Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF

Started Sep 16, 2007 | Discussions
Ross4321
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Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
Sep 16, 2007

Got a 40D to replace an orginal digital rebel, with a 17-85 f2.8 IS lens and a 580ex flash.

I am trying to take better pictures with it, and have had some success, but indoor flash shots are not up to what I hope.

Couple of questions. Is there any way to roughly check the sharpness of the lens?

For my indoor flash shots, the depth of field is part of the problem, people standing behind eaich other are not both in focus. I tried a few shots in manual, pushing it to 5.6 and at 1/60th of a second, some of which were ok. The flash appears able to compensate fine. Tried a few tests shots, and pushed it to an aperature of 8, and at 1/60 and 1/125 of a second exposures, the later looked sharper. I do have IS on, and no tripod.

Any advice or suggestions on where to get more education?

Thanks,

Ross

Steven Sterne
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 16, 2007

I think that your lens is either a 17-55 2.8, or a 17-85 f/4-5.6. There is no 17-85 f/2.8.

Pedantry aside, I think that indoor flash photography of groups of people is always difficult - it's hard to get nice even lighting from a single flash, and the combination of a short shutter and a narrow aperture, while necessary for getting the whole group in focus and preventing blur, is a challenge for making the lighting pleasant. If you have a white ceiling, I would recommend bouncing the flash - point the flash at the ceiling at about a 60 degree angle. You can use an Omnibounce to soften the light, if you have one.

I think that f/8or f/6.3 and 1/125 are reasonably good settings. I would experiment with bumpiing the ISO to 800 and seeing if you could get away with 1/60 - but you may get motion blur.

Good luck,

Steven

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testami
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 16, 2007

I would set camera to M mode.

Choose F8, F11, or F16

Select a reasonable shutter speed to expose the background (1/60)

Let the aperture setting and the ETTL-II flash expose the subjects.

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Ross4321
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to Steven Sterne, Sep 17, 2007
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My error, it is the 17-55 2.8 IS lens. Ross

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Steven Sterne
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 17, 2007

At what distance from the subjects and focal length are you shooting?

How large is the group?

Steven

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Jccampbell
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to testami, Sep 17, 2007

Just another suggestion. Camera on manual, f5.6 or f8, 1/125. flash on ETTL (assume you're using an EX, not in-camera flash), bounce at 90 degrees, use the little catch-light if your flash has one. Shoot a couple, and then add or subtract 1/3 or 2/3 ev to get what you like. This way, the flash will correct the exposure, you'll get plenty of depth of field, and your shutter speed is faster than 1/60.

1/60 is just too slow to prevent camera shake unless you're pretty good. Go faster to 1/125 for indoor flash.

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Ross4321
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to Jccampbell, Sep 19, 2007

I was trying to shoot a group of 12 indoors.

I tried using 1/60th of a second but did get some camera shake, at least the images were not as clear as the 1/125th. I was a little surprised as I was using IS on the 17-55 lens, thought that would help shooting at 1/60th.

I am using the 580 EX. I definitely need to get some experience shooting in manual with the flash. I am not sure how to tell when I am expecting too much from the flash. Some have advised only using the flash straight ahead in order to get all of the light needed, but a bounce would be nice if there is enough light.

Ross

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SteveDude
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The key with using M flash mode...
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 19, 2007

First of all (and you probably know this...), M mode on the camera (using ETTL flash) really isn't manual at all.

The Flash will adjust the power to get the exposure right. And the 580 is pretty powerful so you should have lots of flexibility in the way you use it.

You set the shutter (1/60 - 1/250 or so). (must be within flash range)
You set the aperture (indoors maybe F8) to get the nice depth-of-field you want.

Fire away.

Bounce. No biggie. Angle. No problem. Straight? No problem. ALL should give you about the same overall exposure (unless the flash really doesn't have enough power to satisfy the situation).

Want more ambient light to mix in or more flash distance? Increase ISO. Want flash to be the only part of the light? Decrease ISO.

Hope this helps.

I was SO frustrated when I first started shooting indoors with my 10d because I couldn't get a good depth of field with sharpness using P mode. Av mode won't do it either. Neither will Tv. M mode is the answer. Let ETTL do the work for you - heh heh.

Steve

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Julio
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Camera shake and flash...
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 19, 2007

Camera shake (or rather ghosting) with flash is progresively more visible as ambient light increases...if the shot is illuminated by the flash only (or mostly) the flash burst is short enough that camera shake won't be detectable.

You can also do this by shooting in M mode. Meter the scene as if you were about to shoot without flash and use a combination of smaller lens aperture, faster shutter speed or lower ISO so that you're underexposing by 3+ stops.

