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Thread: Advice for family portraits

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    Advice for family portraits

    I'm shooting some portraits for a family of three as a favour. The child is 5 yrs old and I'm looking for some tips, composition/pose suggestions, or any advice in general that you can share. I'll be bringing my flashes and umbrellas with me. We will start indoors in their home and if the weather is good, take some shots outside in the backyard. My wife wil be holding the light stand if we go outdoors. I've heard quite a few horror stories already of stands falling and breaking the flash. I'd want to make sure the eyes of everyone are sharp. Plan to shoot at f/8 to accomplish this. Let me know if this is a good aperture setting and what I should aim at when trying to focus since the will be at different heights and slightly different planes possibly. Thanks.

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    Administrator Sean Setters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mpieris View Post
    I'm shooting some portraits for a family of three as a favour. The child is 5 yrs old and I'm looking for some tips, composition/pose suggestions, or any advice in general that you can share. I'll be bringing my flashes and umbrellas with me. We will start indoors in their home and if the weather is good, take some shots outside in the backyard. My wife wil be holding the light stand if we go outdoors. I've heard quite a few horror stories already of stands falling and breaking the flash. I'd want to make sure the eyes of everyone are sharp. Plan to shoot at f/8 to accomplish this. Let me know if this is a good aperture setting and what I should aim at when trying to focus since the will be at different heights and slightly different planes possibly. Thanks.
    It's impossible to know what the best aperture will be unless we know the camera being used (full frame or crop), the focal length, and the distance between the lens and the subject. For obtaining optimal focus, check out DOF Master. It's a great reference for trying to figure out what aperture you need to cover everyone in the shot.

    When shooting outdoors with off-camera flash, I'd definitely suggest some type of anchor/support. If you're using your wife to support one stand, you might use your [nearly full] camera bag to help anchor the other one. If it's really windy outside, and you don't have an ideal support system for a stand, I wouldn't risk using it.

    When it comes to photographing children with family groups, try and make sure you're the only thing in front of the family that can garner the child's attention. I've been on too many shoots where other family members not in the shot would try and get the child's attention. And, of course, the child would look at the familiar faces (off to the side) instead of the camera.

  3. #3
    I'll be shooting with a 5D2 and 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. Thanks for the DOF calculator and tips. So if i read this correctly, i can focus on anything within the calculated depth of field and everything within it will be sharp? So it doesnt matter what i focus my center focus point on?

    Btw, I only plan to use one umbrella if we go outside because I don't trust anything other than my wife to hold it. I've read about stands coming down even when anchored a few too many times.

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    Administrator Sean Setters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mpieris View Post
    I'll be shooting with a 5D2 and 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. Thanks for the DOF calculator and tips. So if i read this correctly, i can focus on anything within the calculated depth of field and everything within it will be sharp? So it doesnt matter what i focus my center focus point on?
    Not exactly. Let's say you put the focus point on the eyes. The DOF calculator will shows how much in front of the focus point should be in focus, plus how much behind the focus point should be in focus. The sum of those two distances will equal the total focus area.

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    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Approximately, at wide angles the DoF extends 1/3 in front of the focal plane and 2/3 behind. As the focal length gets longer, it progressively shifts to about 50/50.

  6. #6
    So assuming I have at least a few feet of focal plane to work with, if I focus on the eyes of one parent, the 5 year old and the other parent's eyes will also be in focus I'd they are standing within the focal range?

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    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mpieris View Post
    So assuming I have at least a few feet of focal plane to work with, if I focus on the eyes of one parent, the 5 year old and the other parent's eyes will also be in focus I'd they are standing within the focal range?
    Correct. Of course, the narrower aperture means more in-focus background, so it's sort of a balancing act. If you can put some physical distance between subjects and background, that will help.

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