Taking group pictures isn’t easy. But while you can’t stop cheesy grins, you can make sure faces are in focus by learning how to control the depth of field.
This is determined by the aperture – the smaller the aperture (higher f number), the greater the depth of field, with more in focus (check out our free f-stop chart to learn more about what these numbers mean). But this slows the shutter speed and risks blurry shots. So, what’s the solution?
The trick is to use an aperture with enough depth of field to get all of the group in focus, but not the background.
By maximising the trade-off between aperture and shutter speed, unwanted depth of field in front or behind people isn’t wasted, so you can shoot at a faster shutter speed.
This can be achieved with all cameras, but some Canons have an Automatic Depth of Field (A-DEP) mode. This enables you to pick the nearest and farthest points you want to appear sharp. The camera selects the aperture and focus point needed to get everything between in focus.
To get the same result using cameras without A-DEP, focus on a face part-way into the group and use an aperture that gives enough depth of field to bring the people nearest and farthest away into focus.
Avoid the temptation to use auto face detection, since this focuses on the closest face by default and may not provide enough depth of field to get everyone in focus
How to maximise depth of field for group pictures
A-DEP mode (Canon only)
Set the Mode dial to A-DEP. Frame the shot so the AF points cover the group, with at least one on the nearest and farthest people. Press the shutter button halfway. All the AF points that flash red will focus at the aperture set by the camera. Take the shot.
Focus with other cameras
Focus on someone one third of the way into the group, then use the depth of field preview button to determine what aperture will bring everyone into focus. Or, take a few shots from f/5.6 to f/11 and check sharpness by zooming in on each face on the screen.
Keep everything sharp
If shooting at smaller aperture settings in low light, camera shake can be a pain. If your lens has image stabilisation or vibration reduction, use it. Use a tripod if shooting at 1/30 sec or slower (and ask subjects to keep still). Or use flash, especially indoors.
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