One of the easiest tips I give beginning photographers that are looking to improve the look of their portrait shots is to shoot at the widest possible aperture. This means the lowest f/ number on the lens. In doing so, what could be a boring or distracting background translates into a nice smooth surface helping to accentuate the subject.

For today’s example image, I photographed Brenda on the streets of Seattle during last weekend’s shoot. I spotted a surface with a great blue reflection that would help enhance Brenda’s eyes. By shooting wide open (f/4 in this case), I was able to smooth the harsh circles in the background into an interesting design. Using a long focal length lens helped to further add to the effect.

When shooting outdoors using reflector lighting (like in today’s image), I set my camera on AV (Aperture Value) Auto mode and leave the lens aperture wide open. Doing this lets the camera determine the appropriate shutter speed and frees me up to concentrate on composition.

Canon 5D, Canon 70-200 f/4L lens – 1/100 second, f/4, ISO 200