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What Separates Pro Portraits From The Rest?

Have you ever wondered why so many pro photographers talk so much about bokeh? After all, the old joke is that bokeh is everything in the frame that’s not important enough to have in focus. That old joke misses the fundamental point, because bokeh is one of the most powerful tools a pro has to draw attention exactly where they want it in the frame. It’s how a thoughtful photographer takes hold of the viewer and immerses them in the moment. It’s the reason lenses like the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master were so painstakingly designed for Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras to create the kind of bokeh that pros talk about so lovingly with words like “creamy,” “sublime,” and “luscious.”

It blows my mind to be shooting wide open with a shallow depth of field on this really beautiful lens, and have it pull their eye out of the background and be able to track them moving toward or away from the camera.

It’s the creative use of bokeh that can define a professional image so it becomes indelibly etched into the mind of the viewer. As wedding pro Mike Colón says, “The bokeh that the lens provides gives your photos a really distinct look. It really separates your images from an amateur's images, like someone who's shooting with an iPhone or with a point and shoot. There's no way they can get anything like that.”

“You really have to have something in your toolbox that can set your work apart from others, and this lens definitely does that.”

Sony α7R III. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens. 1/800-sec., f/1.4, ISO 100. “I love this photo because it has a 3D look and the background is nice and blurred. If you look in the background you can see that circular Bokeh going on and can even see the blurring in the foreground. I was able to nail this shot because of the lens I had and I love the unique look that was achieved.”

For any wedding and portrait shooter, the 85mm focal length is likely to be the lens that gets the most use. “The 85mm f/1.4 G Master is just an all-around perfect portrait lens, so when I'm shooting fashion and portraits or headshots – that's my go-to,” says Colón. “It's really fast at AF tracking which is kind of rare for a prime, and it's great with Eye AF which I use a lot. It blows my mind to be shooting wide open with a shallow depth of field on this really beautiful lens, and have it pull their eye out of the background and be able to track them moving toward or away from the camera. The percentage of dead-on sharp images is so high.”

Sony α7R III. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens. 1/800-sec., f/1.4, ISO 320.

Sharpness is measurable and quantifiable, but it only tells part of the story. The combination of sharpness and bokeh creates the 3D effect that is difficult to define, but everyone knows it when they see it. What separates so many great wedding and portrait images from the rest? It’s about how tack-sharpness and creamy bokeh are used within the frame. And that’s why so many pros talk so much about bokeh.

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