Sony a7 and 85mm f1.4 GM lens: Natural light studio portraits with Sabrina

Natural light studio portraits with Sabrina: Sony a7, 85mm f1.4 GM lens

I remember very clearly Sabrina reaching out over Instagram messenger asking to collab. At the time I was very new to photography but was eager to test my new Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master portrait lens.

I’ve heard great things about the 85mm for portraits, so this was the perfect time to test it out. The 85mm f1.4 is a sharp lens with great image quality. I would not expect anything less for the price. The only downside is the size and weight of the lens on my Sony a7 camera.

The lens weighs around 1.8lbs and it made my camera very front heavy. But that’s where the disliked pretty much stopped.

Close up portrait with Sony 85mm f14 lens
Deep blue eyes of Sabrina Lynn | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

Model introduction

Sabrina is a local Dallas model that works with photographers around the Dallas Fort Worth area. She is a local student in college and looks to further her portfolio in modeling.

Our Makeup artist for the day was Isabel Gachrich. She did a great job in keeping the makeup soft and natural on Sabrina.

I requested the colors stay neutral for this shoot since I wanted a more casual lifestyle look for the photos.

small chair sony 85mm gm lens portraits
Model poses in chair | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

Portrait shoot breakdown

This portrait shoot with Sabrina was an all-natural light shoot. I rented a small photography studio in Dallas for a few hours so we could get out of the hot sun.

There were large windows on a single wall that let in plenty of natural light, and this filled the entire studio with a soft glow.

There was no need for any artificial light or flash on this shoot, so I kept that gear at home.

The majority of the studio was painted white, even the brick. The floors were pinkish-colored concrete. This created a small red and warm color cast that I would eventually edit out of my photos of my models that sat on the floor.

horizontal portrait shot sony a7 85mm lens
Side composition portrait | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

How it was shot

Once the makeup was completed the team including the model, myself, and the makeup artist looked through the wardrobe that Sabrina provided for the shoot. We decided on a simple look that ended up being the main wardrobe for the first half of the shoot.

This was a simple blue long sleeve short and torn shorts. The blue of this look really popped against the room. It also complemented Sabrina’s deep blue eyes.

Her eyes were the main focal point in the majority of the shots. It was hard not to feature them for each portrait shot as they stood out in a colorful way.

We moved around the room and Sabrina took posing direction really well. We used some of the small furniture around the room including chairs, and one of the large couches.

I moved the chairs and couches towards the windows to maximize the lighting on my subject. I didn’t want to get too close so kept Sabrina around 3-4 feet away from the windows.

There were no blinds or curtains to block the light, so I was cautious about the harsh light hitting my model.

soft light sony a7 sony 85mm f14 GM lens
Soft window light | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

Model Posing

I directed Sabrina to make small movements. I wanted to use body contrast to if one arm was down, the other was up. If one leg was down, the other was up.

This created visual interest in the shots even though she was not moving around much. She would wiggle her hands every few minutes to stop from tensing up.

From hair flips and jumping on the couch, I really enjoyed working with her on this model test shoot.

Staring out the window sony a7 85mm portrait
Couch corner pose | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

What I would have done differently

The biggest regret I had was not having a photography reflector with me on this shoot. I think even a small silver or white reflector would have bounded more light back into the model’s face and body.

This would have added more details into the shadows and made it easier to bring back more details in post-production.

I also kept Sabrina in too many seated positions. I should have kept her moving around the room and grabbed shots of her walking or leaning against the walls.

Sony a7 and Sony 85mm f1.4 GM lens: Biggest portrait lessons learned

I was not very experienced with the 85mm and I noticed I pretty much kept my settings the same through most of the shoot. I shot at f1.4 for the majority of the shoot in order to see how well the focusing worked with shallow depth of field.

The lens and camera paired really well together to produce great quality images. I had to keep my shutter speed slightly high in order to compensate for any camera shake I introduced from shooting hand-held.

  • The Sony a7 doesn’t have IBIS so keep your shutter high in order to compensate for camera shake
  • The 85mm has quick focus but did have some issues focusing during bright backlight situations.
  • Have a photography reflector on hand to bounce more light back into the shadows
  • Capture the model posing and moving around the room. This will add a more lifestyle feel to the shoot and give you more variety
  • Focus on the eyes and let them be the center point of your composition

Natural light studio portraits

self reflection 85mm portrait shoot with Sony a7
Self-reflection pose | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
falling on the couch 85mm gm lens
Falling on the couch | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
cozy on couch sony a7 85mm portrait lens shoot
Sabrina cozy on the couch | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
Playing with hair Sony a7 85mm portrait
Model playing with hair | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
relaxing on chair sabrina Sony 85mm gm lens
Small smirk from Sabrina | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
window light portrait 85mm lens
Looking out the window | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
Sony a7 with 85mm f14 GMaster natural light portrait shoot
Facing the window light | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/1,600sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
Close up side view Sony a7 portraits
Close up portrait shot | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4
Blue eyes with Sony a7 85mm lens
Blue eyes of Sabrina | Shot on Sony a7 | Sony 85mm f/1.4 GMaster Lens | 1/640sec | ISO 160 | @f1.4

Conclusion

This TFP model test shoot with Sabrina provided me a great opportunity to test new equipment. It also allows me to stay ahead on learning my camera’s abilities and limitations.

As a beginner, you should consider TFP portrait shoots for your portfolio building. Ask friends and family to get started. Then reach out to your local photography community and find more experienced models to work with.

Either way, best of luck and happy shooting!

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