Shooting Photos in Portrait Mode with a Canon EOS Rebel T3 Series Camera - dummies

Shooting Photos in Portrait Mode with a Canon EOS Rebel T3 Series Camera

By Julie Adair King

Portrait mode on the Canon Rebel T3 and T3i is designed to produce a classic portraiture look: a sharply focused subject against a blurred background. In photography lingo, this picture has a short depth of field.


One way to control depth of field is to adjust an exposure control called aperture, or f-stop setting, so Portrait mode attempts to use an f-stop setting that produces a short depth of field. But the range of f-stops available to the camera depends on the lens and the lighting conditions, so one picture taken in Portrait mode may look very different from another. Additionally, the amount of background blurring depends on a couple other factors. In other words, your mileage may vary.

Along with favoring an f-stop that produces a shorter depth of field, Portrait mode results in a slightly less sharp image overall, the idea being to keep skin texture nice and soft. Colors are also adjusted subtly to enhance skin tones. A few other Portrait mode facts to note:

  • Drive mode: Contrary to what you may expect, Drive mode is set to Continuous, which means that the camera records a series of images in rapid succession as long as you hold down the shutter button. Should you want to include yourself in the portrait, switch the Drive mode setting to either the 10-second/remote control or continuous self-timer option.

  • Flash: The built-in flash pops up and fires if the camera deems extra lighting is needed. For outdoor portraits, this can pose a problem. A flash generally improves outdoor portraits, and if the ambient light is very bright, the camera doesn’t give you access to the flash.

  • Autofocusing: Portrait mode employs the One-Shot AF (autofocus) mode. This is one of three AF modes available on your camera. In One-Shot mode, the camera locks focus when you press the shutter button halfway. Typically, the camera locks focus on the closest object that falls under one of the nine autofocus points.

    If your subject moves out of the selected autofocus point, the camera doesn’t adjust focus to compensate, as it does if it senses a moving object when you shoot in Scene Intelligent Auto or Flash Off mode.