Should the stars be in focus, or should the couple be in focus?

  • Couple in Focus

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bikeracer4487

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I recently took a trip to Death Valley with two friends of mine. These friends are the couple pictured in the photo. I dragged them along with me on a few night sky photo sessions, and happened to take this photo during one of them. Now, when I took it, I was thinking that it made more sense to keep the stars in focus for a number of reasons:

1) My friends would be reduced to silhouettes with no real visible details.
2) It was a long exposure, and even with their promise to remain still, a sharp focus would still call attention to the smallest movement or wind ruffling their clothes.
3) Stars become a blurry mess when they're out of focus.
4) The picture is meant to be a comment on the vastness of space and two people gazing into it...just seemed to make more sense to keep the "space" in sharp focus.

All that said, my friend (and apparently his entire immediate family) thinks I screwed up and should have put the two people in the foreground in focus, "because the foreground should always be in focus". I think he's wrong, but he familiar enough with photography fundamentals that I wanted to post in here and see if I could get a consensus and any other words of wisdom you might have for me.
 

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bikeracer4487

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Also, yes, I could have used a higher aperture to get them both in focus, but this would cause me to either use a super high ISO, making the picture much too noise, or cause me to lengthen the exposure time which would have the effect of making it increasingly likely that the subjects or their clothing would move during the shot, and also make the stars even blurrier by nature of them moving during the exposure.
 

Dave442

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Well, the long exposure looks like it also allowed some motion blur so even if they were in focus there could still be some blur. A composite image is probably the easiest way to put both parts in focus and would allow using faster shutter on the foreground subject.

I see what your friends are talking about and just like you said, the people are looking at space and so the viewer is first going to look at the foreground and then be led by their gaze to look at the stars - but with them OOF then it breaks the transition of following their gaze.
 

KmH

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For this type of shot the people could be lit with a flash set to lower than full power instead of expecting them to say rock still for the duration of the exposure of the stars. The duration of the flash is so short it stops motion as good or better than shutter speed does.
It's hard for people to say rock still for the 15 seconds or so it takes to make a photo of the night sky full of stars.

Post process the couple could then be selected and darkened.

As far as the lens aperture issue, the shorter the focal length used the less depth-of-field is affected by the lens aperture setting and the point of focus distance.
You might also want to note that f/11 is a smaller number, and a smaller lens aperture, than f/2 is. 1/2 of a pie is a bigger piece than 1/11th of a pie.
 

mdruziak

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Both should be in focus. Just Google Mystery Science Theater and you will see what I mean!
:1219:
 

DanOstergren

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Since they're silhouettes, I personally think they should be in focus. With them being out of focus it almost looks like they were badly photoshopped in.
 

chuasam

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OMG this is the EASIEST thing in the world to focus stack.
Just focus on one and then the other and then combine it.
 

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