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Aperture-Priority AE Technique #5: Camera Settings for the Perfect Outdoor Portrait

When you are outside with your close friends or family, you may want to fully capture their clothing or the atmosphere of the place, in addition to their facial expressions. Why not try aperture value of f/4 when shooting such scenes? WIth this f-number, human subjects will stand out without the background becoming too blurred. (Reported by: Teppei Kohno)


f/4 allows you to easily maintain the balance between the human subject and the background

Perhaps you're on a hot date at an an amazingly romantic location that you want to remember forever. Or you really feel that the wonderful scenery complements your date's lovely smile. For scenes like that, you don't just want to capture a human subject in your portrait shot, but also preserve the atmosphere of the shooting location in the same picture.

In such situations, why not try an aperture value of f/4? It results in a depth of field that is not too shallow, so that the resulting bokeh effect is just enough to make the subject stand out against the background without the background being too blurred.

If the 35mm-equivalent focal length range of the lens is around 80~90mm, you can shoot the subject beautifully while maintaining a fixed sense of distance. In the case of an APS-C camera, the focal length is about 55mm. This can easily be selected if you set it to the wide-angle end of the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. While the telephoto end of the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens may have the most ideal focal length, its maximum aperture is one step darker compared to f/5.6, resulting in the background being captured more clearly. Hence, if you want to take more professional portrait shots, I recommend getting the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. Alternatively, you could also use a prime lens (lens that has a fixed focal length) with a large maximum aperture.

f/4/ 1/100sec/ ISO 800
Shot with f/4: Shot taken with an aperture value of f/4. With the right amount of bokeh effect in the background, the atmosphere of the surroundings is captured while showing the happy facial expressions of the subjects.


f/8/ 1/125sec/ ISO 800
Shot with f/8: Shot taken with an aperture of f/8. The background is captured too clearly, making the overall depiction look flat. The human subject does not really stand out.


Key Point

With a telephoto zoom lens, f/4 can be used at the wide-angle end

The maximum aperture that can be used differs between the standard zoom lens, the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, and the telephoto zoom lens, the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. When using f/4 at a focal length of 55 mm which has a 35mm-equivalent value of about 82.5mm, use the wide-angle end of the telephoto zoom lens.

FL: 55mm/ Aperture Priority AE (f/5.6, 1/60sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto
55mm f/5.6: Shot taken at the telephoto end of the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. The bokeh effect is rather weak. The difference is clear even though the aperture differs by one step only.


FL: 55mm/ Aperture Priority AE (f/4, 1/125sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto
55mm f/4: Shot taken at the wide-angle end of the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. The bokeh effect increases when using a value of f/4 even at the same focal length.


Setting the aperture to "F4" in the Aperture-priority Mode For EOS 700D

1. Set the camera to the Av mode

Turn ON the power supply and adjust the Mode Dial to the [Av] mode.


2. Turn the Main Dial

Turn the Main Dial to change the aperture value.


3. Check that the aperture value has been changed to “F4”

Check that "F4.0" appears in the area circled out as shown on the rear LCD screen. Take the picture after confirming.


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EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

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The lens is equipped with a STM capable of silent AF. It is a good buy with a depiction performance that even professionals would find astonishing. It can be used at an aperture value of f/4 when the 35mm-equivalent value is about 82.5mm at the wide-angle end, allowing portrait photography to be taken easily as well.


EF50mm f/1.8 STM

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This lens is equipped with a STM that is capable of a silent and smooth AF, and is very bright at maximum aperture. If you fit it to an APS-C camera, the 35mm-equivalent focal length is about 80mm. With full understanding of the aperture value, it is also possible to capture images with a larger bokeh effect.


Teppei Kohno


Born in Tokyo in 1976, Kohno graduated with a Social Work degree from the Department of Sociology of Meiji Gakuin University, and apprenticed with photographer Masato Terauchi. He contributed to the first issue of photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and became an independent photographer after that, in 2003. The author of many books, Kohno not only shoots all sorts of commercial photographs, but also writes prolifically for camera and other magazines.