Need some Advice/Tips on an upcoming shoot.


TPF Noob!
Aug 15, 2013
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A friend of mine had asked me to do a family/maternity shoot come October. I am not a pro by any means, I do photography as a hobby and I mainly use my own family as subjects. When I do take pictures of us together, my camera is mounted on my tripod, so it is stationary and I have no worries about motion blur (unless my son moves). I have no formal training on my camera, and I'm feeling pressured with this idea of doing a friend's family pictures when I am scared I can't provide decent images. I have the Nikon D40, and will most likely use my stock lens (18-55mm). This shoot will take place outside, in the fall, and I can't help but get excited with the vibrant colors of the season. My concern is her having two rambunctious children, what aperture should I use to ensure that all subjects are in focus? I want to ensure there is still a soft blur in the background. Should I preset my white balance once I get to the area she plans to shoot? Should I keep my camera in Manual mode so I can quickly adjust exposure as needed? Can anyone provide some insight on how to reduce motion blur without jeopardizing exposure? I really want to "wow" her and her husband with my pictures since they both like my pictures I have done in the past of another family's kids. I am not thrilled with my own work so I never offered to do shoots, but I am also not charging her anything as her asking me to do this is kind of doing me a favor as practice.
from my experiences and from what ive been told, the slowest shutter speed that you should shoot at when dealing with people is 1/60th of a second. I personally try not to drop below 1/125th unless I absolutely have to. For your aperture, f4 should be enough DoF to keep your subjects in focus from front to back but it also depends on the distance that your subject is from you. the closer they are, the shallower it will be and the further away the greater the DoF is.

there is an exact mathematical equation you can use to determine the exact depth of field for all distances. just cant think of it at the moment.

Edit: for some reason photobucket is acting up and wont display my example. ill try and figure it out.
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Based on your post, my recommendations are thus: Start by making sure that she understands you are an amateur who doesn't have a lot of practice in portraiture, and while you will do your best, you're not going to promise anything.

With respect to settings, it is virtually impossible to give any but the most general advice on settings since we have no idea of the conditions, poses, etc. For shutter speed, I would recommend a minimum of 1/250 to freeze any minor movement, and for aperture, you will need to determine that based on the required depth of field (DoF). Search the term "dof calc" and learn how aperture, camera to sujbect distance and focal length all play critical roles in determining how much of the scene is in focus.

White balance is best dealt with in post. Shoot a calibrated white balance target at the start, middle and end of the shoot (and any time the light changes) and ensure that you shoot your images in RAW format, so that you can accurately set the WB while post-processing.

Some of the things that will help deliver a wow are: Ensuring you nail exposure. Search the terms "photographic composition" and "posing" and similar to learn how to best pose small groups for appealing results. Choose a nice, even background such as a hedge or wall; keep lots of space between the subjects and the wall. Recommend coordinated clothing to the subjects; you don't want Mom showing up in a black skirt, and white top, the kids in jeans and t-shirts and Dad in a suit. Be PATIENT! Shooting energetic children takes time (sometimes a LOT of time). Book at least two hours, and ensure that Mom and Dad bring snacks, drinks and toys to entertain the children and hopefully calm them down if they get too excited.
Thank you both for your insight, I will look into the information you both suggested, thanks again. :)

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