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4 Days Ago   #1
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night group photo

Hello. I am struggling with achieving a good setting for a low light group photo. Tried using what I understand to be zone focusing with poor results? Tips please. Buddy

4 Days Ago   #2
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Lack of light won't matter for your zone focusing. DOF will remain the same, so focusing rules will be the same whether in dark or bright light.
But you may want to rely on manual focus and try to trying to auto focus on a particular person in the group. If you are just guessing at distance, you might end up missing a bit front or back. You may need to overshoot your DOF calculations to be sure.
Actually focusing will be more reliable to get everyone in focus. Having a flashlight will help if the ambient lighting makes focusing difficult.

What is the particular issue you're having?
How big is the group? Can you line them up in one or two rows? Or is it large enough to go more than that?
If the group requires a large DOF, you might have to use f11, f16 or higher which is going to make for a long shutter speed and motion blur.
In which case your options are to up the ISO, or add more light (flash?) to avoid motion blur from people breathing, shuffling, and those who just cannot help but speak every five second lest they die on the spot.

Last edited by amoringello; 4 Days Ago at 09:34 AM.
4 Days Ago   #3
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Can you post what you have achieved so far

I presume you are not using flash ? In this case you will be using quite a wide aperture and a slow shutter speed to get enough light. This risks blur from camera shake and narrow depth of field meaning getting everybody in focus will be impossible. You will need to bump the iso up high to stand a fighting chance
4 Days Ago   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by amoringello Quote
add more light
QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
You will need to bump the iso up high to stand a fighting chance
I'll second both of these recommendations. Depending on the size of your group and the number of light sources available to you, flash may not be as good as some continuous light sources, like light bulbs. If you use something other than incandescent light bulbs, you may have colour gamut problems (light source doesn't emit the entire spectrum) and as long as your light sources are all the same, you can adjust colour temperature in post processing to get the right white balance. Among the problems with flash is that the background is completely black which makes your subjects look like deer in the headlights and it is much more difficult to compose and pose your photo before triggering the shutter. A noisy, high ISO photo is always preferable to a photo with motion blur, so don't be scared of auto ISO. If you want to get the best of both worlds, use flash with gels to fill in, getting the right exposure on the people with enough ambient light to get a nice looking background.

4 Days Ago   #5
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Thanks. I have the KP and the SMC FA 1:1.4 50mm.I am hoping to get some images of children near outdoor lighted Christmas trees and other lighted ornaments. Should be no more 2-3 feet deep. I was attempting to set up around 12-15 feet away. My problem was that per internet advice- for greater depth of field, if the nearest object in the scene is 3 feet away then focus on something 6(double the distance of the near object) feet away manually or using autofocus and then switch to manual to prevent refocusing by the camera. I have not achieved a significantly deep dof using that approach. I was using f9 to allow lower iso and shutter speed of 1/100. Perhaps if I use f11 and increase the iso to 100-6400 and manually focus on one of the children then step back a few feet.
4 Days Ago   #6
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At 15 feet away from the front of the group, assuming you focus on the front people, you should have a DOF of approx 10 feet at f9, three quarters of it behind where you focus, so DOF is not your issue.

if you have been focussing on something 30 feet away when your group are 15 feet away , that is your problem. Focus on the front of the group.

That internet "advice" will not work for close subjects. It sounds like a hyperfocal distance bit of advice. That is intended to give you the greatest DOF in your image, including to infinity. You are not bothered with infinity, your subjects are 15 feet away.

Last edited by pschlute; 4 Days Ago at 02:41 PM.
4 Days Ago   #7
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Yep, work out depth of field first to get your aperture. If you have three rows, focus on the middle group, not the kids at the front. People move even when trying to stay still, so shutter speed has to be high - 1/200s, say.

If you use flash, that shutter speed can drop. It can be as slow as you like if there's no ambient on the kids to include, and the image will be super sharp.
4 Days Ago   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by A H Thompson Quote
Thanks. I have the KP and the SMC FA 1:1.4 50mm.I am hoping to get some images of children near outdoor lighted Christmas trees and other lighted ornaments. Should be no more 2-3 feet deep. I was attempting to set up around 12-15 feet away. My problem was that per internet advice- for greater depth of field, if the nearest object in the scene is 3 feet away then focus on something 6(double the distance of the near object) feet away manually or using autofocus and then switch to manual to prevent refocusing by the camera. I have not achieved a significantly deep dof using that approach. I was using f9 to allow lower iso and shutter speed of 1/100. Perhaps if I use f11 and increase the iso to 100-6400 and manually focus on one of the children then step back a few feet.
I think you are referring to the guideline that your total depth of field will be split roughly one-third in front of the focal point and two-thirds past the focal point. In your case, if you focus on a point 13 feet away from the camera, at f8, your depth of field will extend from 10.4 feet to 17.3 feet. In my experience you won't get better results with apertures narrower than f8 on an APS-C camera, so I don't suggest going to f11 to increase your depth of field. I have also found that if you focus on the subject (a child in this case) closest to you, our mental vision sees further away subjects as being in focus, even past the theoretical depth of field.

Lighted Christmas ornaments will skew the light meter in your camera, making the children too dark. If you haven't already used exposure compensation, I would set it to +2 stops, which will turn the lights into blown out highlights (so you won't capture details in the bulbs themselves, which isn't normally a big deal), but to make up those 2 stops of light you have to decrease the shutter speed by a factor of 4 (and I wouldn't go lower than 1/50 second), widen the aperture by 2 stops (from f9 to roughly f4.5) or increase the ISO setting by a factor of 4 (if it was 3200, increase it to 12,800) or better yet, a combination of those three settings.


Assuming that f9 and 1/100 was without exposure compensation, you could try f5.6 (for a total depth of field of 4.75 feet if focus point is 13 feet away), set the shutter for 1/60 second (and tell the kids to hold still), and let your camera select the right ISO. The built-in flash will also help to brighten up the children a bit, if you have a more powerful external flash, you will get even better results. Afterwards, you can brighten up the image with software, to make the children as bright as you want them to be. One last piece of advice, experiment with your settings to get lighter and darker pictures and choose the one that turned out the best, later.

4 Days Ago   #9
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Since you are asking this question, I assume you have no flash other than the KP's built-in. Since the subjects are children (how old?) long exposures may be difficult. But I would at least try one or two shots at 1/10 sec or so; it may work. You could turn it into a game: a prize for the child who stays stillest.
4 Days Ago   #10
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Thanks everybody. I reread the advice re dof and indeed it was for landscape photography.
3 Days Ago   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by A H Thompson Quote
Thanks everybody. I reread the advice re dof and indeed it was for landscape photography.
You might find it helpful to download a photography smartphone app that calculates DOF, among other things. Lots of "rules of thumb" are easy to fine tune or verify with such apps.
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