Need help focusing on family pictures.......


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Sep 17, 2019
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Springfield, Illinois
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Here are two pictures taken of my son and his family. In the first group picture. My son and daughter-in-law are in focus. But the children are out of focus. Used a Nikon D610, 50mm 1.8 G, ISO 100, F/2, 200 shutter speed. The second picture my granddaughters nose and eyes are in focus, but her ears are out of focus. The camera and lens settings are the same in both pictures. How can I get more into focus, especially for a group picture? Thank you, Lonnie
If you want a greater depth of field use a smaller aperture and or move further from the subjects.
If you want a greater depth of field use a smaller aperture and or move further from the subjects.

Maybe like 5.6 aperture?

I probably would have started there and based on the scene, would have probably been the sweet spot. Maybe even f8.

Tips; pay attention to your frame edges when composing, think about what you don't want inside the frame. Move the subject further away from the barn, maybe 6 ft, if possible. Don't be afraid to use a tripod and cable release if you have them, very useful for family shots with kids. You can actually set it up before you get them in front of the camera, just throw a camera bag on the ground where you think the front row will be standing and centered. Level and give yourself a little extra room to crop in post. This is helpful as you can focus on posing and get the kids acclimated to the shoot. Remember, keep that shutter speed up there with kids (if not using flash) they're fidgety. You may have to bump up that ISO to get the shutter to 250 - 500 s.
focus on the person who's closest to you instead of furthest. and stop down your aperture as suggested. if you can do this on one shoot, take multiple shots with different apertures and compare them later.

for the second shot focus on the eye (it's not in focus in this shot, the pacifier is) and let the dof fall where it may. nobody cares if the ears and nose are out of focus, in fact, couple of my friends strive for this in their portraits. but the eyes must be in focus.
A general rule that I heard somewhere on the interwebs is count the number of people and select an f-stop close to that. So in this case with 6, probably 5.6 - 8.0 would have been best.

Something else that would have helped is different posing. If you went with 2 rows instead of 3, it would have helped too.

With f/2.0 having such a shallow depth of field, it will be VERY difficult to shoot more than 1 person and get them all tack sharp in focus. You would basically need to put the back of their heads against the ground or wall and then hope that they all have the same head size (which isn't the case here).
JC pretty much hit the gist of it. With DOF you have to decide what you want in focus and adjust accordingly. Moving the group away from the barn 8-10' (or more) and stopping down to f/8 accomplishes three things, greater DOF on the subjects, generally hits the sweet spot on the lens, and allows separation from the background. Just because a lens will open up to f/1.8 doesn't mean you should, it depends on the scene and the creative effect you're trying to achieve. On any portrait, be tack sharp with your focus on the eyes, miss it and it shows.

Reiterating another thing JC said, pay attention to what's showing in your frame. Sometimes you have to move or change your angle, sometimes you have to wait until a ghost hand is out of the frame. It's far easier to make these simple adjustments before you press the shutter than correct post.
Looks like the previous replies nailed it with DOF. Putting your numbers in a DOF calculator, I get about 1.5ft DOF assuming a shooting distance of about 10'. If your focus was on the adults in the back row of the first picture, you can see why the kids were out of focus. At f/8 the DOF goes to about 6 1/2'. Remember the DOF is both in front of and behind the focus point, so focus in the middle. Another consideration is the number of focus points you are using. In single point mode the camera will focus where you expect as long as things aren't moving around too much, but when using more focus points the camera tends to focus on the nearest thing in the focus points area, usually the tip of a nose. FWIW, in the first picture I would have used single point focus with the kids in the middle and in the 2nd picture single point focus on that adorable toddler's eye.

It's a good idea to look at pictures in your lcd screen after clicking the shutter and zoom in to make sure your shot came out as expected. Another good option is the Pv button that stops down the lens so you can see what's in focus on the viewfinder. The downside of that is the smaller the aperture the darker the image in the viewfinder.

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