Why you should be using the 135mm focal length in fashion and portraiture

Christian AmmannΆνθρωποι και εκδηλώσεις10 Μαΐ 20244 λεπτά ανάγνωσης
Christian Ammann assets for exclusive Nikon magazine article using the Nikon Z 9 and the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.

Nikon Ambassador Christian Ammann takes us behind the scenes of his exclusive photoshoot for Nikon magazine, using the new ‘bokeh-monster’ NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena

Colourful. Romantic. People-centric. This is how fashion photographer Christian Ammann describes his photography style, and his latest photoshoot, ‘Eternal Stages’, exclusive to Nikon magazine, is no exception. “I’m technically thought through, and I spend a lot of time planning shots,” Christian explains. “I always say, ‘The grid is really planned and inside that grid is very playful.’”

 

Photographing for clients in studio and outside, the Nikon Ambassador is fond of mixing media. “I like to have a set built and then use an AI projected background and then build objects in the foreground to make the set realistic,” he says. “It’s a good cost-saving method.”

 

For advertising and editorial, Christian uses the Nikon Z 9 and Z 8 with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S and NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. His latest addition? The new NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena. One of the first to test out the new bokeh-monster lens (for a tried and tested review, click here), Christian simply can’t get enough.

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Christian Ammann
AmbassadorΆνθρωποι και εκδηλώσεις
What’s in my kitbag?
Christian Ammann assets for exclusive Nikon magazine article using the Nikon Z 9 and the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.
In this image we wanted to achieve a dissonance between the cracked open egg and the precarious swinging of the protagonist on a perch. ©Christian Ammann 
What’s so special about the NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena lens?

“This lens transforms me back to analogue photography and it’s the first time in many years a lens has really influenced me,” Christian says. “With the crisp focal plane embedded with beautiful texture and smooth out-of-focus, it’s sharp straight to the edges. The only other time I’ve had that before was when I was shooting 4x5 (large format) film.”

 

The key stats: NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena

Type: Nikon Z mount

Format: FX

Focal length: 135mm

Maximum aperture: f/1.8

Minimum aperture: f/16

No. of diaphragm blades: 11 (rounded diaphragm opening)

Minimum focus distance: 0.82m (2.69ft)

Weight: 995g approx.

Christian Ammann assets for exclusive Nikon magazine article using the Nikon Z 9 and the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.
The aim was to achieve a Harlequinesque figure with the focus on the hands and porcelain skin. The giant hand statue in the background brings drama to the image, while the intentional hand movements add focus and mystery. ©Christian Ammann
What did you aim to evoke with ‘Eternal Stages’?

“The overall concept for the series incorporates theatre, film stills, art and derelict buildings. Together with my stylist, Anna Thea Jaeger, we selected most of the outfits from the vintage archive of the Zürich Opera House and also included pieces by the talented fashion designer Yanick Monteiro. We looked for a ballerina style that would be raw, structured and strong, as well as mythical,” Christian explains. “The sets incorporate past and future. Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we used AI to create bold backdrops that have an age-old appeal, with oversized structures and mythical creatures. Using the NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena and long exposure further unified the old and new, while the lighting mirrors a strong theatre spotlight, and fog or bare trees further enhance the look. Time is also evident in the images, as is the use of movement of our model to further blur the layers and bring them together.”  

Christian Ammann assets for exclusive Nikon magazine article using the Nikon Z 9 and the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.
Here, the mythical horse-like creature is engulfed in wet tulle fabric behind the protagonist’s outfit, which is in motion. Long exposure blends the background and connects the two. ©Christian Ammann
Why use the 135mm focal length?

“The 135mm was always the portrait lens to use when I started out. With a 50mm focal length – which is popular with portrait photographers – there’s still quite a lot of background and it can sometimes give you a wide-angle effect. With the 135mm, it’s fantastic for portraits and, when you need to pull back and have your subjects smaller, it frames your subjects very neatly,” Christian explains. “The NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena has an unbelievable way of making your subject stand out. It’s almost like an oil painting, where you have layers that are separated and not distorted. Add to that fact that you can stop down to f/1.8 aperture and have beautiful bokeh.”

Christian Ammann assets for exclusive Nikon magazine article using the Nikon Z 9 and the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.
Smoke, tulle and beautiful skin flow together in this image, which aims to achieve a filmic look. There is a break in the beauty with the intentional lip make-up that adds a twist to the image. Depth of field helps further marry the elements. ©Christian Ammann
4 ways to make the most of the NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena
  1. Go into nature. Visit your local forest or park and photograph trees, plants and insects. Shake up your depth of field and aperture for varying results.
  2. Hit the waves. Go out to your nearest body of water and practise bokeh circles with the reflections of the water. Christian recommends looking for a higher vantage point so you can get angles from above and add a subject to frame your shot. If there are no clouds in the sky, go to the sea and you’ll capture sparkles on the water.
  3. Find your story. Technically think through your shots and create a style that matches it all. Bring everything together: do the colour, geometry of the background, clothes, hair and makeup all fit together?
  4. Think outside the box. It’s easier to photograph portraits completely in focused and static. To make your shots artistic and emotional, choose to show what you want. Think: why is that area isolated? Why is that object far away? Why am I using the blur there in the background or foreground?
Team credits

Photography: Christian Ammann @christianammannphotographer

Set design: Christian Ammann @christianammannphotographer

Styling: Anna Thea Jaeger @animallust

Hair & Make-up: Christophe Durand @christophedurandofficial

Model: Donna Zed @donnazed

Producer: Cristina Golland @crystalcgo

Assistant: Manu Sommer Ritz @manusommerritz

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