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Category: What's Wrong With My Photographic Technique? : Problems with Images

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Photography Question 
Jaime A. Schulz
BetterPhoto Member
jaimeann-designs-photography.com

member since: 6/27/2007
 

Getting Large Groups Shots to be in Focus


I will be doing a large group of 30 plus people portrait session. Im having a heck of a time now getting all the people in foucs when I do small group shot like at a wedding. I have a Nikon D5100 and have read lots on it but its just not working for me. This will be outdoors. Here is a list of my equipment and settings Ive tried. PLEASE HELP with tips on exact camera modes/settings, which lense is better...

Gear:
Nikon D5100
Lenses Nikkor AF-S 35mm 1:1.8G
Tamrom 17-50mm F2.8
Nikon Spead Light SB-900

Settings Used:
AF-S / Metering (Matrix) / AF (Area Mode)
Shoot in Aperture

Any tips on what other set your camera to for group shots outside and then inside a low lit area would be GREAT!!

Cheers,
Jaime

5/15/2012 4:26:19 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  How you group them can make things easier. If you can fit 8 in a row, with four rows back that's 32 total people. Outside you can use the flash so that with the sunlight, you get a small aperture. More depth of field.
Indoors you might have a place so that you can shoot down on the crowd, thereby decreasing the differences in the distance from where you shoot from to the front and back row.

5/15/2012 5:01:57 PM

 
Usman Bajwa
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Usman
Usman's Gallery

member since: 4/11/2006
  Jamie, for the size of the group ie., 30 plus you'll be shooting at, I'll pick the Tamron only because of its wide angle reach, and especially so when shooting indoors in cramped spaces. The Nikor 35mm on your cropped camera is actually a 52mm on a full frame, a difficult focal length when taking shots of a group as large as you have here. You'll have to zoom out with your legs and resultantly the faces of the people may become too small on print. Therefore, I will also try shooting with the Nikor 18-55mm (if you have one) which comes with the Nikon bodies as a standard lens. Its fabulous glass, and in my experience it does a great job of shooting groups.

Shoot at f/8 or above. Ideally find the sweet spot of this lens which should be somewhere between f/8 to f/11 and trying shooting that in your test runs and shoot test shots on the exact spot (both indoors and outdoors) at the exact time of day you intend to do the real shooting. Shooting f/8 or above will ensure that you achieve a reasonable dof so that all the group members are in sharp focus.

Make sure that you shoot in RAW both outdoors and especially when shooting indoors. Put the WB to "sunlight" when shooting outdoors, even when you are shooting in the shade outdoors. For indoors either shoot in Auto WB setting or depending on the type of lights indoors, adjust you WB accordingly.

Since this is quite a large group, make sure to capture at least 5-10 shots to avoid unintentional funny expressions, moving hands/heads, closed eyes, etc. Before you shoot tell them to remain still, look into the camera, and depending on the occasion ask them to give you a nice smile ;)

If you have no choice but to shoot on bright sunny day outside without shade, suggest to use the speed light and if possible a side-light from slightly above the group in order to avoid unwanted shadows on the faces.

Gregory is right wrt the rows formations. If possible,let the shorter people stand/sit in the front row and medium ones in the middle rows and the taller ones in the rows behind. Focus on a person who is almost dead center of the group.

Wish you all the best. Let us know how did it go once its done.

UB.

5/15/2012 9:34:15 PM

 
Jaime A. Schulz
BetterPhoto Member
jaimeann-designs-photography.com

member since: 6/27/2007
  Thanks Gregory that make sense with lining them up and focus in the middle or 1/3 back from the front. Usman, Thanks for your tips as well. I only have these lenses. I have to purchase them separate when buying my camera so it didn't come with a lens. Do you think a longer lens would be beneficial for large group shots or outdoor wedding group shots to get them in better focus??? I will play around with my f-stops and find its sweet spot! I only shoot in jpeg. Im not familiar and have not ever shot in raw and really dont want to start now. I know some people say it the best, but Im been trained in jpeg and only have software for this.

My questions still now is on the camera settings.

AF-S or AF-C or AF-A / Metering (Matrix) or (Single Point) / AF (Area Mode) (Single Point Area)

WHAT SHOULD I REALLY BE SETTINGS BE FOR A GROUP SHOT???

THANKS MUCH FOR THE HELP!
Jaime

5/16/2012 7:12:22 AM

 
Usman Bajwa
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Usman
Usman's Gallery

member since: 4/11/2006
  Its never too late, Jamie. Start shooting in RAW. I believe the RAW converter can be downloaded from Adobe's site as Adobe Camera RAW, make sure to download the latest version, and its FREE too. It is specially useful when shooting in low light conditions.

The Nikor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 costs just around a 100 bucks, which is extremely cheap when it comes to buying Nikon glass!!

Now coming direct to the settings, here is what I'll choose:
AF-S (Auto Focus - Stationary/Single) which makes sense as the group will hopefully be standing/sitting still.
AF-C (Auti Focus - Continuous) is usually used for focusing on moving objects. You don't need this here.

For metering, I'll select the Center weighted, I am assuming you will compose the group shots putting the people in the center of the frame. However, you may also want to check the Matrix metering option too, as it gives very good results in places where there are not much difference in dark and shiny areas.

Since I am not a pro photographer and have only been shooting friends/family groups lately, so I am also learning.

I am sure someone else with greater experience/expertise will also chime in soon.

Hope this helps.

UB.

UB.

5/17/2012 3:16:56 AM

 

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