Ciara - This was the simplest explanation I've ever read & it helped SO much. THANK YOU!
sarah - Hi Melissa! I have a question when focusing couples and using back button Focus. Where is the best place to put your focus point so that both of the people are in focus?
Katherine Beliveau - If I am taking pictures of a couple and one person is behind the other what do you think the lowest aperture should be while focusing on the person in the front?
Amy - Just curious as I'm still learning...when you are shooting 2-4 people in a shot do you still always use the single focal point? I guess I'm not sure why you would or wouldn't use the multiple focal point options. Thanks!
Melissa Jill - Hi Amy! I just like to know that the camera is focusing on the spot I want it to focus on. If you have multiple focal points, it’s just trying to make sure one of those spots is in focus, so you might end up focusing on something you aren’t wanting to. Hope this helps!
James - Hey Melissa. So is what you're saying that the depth of field area always works purely backwards (further away) from where the focus is set? I would have thought to get them all in focus you would set focal point to the person in the middle most part of the photo, so the depth of field would work a little bit in front, and a little bit behind to get them all sharp. But does it actually only go backwards and further away from where you set it? Hopefully that made sense! Great article btw.
Daniel - Hi. Would you lose that 1/3 when you focus on the closest person to the camera? If so, the solution would be focusing at the 2nd person more close? That would keep the 1st person within the 1/3 range. the Am I wrong? Please help!
Peta - Thanks Melissa Jill, so helpful. Love photographers who share their tips and tricks. The stick people were great.... :)
Romi - Hi Melissa, Thanks for the great tips!!!! I have no idea how to set up the back button and it sound tricky. What aperture should I use on a family group picture of 19, I want to place them in to rows , teens in front of parents. Thank you so much!
Melissa Jill - Hi Romi! I definitely encourage you to click through to the back-button focus post and follow the instructions to get it set up. You'll love it once you do! As I mentioned in this post, aperture is only one of the determining factors for depth of field. But if you have two straight rows, you might be ok with an aperture of 5.6 or 7.0. Hope this helps!
Alan - Melissa, The DoF explanation was most clear esp with the stickman diagrams :) Inspired.. I am going to put away my smart phone cam and use my DSLR more ! Just wanted to say thank you for sharing, it has reignited my love for photography!
wairimu - Hey Melissa, That for the practical explanation about group photography when subjects are positioned in a curve. Questions- why not focus on the person in the middle and close aperture more like to 5.6? Regards, Wairimu
Melissa Jill - Wairimu -- you could do that, but there's still a risk of not getting everyone in focus since only 1/3 of your DOF would be in front of the person in the middle. Plus you then have less latitude on your ISO and shutter speed with a higher aperture. The method I share here allows you to have confidence that everyone will be in focus and at the same time maximize your camera settings and use of available light.
Hoang Nguyen - Hi Melissa, If you use the center focus point and recompose that would work for an aperture of perhaps 2.8 or smaller but with larger aperture such as 1.6 or 2.0, would recompose cause your subject to be out of focus? With larger apertures, would you recommend using individual focus points instead?
Melissa Jill - Hi Hoang! Good question! I have had success with recomposing even at larger apertures, but it does become more risky. Up to you which route you choose, but I just take more photos and refocus a couple times at larger apertures.
Joaquim Gonsalves - This is golden information! Can't thank you enough. Had no clue about the 1/3rd and 2/3rd characteristic. God bless you. I'm gonna be much better at tomorrow's shoot.
Sherri Herring - I use back button focus with evaluative metering. I know the center focus point is the strongest. However, instead of recomposing, will moving your focus point to the person on the left work?
Melissa Jill - Hi Sherri — Yes, moving your focus point to the person closest to you will work, but you don’t need to do that if you are back button focusing. It’s just an added step that doesn’t give you any added benefit.
Mari - Hi Melissa Just a quick question on which focusing point you are using. Do you use a single point selected in the center, to focus on the person on the end and then recompose? Or do you use a single point selected to the left or right to focus on the person on the end?
Melissa Jill - Hi Mari! I always use the center focus point and recompose. And I use back-button focus, which is really integral to making this work --
Amanda - I'm not sure if I still understand how to take the photo I need. I'm going to have for rows of football players, but it seems as if anything I try some one is always out of focus. Please help!
Melissa Jill - Hi Amanda! I you have four rows of people, try an aperture of f16 and focus on the front person in the center row (assuming the rows are straight) and you should be good!
Rachael - GAME CHANGER!! Finally back button focus explained in the most logical way <3 Saved my life before my 16 person family shoot! With my little Nikon d3200, it helped so much explaining how to turn the back button on to focus! Thank you so much!!!
Crystle Kush - Hi thanks for this info it really helped me! I'm having a hard time with my new canon 6d I'm using the center point for focusing but I'm not getting clear sharp pictures:/ I'm still lost on where that point should be on 2,4,6 people etc. anything that can help me figure this out??
Melissa Jill - Hi Crystal! Are you using back button focus? Make sure you are set up for that. And then put the center point on the person closest to you, no matter the size of the group, lock focus, and recompose. Hope this helps!
