Nailing Focus When Photographing Groups

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by gibsonsonoma, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. gibsonsonoma

    gibsonsonoma TPF Noob!

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    When photographing families...or even couples, I sometimes find that I get one person in focus but the others will be slightly soft focused. It isn't terrible...slight enough that I can't see it in the viewfinder. But still...I want the subjects to be sharp.

    I typically shoot portraits with a 50mm/1.8 on my D200 most times stopped down a bit for multiple subject shots particularly to help with this issue. Would a longer focal length help me?

    What other tips do you have that will help me with ensuring focus for multiple subjects?
     
  2. Goontz

    Goontz TPF Noob!

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    You say "stopped down a bit" from f/1.8, but what aperture are you using? If the depth of field is too shallow, one person might be slightly OOF if they're not on the exact same (or at least very similar) focal plane.
     
  3. gibsonsonoma

    gibsonsonoma TPF Noob!

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    Well I've been trying a bunch of things just to try and get a feel for it. It seems like this is the biggest challenge I'm facing in my photography. Is there a general rule of thumb people follow?
     
  4. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    Try using the DOF preview button (to the left of the lens) and experimenting. :)
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Your Depth of Field is a result of the physics of the camera & lens. It is therefore possible to calculate or estimate what it will be. You could probably look up a DOF chart for your lens. Once you know what your DOF range is, then you can make sure that the members of the group fall within that range. That's all there is to it.
    More practically, a lot of times the photographer will just stop down a little more than the think they need to, just to be safe.

    Also, note that the DOF extends 2/3 past your point of focus, and only 1/3 back toward the camera. So when you focus on a group, focus about 1/3 into the group...or at least closer to the front than the back.

    Not necessarily. A longer focal length will actually give you a shallower DOF....but if you have to move farther away from your subjects, that will increase your DOF...so it sort of cancels out. So something you could do with your current lens, is move back to increase your DOF....but then you might have to crop the images, loosing resolution.
     
  6. RyanLilly

    RyanLilly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You could use a DOF calculator for reference while shooting, or take some notes on aperture and distance before you shoot. My guess is that you need to stop down more. After a while you'll just know what will work.
     
  7. gibsonsonoma

    gibsonsonoma TPF Noob!

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    Thank you guys. That is helpful.
     
  8. gibsonsonoma

    gibsonsonoma TPF Noob!

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    I just googled a depth of field calculator. That is awesome. I had no idea.

    Thank you!
     
  9. Kimba

    Kimba TPF Noob!

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    oh look, partner forever has yet again poped in to offer nothing but insults. why are you even on this forum??

    on another note, the others here have said exactly what i would have, practice makes perfect!! best thing about digital is you can shoot till the sun goes down and it only costs you time.
     
  10. Shockey

    Shockey TPF Noob!

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    Shoot at F4 or 5.6. f8 if you have lots of light and a larger group and are really worried about it.
    I always shoot mine at 2.8 or 4 and never have any trouble getting everyone in focus.
    For large groups curl the ends toward you so everyone is roughly the same distance from the camera. Spot focus on someones eyes right in the middle of the photo.
    Presto all are in focus.
    Assuming you are getting enough light on the subjects so your shutter speed is high enough to prevent blurring.
     
  11. Wolverinepwnes

    Wolverinepwnes TPF Noob!

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    your DOF is extremely thin when the lens is wide open at 1.8, you have to stop down inorder to get a larger DOF!!
     
  12. djacobox372

    djacobox372 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've noticed that when people line up for a photo they typically form a slight V shape, so if you autofocus on the person in the center, like most do, you will be front focusing on the entire group. Instead autofocus on a person 1/3rd the way from either side of the group and you'll get better results.

    Of course you should be stopped down to at least f4, otherwise you'll never get them all in focus. The simple fix is to stop down to f8 or f11, but then you get an ugly busy background.
     

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