A flattering portrait is often praised for its soft
lighting, good angle, and natural expression. You'll
rarely hear a subject rave about a picture that highlights her pores,
wrinkles, and blemishes. Sometimes, modern camera lenses can be too
A popular solution used by pros is what's known as a
diffusion filter. Simply put, these accessories
attach to the front of the camera lens and downplay the appearance of
texture on the face. The wrinkles don't go away; you
simply don't notice them as much.
These specialized filters can cost as much as US$200 and are
difficult to find for less than US$20. Plus, if you use a variety of
lenses for your portrait photography, you might have to buy more than
one filter to fit the different lens diameters.
That's fine if you shoot portraits for a living. But
what if you just want to take a nice shot of your sweetie?
Ask her for her pantyhose.
That's right, by stretching a piece of light beige
pantyhose over the front of your lens and securing it with a strong
rubber band, you can create the same flattering effect achieved in
professional portraits. The more tightly you stretch the material,
the milder the effect—the looser the material, the softer the
You can capture good portraits without filtration, as shown in , if you use good technique. But there will be
situations in which you'll want to use a
pantyhose filter to add a little softening
effect, as shown in . Be sure to keep a
knee-high stocking, along with a couple sturdy rubber bands, in your
camera bag for just these occasions.
Figure 1. A portrait without a softening filter
Figure 2. A portrait using a pantyhose filter
I actually prefer knee-highs to pantyhose, because I
don't have to cut the material. One knee-high fits
nicely in my accessory pouch. And it doesn't run or
unravel, because I haven't had to trim it.
For best results with this technique, I recommend the following
Use a mild telephoto lens, such as 85mm or larger. On a
point-and-shoot camera, extend the zoom lens all the way out to the
Set the camera to Portrait mode. This opens up the aperture to help
produce a softer background. If your camera doesn't
have a Portrait mode, switch to Aperture Priority and set the f-stop
at its widest setting, such as f-2.8 or f-3.5.
Position the subject at least 10 feet from a background that has few
distracting elements. A big green bush, wood fence, or even the side
of a house works well.
Look for diffused lighting, such as an overcast day. If the sun is
too harsh, you can also place the subject in the shade of a tree and
use the fill flash. The best lighting is usually before 10 a.m. or
after 4 p.m.
Take lots of shots using different tension levels of pantyhose
stretched over the front of the lens. You won't be
able to pick your favorite by looking at the image on the
camera's LCD monitor. Having lots of pictures to
choose from once they've been uploaded to the
computer will ensure success.
If you don't get results you like with one pair of
pantyhose, try another with a different weave or thread count.
You'll be amazed by the results.