AF Points in Group Shots

Started Jan 3, 2013 | Questions thread
Regular MemberPosts: 343
Re: My thumb rules
In reply to Sebastian1x, Jan 8, 2013

Sebastian1x wrote:

I love tight portraits with beautiful out of focus backgrounds but for group photos this desire has given me some problems. Based on hard learned experiences I have really forced myself to have a few basic & simple thumb rules in the back of my head:

HEAD & SHOULDER CASE (shoot distance = 30 times the focal length on FF, landscape orientation)

1) in this case You ALWAYS need to align your subjects! If possible align shoulder to shoulder straight line & shoot at 90 degrees. If very well aligned & if you want to push your luck try F/4 but forget wider apertures.

2) If one person is behind (i.e. his or hers shoulder is behind the front person’s shoulder) then the required DOF is around 3 dm which means you have to step down all the way to F/8 to have any margin (F/8 gives you 4dm). Stepping down as much as to F/8 has often been mental block for me specially when shooting only two persons but in this case you really need to step down a lot …. Of course you can try to have the second person leaning over the shoulder but this does not always work from composition points of view.

HALF BODY CASE (shoot distance = 50 times the focal length on FF)

Tight head & shoulder group-shoots are problematic with regards to DOF, a very good alternative is to STEP BACK a little bit: it is much safer to shoot half-body compositions instead (and maybe crop in post). As you step back the magnification drops, you rapidly gain DOF. In relative terms stepping back is much more efficient then stepping down the aperture. At a shoot distance = 50 times the focal length, the DOF at F/8 increases from 0.4m to 1.2 meters (!), a dramatic increase. For Half Body style you can probably get away with F/4 (= 0.6m DOF) if the subjects are reasonably well aligned.

FULL BODY CASE (shoot distance 100 times the focal length on FF).

Suddenly this problem is over, with a well aligned group you can even shoot at F/2 which now suddenly gives you 1.2 meters DOF.



Thanks for the detailed scenarios and link and taking the time to make these suggestions. I'll have to review a bit more. I don't shoot too much in the way of group shots. I need to take more time with different compositions to get the results I'm looking for.

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