Taking pictures of large groups - having trouble getting it crisp and clear

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by texassand, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. texassand

    texassand TPF Noob!

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    Hi, every time I try to take pictures of 3 or more people - one or two people come out crisp and then the the rest are out of focus. Currently, I set my rebel xt on "automatic" and my lens on automatic as well. So what is the key? Should I be setting my camera to the "creative zone" where I control aperature and open my aperature way up? This is the only thing I can think of but when I try to do this the shutter speed is really slow. So even if I use a tripod, people would have to hold really still. Does this mean, not enough light?

    Basically, what is your advise on getting everyone in the picture to be crystal clear from the left side to the right side and top to bottom of the frame?

    thanks
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    Can you show us an example? It could be one or more of several different things.
    That is pretty easy...all you have to do...is to have them all be the same distance away from the camera. It's when they are not all the same distance away...that you have a problem.

    My guess is that you are dealing with a short depth of field (DOF). If someone is closer or farther away from where you focused (measured in distance from the camera)...then they may be getting out of your DOF.


    DOF is controlled mainly by the aperture of the lens. The bigger the aperture (low F number)...the smaller your DOF will be. So when you say "and open my aperture way up"....that will only make your DOF smaller and you will lessen your chance of getting everybody in focus.

    To get everybody in focus...you need to close down your aperture (bigger F number)...however, that will mean you need a longer shutter speed (or the use of flash). A longer shutter speed could mean that you get blur from camera shake or subject movement. You can use a tripod to eliminate camera shake...but that won't help for subject movement.

    The is really only a problem when the light levels are low....so yes, this could mean "Not enough light".
     
  3. texassand

    texassand TPF Noob!

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    Actually, it's more like where they are the same distance from the camera (or close to ) but maybe one is sitting up on a stool, one is laying on the floor and one is towards the left side of the frame sitting on the floor. See, all same distance but different heights. Like I said, i have my lens and camera on automatic so when I press the button half way down to focus, it kind of picks it's own points - you know what I mean? So if I focus on the eyes of one subject the other subjects seem to be a little out of focus. hmmmmmmmmmmm
     
  4. ericande

    ericande TPF Noob!

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    Can you post the pic?
     
  5. Big Mike

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

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    It could just be distortion at the edges of the frame. Lenses, especially cheaper wide angle lenses are not as sharp at the edges as they are in the middle.

    If your DOF is very thin...it could still be a short DOF that is doing you in. If someone is sitting on a stool and someone is on the floor...and your camera is at the height of the person on the stool...then the person on the floor would have to be slightly in front of the stool...to still be at the same distance. know what I mean?

    Even if you shoot in auto mode...you should still know/pay attention to where the camera is focusing. The way I like to do it...is to use only the middle focus point. I focus on the subject's eyes...then change the direction of the camera to get the composition I want. When there is more than one subject, I focus on the closest person because DOF extends 2/3 past the focus point and only 1/3 back toward the camera.

    Again, if you can show us an example...preferably with the setting used...we could give better advice.
     
  6. Puscas

    Puscas TPF Noob!

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    if one is in focus (or two) and the others are not, there must be difference in distance. yes, please post the pic.




    pascal
     
  7. texassand

    texassand TPF Noob!

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    Ok here is three pics I did of a coworkers kids. Really on the first two, they are so far away you can't tell all that much, but if I wanted to get any pics blown up than I'm afraid you would be able to tell. I could tell because I zoomed in on my photoshop and could tell. The third one, I think the little girl is more clear and the boys are less clear, but this one is more what Big Mike was saying about depth of field I think. I just need to close down the aperature on that one or what?

    http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g206/texassand/olliskids3.jpg

    http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g206/texassand/olliskids.jpg

    http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g206/texassand/olliskids2.jpg
     
  8. Big Mike

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

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    It's hard to tell, with such small images...but I think you may be making a mountain out of a mole hill. They don't look significantly out of focus to me. If you use photoshop to zoom in close enough...you will always find faults.

    The contrast is a little low on all the shots...which doesn't help. With a little bit of of tweaking and a little bit of sharpening...I think these could make pretty good looking prints.
     
  9. texassand

    texassand TPF Noob!

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    I tried but I can't seem to ever get the contrasting right. For sharpening - should I just use the "sharpen tool" in photoshop? Whenever I've used that before it seems to make it almost "grainy". But do you think that would be noticeable in just sat an 11 X 17 print?

    Thank you!!
     
  10. Big Mike

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

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    To adjust the contrast. I like to use Levels (in photoshop)...and often Curves, which is a bit more complex. Do some reading in the 'Understanding' section of this site. It will help you get a handle on image editing.

    Sharpening can be tricky. I usually like to use USM (UnSharp Mask). There are three variables...and finding the right combination is a matter of taste. Google Unsharp mask and do some reading. Another method I use to sharpen, is to make another layer and use the 'High Pass Filter' method. Again, you should be able to look that one up.

    What lens and settings were you using? I'm just guessing...but you might have been shooting with a wide aperture (that's what the camera does in auto mode, when the light is less than perfect). As we know, that causes a short DOF...but it can also cause a lack of sharpness...especially with cheaper lenses.

    Most lenses don't perform their best when wide open (lowest F number). For this reason, I try never to use my cheap EF-S 18-55 lens at it's maximum aperture. Instead, I like to keep it close to F8, if the light allows.
     
  11. Groupcaptainbonzo

    Groupcaptainbonzo TPF Noob!

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    Assuming that everything is working correctly..... you may be having a problem with your "Depth Of Field". Depth of Field (DOF) is a function of apperture. In Auto it is poss that you camera sets a wide apperture in order to take a fast picture and avoid camera shake. You need to get out of "POINT AND SHOOT" mode (ie Auto) and set an apperture that is smaller (Between f8 and f16 at aguess. You may need a tripod in subdued light.) This will give you more DOF and if you focus on the person who is not nearest to you or furthest away but say second nearest (try to keep everyone about the same distance from the camera) it should help... Try to take a land scape picture and see if the focus is sharp in that.
     

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