what to expect from the little lens and a camera and so the model is more free and the pictures are more honest and real.
    And the last picture is awesome, so beautiful eyes.

    Best regards,


    1. I know that the macro mode makes the camera slow, but it is still the best way to get some shallow DoF. It is still a pain to manual focus these cameras. You have more experience with portraits then I do Raik. I regurlary look into your stream for inspiration.

      1. Wouter, thanks for the recognition for my portraits.

        Today when I did some portraits with my GX100 (nowadays I use it more than dslr), i tried the 72mm (35mm eqv.) and i got some pretty good results (i think) – the background was ~10 meters behind and the model is nicely separated from the background. It’s not the Leica 50mm f/0.95 DOF, but i was very suprised by the shot.

        Best regards,


        1. That looks amazing Raik. Getting close does really help to separate the person from the background. And you might want to check the TC1 tele extension lens Pavel mentioned. Although you can only use it wide open at f4.4 (just like the 72mm). That is why I prefer the 35mm focal length.

        2. Raik,
          Great portrait. I love the caption too. I have been experimenting with using using 72mm, but have not been able to get a shallow depth of field like you did. In that shot, how close was the model to your camera?


  2. Portraits are hard to do in any case. The photogs eye has more to do with it than anything else. I love the drama and crop of the first shot. I much prefer the documentary style portrait than anything formal.

  3. Hi guys,

    Portraits are definitely hard to do with small sensor cameras. But if you don’t mind to make your pocketable camera much less “pocketable”, you can get some excellent results with GX100/200 tele extension lens (TC1). I just recently tested this lens and I have to say it’s really great addition for all portrait lovers with Ricoh GX camera. If you are interested, here is the full review…

    1. I saw your test with TC1 extension lens Pavel. And some of the results looked very good. Great that you posted it. I personally don’t mind the less pocketable camera, but I am not a tele guy, mostly use 35mm and only sometimes 50mm.

  4. These are both great portraits, especially after clicking to view the larger size image. I looked at the resized smaller pictures yesterday, and they didn’t have the same impact. If only we could show one another prints!

  5. I leave for a week and while I’m gone, all you do is post photographs of actual real human beings?! Is that being passive aggressive or something?
    It was so interesting to get a window into your private life (I’m all about the snooping, you know), and oh, oh, oh, you even managed to get one of your dog!!!!
    Fun catching up with you Wouter!

    1. And there will certainly be more to come Nathalie. I think a story is to be told. I have mostly been posting, but I have had hardly anytime to visit other blogs. So I should be checking your blog as soon as possible.


  6. Sometimes having to overcome a challenge can be more rewarding andsmall sensor cameras might struggle with shallow DOF but as you show, everything can be done.
    The 2nd picture is fantastic.

    1. Thanks Cristi. There is so much that can still be done with these cameras. But maybe getting a proper 2/3″ sensor with current technology would be a good transition for these cameras, and of course a good and usable optical viewfinder.

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