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Photography Question 
Ewurama Hayford

Correct Aperture for Portraits?

Dear friends,
I have 2 questions: 1. When photographing 2 people (a couple), do I select a focus point between their heads to get them in sharp focus? 2. Also, if I go down to an aperture of 3.0, will it affect the clarity of the subject? I was told that he best way to get good clarity on 2 subjects is to use nothing less that f8 - f11. Is this true??? Thank you for your knowledge and input.

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6/3/2006 11:12:00 PM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  You focal point is this film plane or sensor. Aperture adjustment affexts depth of field, the range of acceptable focus on the focal plane.

When you shoot two people, focus on one [make sure its the eyes], and press down halfway on the shutter button. Hold the position and recompose the picture to include both people. Snap away. [Of course both folks should be on approximate the same plane facing the camera.

To get greater depth of field, use a smaller aperture - like f11 or f/16. If youy want to try "selective focus, use a larger aperture, say f/5.6.

Remember, however,when you use a selective focus setting, the depth of field shrinks and, so, if the two people aren't on that same plane, one may be out of focus!

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6/5/2006 9:54:36 AM

Ewurama Hayford   THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!! its finally making sense!! now John, if I may ask, if I have the man behind the woman, meaning the are not on the same pkane, should I then focus on the one closer to me, or farther away??? thank you again, sir!!!!!!!!!!!

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6/5/2006 8:35:12 PM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Ewurama,
Most might agree that when taking a portrait you are to focus hard sharp on the eyes. Sometimes you may want soft focus whereupon you can use software to soften or an optical lens softening accessory. I have seen used, plain glass with a dab of Vaseline smeared donut shaped, held over the lens as well as a layer of a black silk stocking. Use your imagination, anything goes.

For a single subject, the classic portrait is shot with a nearly wide open lens, most often f/4 or f/5.6 as large apertures minimizes depth-of-field. This technique renders the eyes sharp, the nose and ears less sharp and the background out-of-focus. Since there are no norms in art, you are free to interpret your subject any way you wish and this includes the focusing techniques you use.

For two subjects on different planes, the tendency would be to focus midway between the two. This works only if the lighting is bright and the lens is stopped down to give sufficient depth-of-field. If you think this through, there is a more scientific approach. You are counting on depth-of-field to save the day. Depth-of-field is that zone fore and aft of the point of focus that will remain acceptably sharp. What you may not know is, the zone that remains acceptably sharp is not split down the middle but rather it carries further to the rear. Stated another way the zone extents from the distance focused upon, 1/3 back towards you and 2/3rd further away from you. Taking advantage of this fact of physics, have the rear most subject extend his/her hand way between and then move this focusing target towards you another 6 inches.

You will want to maintain this focus point on where the hand was so read your camera manual and practice the technique of pre-set focus. This technique allows you to focus and then re-compose without disturbing the focus point. Also, read about aperture priority as you will want to maintain a small aperture of f/11(small opening bigger number extra depth-of-field).

A little practice and you will become a pro.

Best of luck,

Alan Marcus

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6/6/2006 11:12:25 AM

Ewurama Hayford   aLAN
Thank you!!!!!!!!! im going to practice this evening. the 1/3 thing is making sense to me. from the way you explained it, I really get the focus point thing now!!!!!!!! thank you sir!!!!!!

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6/6/2006 2:22:34 PM

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