A Closer Look at Obama’s New Official Presidential Portrait


A good number of websites are talking about the new official portrait of President Obama. It was shot in the Oval Office back on December 6th, 2012 by official White House photographer Pete Souza, whom we’ve written about quite a few times in the past.

The simple image was captured using a pretty standard kit. The EXIF data reveals that Souza was using a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens. Other details, in case you’re curious, are a shutter speed of 1/125, an aperture of f/7.1, and the ISO set at 200. Photoshop CS5 was used to post-process the photograph.

In terms of how the portrait was lit, a closer look at Obama’s eyes (the high-res version of the image can be found here) reveals what appear to be two octoboxes:


Just as a reminder, here’s the official portrait that was created when Obama first took office four years ago:


It was the first official presidential photograph to be captured using a digital camera (the Canon 5D Mark II).

Here’s a closer look at the eyes in that first portrait (the lighting wasn’t as even as the more recent photo):


That 2009 photograph was captured at 105mm with settings of 1/125s, f/10, and ISO 100.

(via PopPhoto)

P.S. As a non-photography-related side note, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two portraits that show the toll 4 years in the White House has taken on Obama’s appearance (he’s noticeably grayer):


If you’re interested in the subject of Presidential aging, check out this photo gallery by Time.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Where’ve I seen that last look before…? Oh yeah, twoface.

  • Tommy Sar

    Needs more bokeh.

  • E

    There’s good and bad bokeh, but no such thing as more bokeh .. just had to :P

  • Nathan Blaney

    Needs more cowbell.

  • Remi Carreiro

    its a great improvement on the last one. looks even more in charge

  • DamianM

    Bokeh is just shallow depth of field.
    So stop naming it fancy names.
    Why don’t we have fancy name for infinite depth of field?

  • DamianM

    Yeah right
    cross-arms and all.
    hes like

    “I own this S***T”

  • Remi Carreiro

    i concur

  • Mark Levesque

    They should really have an actual portrait photographer do his portrait, rather than an event photog. The lighting remains far less than what the most powerful man in the free world deserves (regardless of what you think of his politics.)

  • Leonardo Abreu

    ISO 100 please

  • Richard

    That’s not really true. Bokeh is an effect that shallow depth of field can have on the part of the shot that are out of focus. Not all images shot wide open with shallow depth of field show bokeh.

  • no.

    you’re an idiot.

  • Norm Cooper


  • Norm Cooper

    he’s crossing his fingers on his left hand

  • Eric DiFebbo

    matching your crossed lipped vagina

  • michaelp42

    Cheesy portrait.

  • Albin Roussel

    not really no.
    you would lose the flag otherwise.

  • Skybase

    Bokeh (暈け), in Japanese is a general term which means to blur. It’s not a fancy term at all. In fact, the word “bokeh” also applies to a mental state: a momentary blankness, emptiness, dumbness. So it’s just an accepted / understood term like with any other word you know. I can easily say that “infinite depth of field” (closest term: hyper focal) is a pretty fancy term too. You know?

  • Tommy Sar

    Oh, my Gitzo, guys. We just went through like 80,000 comments on bokeh in a recent article. I was just joking. Nathan Blaney got the joke.

  • Alex Szecsi

    Where is presidental GRAFLEX !?

  • Alex Szecsi

    Thats right.

  • Mansgame

    The Whitehouse photographer is one of the most talented photographers I’ve seen. There was a PBS documentary on him last year and it’s a must see. He used to shoot with 5DII and now 5DIII but most of his shots are available light and he uses relatively low ISO’s so he seems to know exactly where to stand to get the best light and picture. He also makes sure to archive all the people who shake hands with the president so they can have a copy. He’s also the president’s shadow which is exciting on its own.

    I like this portrait myself.

  • Mansgame

    What, do you want Joe McNally to come there for 10 hours to set up 17 SB-900’s? Or David Hobby to bring his duct taped snoots and SB-24 flashes? This is a very good portrait. You don’t want to bokeh the background too much.

    At least they didn’t get the royal portrait painter for that one pregnant chick in England.

  • Jasper Verolme

    Looking at his watch there is a third (and probably forth?) lamp on both sides. looking at his clothing there seems to be more then just the two we see in his eyes.

  • Yashica

    I kinda agree. The picture works for what is it.

  • 3ric15

    Souza probably wanted to get some of the two flags in the background so he stopped it down a bit, but wanted to leave Obama more in focus. Just my guess.

  • Ric Szczepkowski

    I like the light on the first portrait the new one is to flat.

  • harumph

    Yeah, I love the smile too. His skin tone looks a little grey though. And I thought that before I even scrolled down to the comparison with the earlier shot.

  • DamianM

    Yeah, its japanese. not english.

    so it is trying to fancy things up when your name it bokeh.

  • Remi Carreiro

    he’s definitely a little less saturated than the last one but I think it looks more realistic. I haven’t seen him in person but I would doubt his skin is as orange as his previous portrait.

  • Remi Carreiro

    what else would you want?

  • Adam

    I like the both of the photos, but this is going to look even stranger than his last one on military chain of command displays.

  • Skybase

    Well I suggest you use what term / descriptor you come up with to describe the effect. As long as you can communicate it, you’re fine. Keep it at that. No need to rub it in.

  • DamianM

    Shallow depth of field.

    that’s all. not shmancy bancy swirlymobob.

  • Sonya

    The picture is great but I would’ve went with a different pose. Looks like he is posing for Macy’s on a suit sale or something. Also, too much going on in the background. Either clean it up a bit or up the F-stop.


    Massive distracting flash specular light on his watch.

  • WyoDan

    Calling Pete Souza an ‘event photographer’ is like calling Isaac Stern a fiddler. He’s one of the best photojournalists of our era. Ridiculous post.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Being President advances the aging process. It happened to Clinton and to W Bush.

  • Matt


  • Aleksandar Aleksić

    sooo… everything has to be in english? do you have any idea how many words in your language are taken from french, latin, ancient greek etc. etc?

    btw, not sure is it enough fancy but there is a name for infinite depth of field – deep focus.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    God he’s ugly

  • Peter Neill

    I must admit the phone in the bottom right of that pic really spoils the photo for me – once yo have seen it , you can’t unsee it