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08-10-2013, 09:29 PM   #1
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Newbie - need advice indoor wide angle group shot

Dear Pentaxians

I am an amateur photographer and was ask to do a favor and take a group picture (about 25 people) inside. Went a few days prior and took some practice shots with my setup to adjust for flash and lens. But after taking the group picture I am not happy with the way it turned out, they appreciated it and like the picture but I felt it was not sufficiently sharp.

Here is my camera equipment I used:

Pentax K20d with 16-45/f4 and Metz 48 flash
Didn't use my tripod, (actually in practice didn't see any improvement.)

I need to take another picture in two weeks and want to try to improve the sharpness of the next group picture, here is my question: (sorry for long lead)
Should I consider a faster wide angle lens? But won't that reduce my depth of field and I have to stop it down, what have I gained. I have always wanted the 16-50/f2.8 but have not been able to purchase. I am considering maybe a fast prime is better than a wide angle zoom? I would like to be able to use the lens for landscapes and occasional indoor photo's.

I have read a lot of online reviews and haven't been able to be decisive about the lens, but like the Sigma 20/1.8f, or Sigma 10-20/3.5f. What are your suggestions?

08-10-2013, 10:44 PM   #2
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16-45 is pretty good. 16-50 is faster, WR and should be a touch sharper but maybe not a huge amount. I doubt the problem is your lens, either technique or lighting or settings.

What focal length was the shot taken at? And what aperture? Primes are generally sharper but not many available wider than 20mm.
08-11-2013, 12:23 AM   #3
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How Deep?

Hello cbowman, welcome to the Forum!
Sounds like your problem is depth of field, and a faster lens won't help that.
Let's say the group is two rows deep, the taller folks in back. Your depth of field (DOF) should be enough to put the nearest person in sharp focus and the folks in the back row in equally sharp focus. We'll estimate the total distance front-to-back is 6 feet, OK?
So, you need to be far enough from the group to get everyone (lengthwise) in the frame, and have an f/stop high enough to provide 6 feet of depth/sharp focus.
If you stand 5 - 6 feet from the nearest person (front row) and set the 16-45mm at 20mm, f/8.0, shutter speed 1/180 (flash sync speed) and focus on the center front person, your DOF will be about 6 - 7 feet. Front and back row should be in sharp focus. Anything closer than 6 feet will be out-of-focus (OOF) and further than 12-13 feet will be OOF. If you can practice this and correct any miscalculations on my part, it would help. All you need is a couple of friends willing to stand at the nearest and farthest distances, take the photo and check your focus/depth.
Last, you need enough flash power to light the group side-to-side and front -to-back. Since your f/stop and shutter speed are already determined by the DOF needed and the flash sync speed, the only variable left is flash output (probably full power) and ISO. Adjust your ISO upwards until the flash lights the group equally and evenly.
There is another trick, called 'hyper-focal setting' that might help also, but is difficult to calculate with modern lenses without an aperture ring and DOF scale on the lens. The DA 16-45mm has neither.
So, I'd start with f/8.0, focus on the front person and adjust the flash for even lighting, practice and adjust from there.
Good luck!
08-11-2013, 06:19 AM   #4
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I would suggest moving as far away from the group as you can, use a tripod and use F8. You could likely get away with no flash. Start with f4, then take a few shots at each f stop. I like to chat with the crowd and take a lot of shots while I am doing it. Sometimes they turn out the best

Good luck


08-11-2013, 08:01 AM   #5
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The others have given you some good technique advice, but I did want to comment on the lens part of your question.

I'm going to speak generically here, as I don't have firsthand experience with the specific lenses you're talking about.

Yes, a faster lens won't be able to operate at its widest aperture when you need a large depth of field, however, very few lenses are truly sharp at their widest aperture. An f/2.8 lens will always be 1 stop farther from max than an f/4 lens, so it will usually be sharper until they are stopped down enough that it doesn't matter, usually around f/8. The biggest difference will be at the slower lens's max aperture. So if you're shooting at f/4, the f/4 lens will likely be a bit soft, but the f/2.8 lens should be pretty sharp.

Also, yes, a prime lens would most likely provide higher optical quality than a zoom. I have very little experience with any of the expensive ones, but I know that there are people here who will point you to the DA Limiteds.
08-11-2013, 01:10 PM   #6
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It's unclear why the picture isn't sharp. But if it is a question of focus/Depth of Field--a rough rule of thumb is the focus on 1/3 rd of the way into the desired range focus. So if there are 2 rows of people--focus on the 3rd row. But if that's the problem--then there should be areas in your photo that are very sharp. Bets if you say what the settings were and include the photo. May be due to several factors--focus, no tripod, too high (small) fstop, field curvature, etc.
08-11-2013, 01:11 PM   #7
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Of course I meant if there are 6 rows, focus on the 2nd row. BTW for macro it's about 1/2 way in.

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