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Photography Question 
Elizabeth Marquess
 

What aperture to use when shooting groups


I'm a newbie and still learning photography. I shoot a lot of pictures of my son and other kids by themselves. I usually use an aperture of f/3.5 on one subject. But I don't know a good aperture to use when shooting more than one person. I still want to get good DOF, but I want the subjects to be in focus. Also, when I shoot one person, I put the focus point on the eye closest to me. Where do I put the focus point on a group?...I still want their eyes to be very sharp. Thanks for any help.


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5/2/2007 7:29:26 AM

 
W.   
Hi Elizabeth,

"I still want to get good DOF, but I want the subjects to be in focus."

If you mean you want the background in focus, as well as a few people in the foreground, you'll need a small aperture like F/8 or F/11, or smaller, (and a matching, relatively slow shutter speed), and you had best focus best on a point slightly behind the frontmost subject.

A tripod may mean the difference between a snap and a photo.

Have fun!


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5/2/2007 10:49:58 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  oh.
get off the sauce w.,best focus best.quit buying the cheap stuff.
liz,once you hit f/8,the eyes aren't going to be sharp.
your really into good versus acceptable dof.
2 to 3 group close,f5.6 might be good.
more subjects,more learning.where there at,position,light.
sam


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5/3/2007 9:46:22 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   The simple answer: I use 4.5 mostly. But, then again, it depends on what I am doing. What you have to understand is WHY you use a certain aperture. Me telling you that I use 4.5 doesn't help you because you don't know what focal length I am using, how far away I am from my subjects, and how many are in the group, and what the lighting situation is.


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5/3/2007 10:10:26 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Sam - I know you & WS have exchanged some harsh words, but it this case, I don't think there is anything wrong with his answer.

When Elizabeth said "I still want to get good DOF, but I want the subjects to be in focus." I think she actually meant that she wants shallow DOF, with the background blurred, but the subjects in focus.

Elizabeth - the need to use a smaller aperture for increased DOF depends on how you arrange your subjects. If each of your subjects is at a different distance from the camera, then you will need more DOF in order to get them all in focus. Whether the correct aperture turns out to be f/5.6, 8, 11, etc. will depend on a couple other factors.

If you are close to your subjects, and use a normal to wide angle lens, you will get more DOF. Wide angle lenses can be tricky in this situation, though, because they can make the people or body parts closer to the lens look larger than the other people in the group.

If you are farther from your subjects, and use a longer lens, you will get less DOF. This is good for separation from your background, but can make it more difficult to get the whole group in focus if they are spaced at different distances.

Another factor in play is the distance between the subjects and the background. The larger this distance is, the easier it will be to get good separation.

So here are some things to try:

1) Arrange your subjects in a tight group, to minimize the distance between the closest subject and the farthest subject. Don't put them in a "police lineup", shoulder-to-shoulder and facing forward - you can be more creative than that and still get their faces near the same plane.

2) Increase the distance between your subjects and your background.

3) Decrease your aperture (higher f/numbers) until all your subjects are in focus.

4) WS said to focus on a point slightly behind the frontmost subject. This is because your DOF, or "range of acceptable focus" will extend about 1/3 in front of and 2/3 behind your actual focus point. So if you focus on the closest subject, your DOF might not extend far enough back.

Experiment with this. Arrange your group and take several shots at different apertures to see how your DOF is affected. Use Av mode and your camera will adjust your shutter speed to keep the same exposure for each shot.

Have fun,
Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com


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5/4/2007 7:12:51 AM

 
Elizabeth Marquess   I appreciate all the help. Once again Chris, you have saved the day! Your response has helped me tremendously. Exactly what I needed...Ever considered becoming an instructor?


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5/4/2007 7:26:47 AM

 
Who Me? 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007
  I always use my 2.8 70-200mm (if I have enough room to back up). If space is limited then I use the 2.8 24-70mm. I always times 2.8 by how many rows there are. For example 2.8 x 3 rows = 8.4 so I would use the closes f/stop. Then I focus (using my center focus point)on the eyebrow of the closes person in the first row in the center of the shot. If there are 4 rows, then 2.8 x 4 = 11.2. I then focus on the eyebrow of the second row center person.

I prefer not to shot more then 2 rows, which I would shoot at 5.6. If I have to (with a big group) I'd rather shoot wide and be able to see more of everyone. So many times I've seen group pictures where you can't see all of the people in the back rows or they are blocked by some girls hair or just plain too short.

I do know a photographer who shoots at f22, focuses on the first persons eyes, and gets everything in focus. Then goes into PS and selects out the backround and uses the FILTER lens blur to create seperation. Thing is, he is so nervous he might blow the pictures, that he wants to make 100% sure that everyone is in focus. So I told him to shoot the way he wants and then with another camera at 5.6 to save himself some BTC time. Haven't heard back from him yet, I'll keep you posted.

Side note: If you are using a low grade camera and a low grade glass, your images will be a bit soft in the sharpness dept. which you cannot fix in PS. If you have to use something like a 20D or a 30D make sure you have a prime lens, with good glass, even better.


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5/4/2007 11:23:23 AM

 
Elizabeth Marquess   Thank you. Multiplying the rows by 2.8 is very helpful. I have a 30D. The lens I use most is 28-135mm IS. I also have a 50mm and the 18-55mm lens. I appreciate all the help.


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5/4/2007 11:48:12 AM

 
Who Me? 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007
  I would use the 50mm for important shots. No head shots with the fifty. 28-135 for candids. 18-55 wide angle far away shots. Just don't try to do nice artistic shots with your zooms unless the people are in the thirds zone or even smaller. You can sharpen them very well.


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5/4/2007 4:53:33 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  thanks chris.yet sometimes.
gee,more learning?
a new day,i hope I have the capacity to absorb and learn.
so not a quest to pursue.
I like it when I find someone a bit more astute than me,in a situation.
quite the lesson.
many thanks,sam


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5/4/2007 7:15:53 PM

 
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