I stopped shooting wide open! by Isi Akahome

I stopped shooting wide open!

by Isi Akahome

Hi Steve,

We all LOVE the 3D separation we get from our awesome Leica glass, especially the Summilux. I started noticing that I kept shooting at f 1.4 to f2. In the last few weeks, I decided that I’d shoot stopped down to at least f2.8 on my 35mm lens. Here’s how it turned out.

I think it made me focus on the environment and interesting composition. Bokeh is cool, but I shouldn’t be the only tool in our arsenals. If overused, it can become a crutch.

Images with the Leica M 240. Studio shots with a Canon 5D and Nikon Df. Click them for larger!

You can check out more of my work on IG: @isi.a.pix

Thanks Steve.


  1. Really cool pictures. There is something that really captures the eye with them. Something that makes you look harder and deeper in the picture to see any detail you might be missing because the pictures have a darkness about them. There is some mystery to them. Very good and thanks for sharing such a neat perspective.

  2. Nice stylized subjects – fully magazine-worthy. :^)
    We all have to make our own aesthetic choices, and if you’re enjoying shooting a little more closed down, great.
    We all have our tastes. Imho, these are exactly the kinds of shots where I _love_ to see the max’m bokeh!
    But that’s my problem, not yours; I can choose the aperture for my own damn shots, right? :^>

  3. I take a lot of photos of my friends and family, I would agree that mostly showing context and a bit about where you are are and what we were doing makes the photos more interesting than if were the exact same wall of blur in every location.
    But having variety is important, I remember coming back from one trip and reviewing the photos – the whole lot were head and torso portraits with fill-flash!! – that was a bit too much of the same even in different settings!

  4. amazing images and a very cool signature in development. I especially like the first shot.
    thank you for sharing

  5. Which begs one question: if you are stopping down, why the investment in those type lens? I have an M as well with 4 lens, all f1.4 or faster (Noctilux). Stopping down to f8, for example, would yield no better image quality than a lens costing ¼ of what you’ve paid. JMHO!

    • There may be times when you want that 1.4 aperture. Low light, or when you do want that look. So in this case, both would be available. Buying just a slow lens restricts you to brighter light shooting.

    • this comment is kind of insane. just because you stop down does not mean that you should not have f/1.4 glas.
      it’s like saying you shouldn’t buy an expensive sports car, because most of the time you will not go faster than 30 miles per hour…

      • Fair enough, but I didn’t purchase a $10K Nocti to stop down. Besides, I think you’re missing my point.

  6. Fashion shoots would never be done with a shallow DOF and studio shots rarely so. I wonder if you did that before or just showing a completely new genre?

  7. This is the best thing you could do to enhance your photography IMHO. The companies are getting out of hand with their fast lenses. Sure I would love a f0.95 but when the subject is at distance and does’t make my photo into a 95% bokeh.

    • Very true. I did not grow when I was using a 50mm equivalent with a large aperture, because most of the time it was a single subject embedded in soft colors…

      Now I added a fuji 27mm/2.8 which many reject because of it’s increase in DOF.
      But I love it for what is is and use it between f/4 to f/8 and have tons of fun with it…

  8. I like your pics a lot. Only the blacks should be black on some of your Pictures and not out washed grey tones, in my opinion. I don’t see any Photos that could benefit from a tiny DoF.
    On the other hand, the tones and colors of the photo with the skull are overwhelming, love the golden eye, so are the colors and gradation of the photo with the green background and sunglasses and the other pictures in the Studio.

  9. Very nice work Isi! I already follow your feed on 500px. I can’t agree with you enough on the point you are making here and I really like how you’ve used lines and colour to demonstrate other possibilities.

  10. Number 6 is especially good. Great linear composition. I only wish there was a bit more room at the bottom near her shoe. And I also like #10. There is an out of this world look about it. And I guess I really like #2. Great portrait of two people. The woman in the surf is just too dark for my taste.

    Good stuff. Keep shooting!

  11. Great shots in which Bokeh would serve no particular artistic purpose. I agree: Bokeh is a great tool but tends to be over- used. Shooting wide open is almost a default option it seems

  12. Strong selection of pics

    I think the whole trend/pressure if you were to shoot wide open is over thought. Look at 99% of the most famous photos in the history of photography and the majority of those will have a deeper dof. Cartier bresson, Capa, Eggleston, Alex Webb etc didn’t all shoot with a really shallow depth of field, I think what I’m trying to say is that there is a real trend to shoot as wide open as possible and an obsession with bokeh but the fact of the matter is that in the real world the most iconic photos out there have a lot of depth of focus area going on.

    • I just noticed a recent comment by Salgado that he always wants everything in focus, so he closes down as far as possible to get maximum depth of field. This does not apply to the outstanding portraits shared here, of course. Still I was surprised. Just a little bit of background bokeh makes the foreground pop a bit more. If it’s an environmental portrait, then DOF would matter as well. Depends on what you’re shooting and why. I’ve seen pro model photographers on TV shooting a model all the way across the street with a very long telephoto lens, obviously to flatten her image and blur up the background. I’ve never felt like doing that myself. Frankly, there may be other aspects of the photo that are more important than this . . . as readily demonstrated by the photos shown here.

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