For example if @ iso 400 the meter says you should be shooting at f8 & 1/8th s, shoot at f8 and 1/60th or (f11, 1/60th s for the greater DOF you want for your group shot) and shoot away.

If your shutter speed aand aperture are close to the correct exposure for ambient light, camera shake will produce trails although the flash will freeze movement (and give you sharp focus without shake) at the instant the flash fired... this will look more like "ghosting" than typical non-flash, shake-induced blurriness. Incidentaly, this is known as shutter dragging and quite often is done deliberately to get a brighter distant background (as in a dark church) or deliberate light traces for special effects in night-club shooting, etc.

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dave_bass5
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to testami, Sep 19, 2007

testami wrote:

I would set camera to M mode.

Choose F8, F11, or F16

Select a reasonable shutter speed to expose the background (1/60)

Let the aperture setting and the ETTL-II flash expose the subjects.

Thats what i do as well although i think f/8 is the most i would go to and maybe 1/125.

And bounce the flash rather than direct it at the subjects and play with the FEC if needed.

Works well for me. I didnt take this but i set the camera up for a friend to take.

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Ross4321
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Re: Indoor family group photos - sharpness and DOF
In reply to dave_bass5, Sep 24, 2007

I have been experimenting with the suggestions for my indoor group photos, using an aperature of F8, 1/125 of a second exposure, Manual mode.

The 580 is set to ETTL It seems that I need to have the iso at 400 or above for an inside room shot in order to get the exposure correct. At F8 the focus is just ok. Right now I am using all of the focus points, although with my prior cameras I usually reducted it to center point only so that I could control instantly where it is trying to focus.

Is there any disadvantage to going to the center point only focus?

When I tried manual on my prior cameras, with the 550ex flash, you could tell that the flash really tried to compensate for any setting that I made, as it would take longer to regenerate. The 580 does not seem so stressed, but below ISO300 the pictures are definitely underexposed, so it must be at the limit of the flash.

Does that sound correct, or does it sound like I have something set wrong...?

Thanks,

Ross

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Juli Valley
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Select an AF point
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 25, 2007

I don't like using all AF points.
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Juli Valley
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A little different from what you asked,
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 25, 2007

but check out this article on shooting groups. Very good tips. http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/how-to-take-great-group-photos/

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Juli Valley
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Where to focus with rows of people?
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 25, 2007

Focus point should be 1/3 of the way into the depth of the group. 4 rows, focus point should be on someone in the second row, approximately.
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Ross4321
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Re: Where to focus with rows of people?
In reply to Juli Valley, Sep 25, 2007

Thanks for the suggestions and the links. Will definitely look into that.

I did do some more "experiments" last evening. It seems that part of my focus issues involve one lens. My new canon 17-55 does not focus sharply, and the pictures using my 24-105 with the camera set on manual, F8, 1/125th and with about the same level of zoom are much sharper than the 17-55. Makes me wonder if I have a bad lens. Fortunately I bought it at a local camera store that has a great return policy, so I am on my way back there today.

The other odd thing I noticed is that in the programed modes, the 580ex flash automatically zooms with changes in the lens, but in the "creative zones" it switches to manual. I can go into the flash settings in the camera and set it to "auto" again, but if I go back to a program mode, and then back to manual, it resets every time. Will have to see if I can set this in one of the custom settings options. I would think that having the flash automatically zoom with the lens would be standard even in the "creative zone" settings...

Thanks again for all of the suggestions.

Ross

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Ross4321
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Re: Do you select an AF point
In reply to Juli Valley, Sep 25, 2007

for each shot individually, or do you set it up so that the center point is always the AF sensor, and then just point at your focus point, half shutter, and then recompose and shoot?

Guess I have found it faster for me to set the AF point as center only, and then focus, recompose and shoot. By the time I push the right buttons and get the focus point selected in the camera, I miss some of the shots I want...

Ross

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dave_bass5
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Re: Do you select an AF point
In reply to Ross4321, Sep 25, 2007

Ross4321 wrote:

for each shot individually, or do you set it up so that the center
point is always the AF sensor, and then just point at your focus
point, half shutter, and then recompose and shoot?

Guess I have found it faster for me to set the AF point as center
only, and then focus, recompose and shoot. By the time I push the
right buttons and get the focus point selected in the camera, I miss
some of the shots I want...

Ross

If you assign the multi way controller to focus point selection it makes it very quick and easy to change focus points with your thumb without having to look away from the VF. And if you press it in it sets it back to the centre one.

I tend to use the upper FP for people shots at the moment as it better to focus on the head/eyes IMO. Doing it like this will put the head nearer the top of the frame and looks a bit more even, again, IMO. Also if you are focusing on a few rows of people this helps get the focus beyond the first row.

This works for me, YMMV
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