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Thread: Question about aperture and focus

  1. #1

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    Question about aperture and focus

    Hello! It's been back to work for the past two weeks, but there have been a lot of opportunities to practice with the camera, too. Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to take photos of a lady who is "in the family way" and her husband. Since I was doing this for practice and not pay, I had a lot of leeway to try things. One of my ideas was to place the lady in front of a window and try to overexpose to a) give a dreamy kind of look to the subject and b) fade out all the distractions (car, house etc) that could be seen through the window. I was shooting inside, so I used my 430 flash. This is what I got, pp'd as best I could in cs5 to increase the definition of her face.

    Question about aperture and focus
    cherish by M.J. Hencher, on Flickr

    Settings on the 40D (tripod and remote used) were: 1/20, f/1.8, ISO 160 using a 50mm f1.8 Manual exposure. RAW.

    As you can see, her face in this photo (and others like it) looks very soft. Is there any way to creat the same look but with better focus or is this just the look that one gets with these types of settings? I can include the raw with no pp done if needed.

    Thank you for any advice!

    Myra

  2. #2

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    Mathieu

    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    Hi Myra,

    I'm not a professional photographer, just an amateur, so I'm unable to comment on the settings used to take this photo .

    On the PP part I'm doing fine. So for my personal taste, I think you could have pushed the Sharpening a litle further. On the JPG I downloaded I added an unsharp mask of 149%, 1.9 radius and 1 treshold without destroying style of the photo.

    Question about aperture and focus

    Better people than me could probably do a better job

  3. #3
    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    Hi Myra,

    I had a similar idea last month where I shot Jasmine in front of a window and deliberately over exposed the shot so that a lot of the distractions through the window would be washed out. Shot was taken 1/50, f/1.8, ISO 400 with a 50mm hand held, no fill flash. From memory, I was using matrix metering, +2.0 EV which is how Jasmine didn't end up under exposed.

    Question about aperture and focus

    Also took one of my nephew doing a similar thing, although slightly different settings (1/1000, f/2.5, ISO 125, no fill flash, can't remember the EV).

    Question about aperture and focus

    I think you should be able to have a sharper image than what you posted without resorting to post processing sharpening based on my experience - although I kinda do it by feel and instinct I'm afraid so I couldn't give you clear instructions on exactly how to do it as it depends on the scene.

    I'm not sure how much you over exposed your shot, but mine wasn't to the point of over exposing Jasmine's features which meant some of the distractions in the window were still visible, although only slightly. I just fixed this up in Lightroom after. It might be that your subject was just too overexposed with the combination of your camera and the fill flash which washed out some of her features and made her appear soft.

    The only suggestion I have for the photo that you have is in your Raw version, bring down the exposure until the photo of your subject is clearer (not sure if this will work depending on much your subject is over exposed). If elements start appearing in the background, use an adjustment brush to over expose the areas of concern.

    Hope this helps!

  4. #4
    epmi314's Avatar
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    Scott Benz

    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    Myra,

    I am kind of shooting from the hip here but... I might have fiddled with the shot until I got enough fill from the flash to get detail in her face and let the remainder of the shot be as it would be(softer). It seems the fill was around her "family way" rather than higher on her face. I love DIY stuff and alternative set ups. In this case a high-key type shot without high-key type lighting. In that respect you have done really well. In fact, it is a very nice image and Matieu's edit is well done too. I guess my question is why didn't you just set up a traditionally lighted high-key shot? Expensive lighting is great but it can be done with significantly less... granted sunlight and a window costs nothing. Just a thought....

  5. #5

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    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    I apologize for the mis-worded thread title. It's more about focus and shutter speed than aperture. It's really abot focus, maybe.

    Mathieu, thank you for taking the time to play with the photo in PP. I did just a bit of sharpening. The image I had in my head was of the body like it is, but with the face more in focus. I wanted a soft, dreamy kind of look but without the soft features. Of course, I wanted it all and wanted to do as much as possible with the camera and not PP. I am thinking now that I may have messed up the focus point.

    Is 1/20 too slow to ask when photographing a person?

    Scott, I would love to know how to set up a high key shot. All I have is my camera, a tripod and the flash which must stay mounted as I have no remote triggers for it; just the shutter. Any pointers are more than welcome! I am just starting to figure out the hows and whys of this type of shot.

    For this shot, I wanted the sharp focus on the entire subject. For the background, which was quite washed out, I used curves to get rid of most of the distractions and then a little painting to cover a couple of small discolourations. This one was shot at 1/250 f/1.8 iso 160 with flash using AE mode. I’ve cropped it for the forum to avoid over exposure of another kind.

    Question about aperture and focus
    Baby on Board extreme crop by M.J. Hencher, on Flickr

    It seems I am at a point where I can see something in my mind but haven't figured out how to "get" it.

    Thanks for your advice!

  6. #6
    speedneeder's Avatar
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    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    Hello Myra,
    In the first photo, it appears to me that the focus point is on the arm, not the face, and f1.8 that makes a big difference. I have the 50 f1.8 II and while i love the DOF it allows me to play with, I also hate it's tendency to FRONT FOCUS. The exposure seems a little too much to me. When I'm not sure about an exposure I check the histogram on the camera and look to see if anything is getting blown out. I realize in the 'high key' look this may not be very clear on the histogram, but the top left of her head appears way over exposed to me.
    As for the second photo, yes, 1/20s is too slow for sharp photos. People really do move a lot even when they try to stand still. Their hearts beat, their eyes blink, the body sways back and forth... I'm a newb at portraits, but I generally try to stay at 1/200s or faster, though I'm sure some photos shot lower look just great - i have had some success with slower shutter speeds using flash. Certainly you can get as sharp an image as you want at 1/20s, but it won't happen very often. And when the expression means so much to a photo, it's hard to accept that 75% of your shots just won't be very sharp at 1/20s - unless this is somehow vital to the shot. f1.8 is really shallow when trying to get an entire person in focus at short range.

  7. #7
    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: Question about aperture and focus

    I think the easy way to figure out the minimum shutter speed for taking hand held photos is to use the equivalent 35mm focal length as the shutter speed. Eg - for a focal length of 50mm, you probably don't want to go below 1/50s (unless you have VR or something equivalent). In the case of the 40D I believe it's a crop sensor so if you're using a 50mm on the 40D, it gives you the equivalent focal length of 80mm so you would want to not go below 1/80s for hand held for a sharp picture.

    I believe that's the rule of thumb in any case.

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