Angie - Thank you! I've struggled as well but will try this. One thing... I had had San awful time focusing and recomposing. Then I when I switched from AI Servo to One Shot, it worked! Using Canon 5D Mark iii and 70D. Ok. Love you. Come teach in Atlanta, please.
Rachel Leintz - Melissa, Man! The tips I've found on your blog over the past week are so wonderful and are really perfectly explained! I switched to back button focus immediately. And I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't put the DOF concept for group shots together on my own. Thanks so much for this!
Mamad M - This is a great tip that is very often overlooked. Thanks so much Melissa ;)
janice vining - Great explanation, to the point and extremely helpful!!! Thank you for sharing!
Julie - Hello! This is great! Thanks for sharing. Do you have an explanation per lens and distance? I continue to get fuzzy pictures with my 24-70mm lens. I think I am standing too far back... is there another blog post that would explain this better?
Amy - This is so perfect and timely! Can't wait to read your depth of field tutorial. Thanks for sharing with us!
Tracy - My friend Stacey is in the middle of this photo…she loved your workshop! When you hit the back button focus will your image always be in focus? I have not used that option and I recently photographed a family of 5 and I was having issues with everyone being focused. Thank you!
Donna - Keep the stick people coming. They are the star of the show for me. I truly "got it" because of them. Thanks so much!
Dana Kane - OMG such a complete & simple explanation! Thank you!!
Melissa Jill - Hi Karin -- You could try doing it without BBF, but I don't trust the method of pushing down the shutter button half way and recomposing. It's never seemed to lock for me.
Karin - Can this be done without using back button focusing?
Anne-Camille Smith - This was so helpful you have no idea! I've been struggling with this forever. Thank you!
Di - I've been trying to work this out for ages - thanks so much
Melissa Jill - Hi Jill -- I couldn't email you back because you didn't leave an email on your comment, but you definitely can back button focus with a 30D. Email me if you want more help!
Jill - Hello. This is so helpful. I'm using a Canon 30D which does not have a back button focus. Any suggestions? Use the center focus point button and reframe the shot? Thank you very much!
Arlene - Very helpful, I love the stick figures. Thanks!
Melissa Jill - Hi Christina -- You could start with f8, but then you really lower your options for ISO and shutter speed unless you are in really bright sun. And you really don't need f8. My point in this post is that you can maximize your depth of field by making sure to focus in the right spot.
Christina - I LOVE the stick figures! One thing I don't understand is why wouldn't you use an aperature around 8 to begin with? I say the comment if there were 100 people but why not also with the small U group? thx
Sarah McMillian - As always, you make it so simple! Love these cute photos and miss these cute girls!
Melissa - amazingly detailed sketches ;) This was a great post, I actually was not familiar with this information, thanks for the great tip!! :)
Rachel - Genius!! Thank you!!
Kate - Ahh! Yes! This makes sense, THANK YOU!
Mark Coons - Thanks, Melissa. Not sure what aperture I used but I think I focused on the front row. Thanks!
jenn - THANK YOU for this tips!!! i have been trying different focus points but had hard times remembering what i did on each photos when i got home! thanks for this post! you are amazing, have i told you that?!
Lyn Ismael-Bennett - Thank you for the tip! So helpful!
Melissa Jill - Hey Mark -- I would still focus on someone in the front row (in this case, in the middle of the row) and I would stop down my aperture to something like 9.0 or so.
Mark Coons - Melissa, when you have a group of say 100 on risers in staggered straight lines, where would you focus for best DOF?
Deb - I love photography. It's just a hobby for me but I still like my images to be the best I can shoot. This was SO helpful. Thank you for sharing.
Amy - This is so incredibly helpful! Thank you!!
Emily Crall - Hahah, LOVE this picture so much! Oh, and the post is awesome too! Love this tip!!!! And love all these girls... (there's a LOTTA love going on this morning apparently)
Gail - SHUT UP!!!!!!! I had NO idea about this trick and I'm sitting her gobsmacked (isn't that such a great word?!) Melissa, even after all these years, I'm STILL learning from you. That is such an awesome thing! Thank you! I'm going to test this out at my wedding this weekend! PS - Oh my gosh, I LOLed at the "Group of Poorly Drawn Stick People" figure! haha
Monique - great tip!!
Brian - Helpful, informative post. Thank you! Understanding this was not the aim of your post, would you in some future one be able to share what you said and/or directed in order to achieve these poses from your beautiful subjects? Thanks.
Mike - Great post! This really helped a lot.
Leslie - I've never felt so "cute" before with a big red box on my mug!
Jill - 1. Very helpful info 2. THE BEST illustrations ever! 3. I have no shame. 4. I miss everyone! 5. MJ2Day has been a highlight of my year!
Alli McWhinney - Great post, thanks for sharing! Your "group of poorly drawn stick figures" comment made me laugh :-)
Jasmin - Thanks for this eye-opener! Was always.wondering what I've been doing wrong!