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Old 02-23-2013, 04:26 PM   #1
dkhillerud
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Help with depth of field!! Update: Picture #2 posted :)

I am trying to shoot my daughters dance/color guard competions. I am in a gym, using a 70-200 f/2.8 lens on my nikon D5100. I am sitting about 20 feet or so from the kids.

I took pictures with my aperture set to 2.8 to allow for fast shutter speeds. I ended up with some great pictures, but in a lot of them, you can see one person in focus while the person right next to them is not. I assume this is due to the depth of field with the aperture at 2.8.

If I wanted to get more than one or two people in focus, what aperture would I need to set? Or do I need to sit further back? I was sitting four rows up from the floor. I looked at a few charts online, but am very confused!

Thanks for the help!!
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Old 02-23-2013, 04:29 PM   #2
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You have two things stacked against you here. The aperture and the focal length. I'd just go with stopping down the aperture if possible. If you move back you'll have to make the lens longer and that will require a faster shutter speed to overcome the additional camera shake.

Get a depth of field calculator to help you out. It will take the guesswork out of this for you. If you have a smartphone there are several apps out.
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Old 02-25-2013, 01:09 PM   #3
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Here is a photo from Saturday. I got some better than this one, but this one would have been one of my favorites if my daughter wasn't blurry. Please help me understand what is off here.

Think my shutter speed could have been faster, I was shooting wide open with ISO 1600, probably should have gone higher than that. I was getting 1/250 for most pictures. Thinking the focus might be off as well? Appreciate any suggestions! Thanks!


Colorguard Music of the Knight by hillekm, on Flickr
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Old 02-25-2013, 01:29 PM   #4
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if you want to get more in foucus, you need to shoot closer to f7

but in a low light gym with no flash, you will have trouble getting decent shutter speeds unless you bump the iso way up to 3200, but then you get noise.

one of the other things you can try is to reposition yourself so that your lense is paralell to those you want in foucus. at 2.8 with a lot of zoom, your focal plane is very small.
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Old 02-25-2013, 02:06 PM   #5
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There isn't going to be an easy answer. Use spot focus, and focus on your daughter. You really need your aperture wide open to get enough light and fast enough shutter speed. And unfortunately, the downside of a dSLR, is you end up with a very narrow depth of field.
Google depth of field calculators. On a crop dSLR, with a focal length of 70mm and 30 feet from your shooting subject.. shooting at f2.8... you are only getting a depth of field of about 6 feet. Plenty to keep 1 person in focus, but enough enough to get multiple people in different parts of the court, all in focus. Stopping down to 5.6.. you will only get about 12 feet into focus.. but even that wouldn't necessarily be enough if people are spaced far apart.

So I'd suggest just making sure your daughter is in focus, and not worrying about anything else on the court.

Play around with a depth of field calculator, it is enlightening.
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Old 02-25-2013, 02:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
Here is a photo from Saturday. I got some better than this one, but this one would have been one of my favorites if my daughter wasn't blurry. Please help me understand what is off here.

Think my shutter speed could have been faster, I was shooting wide open with ISO 1600, probably should have gone higher than that. I was getting 1/250 for most pictures. Thinking the focus might be off as well? Appreciate any suggestions! Thanks!


Colorguard Music of the Knight by hillekm, on Flickr
The focus isn't even on the girls, it looks like it's past them on the bleachers. That is a huge contributing factor here. It's also important to remember that depth of field is not the area that is in focus. It's the area of "acceptable sharpness" and there is only one plane of focus. A deeper depth of field won't make up for missed focus. There is also still the tiniest bit of motion blur and that doesn't help matters either.
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Old 02-25-2013, 02:58 PM   #7
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Because you are shooting motion, I would recommend shutter priority set a 1/320, ISO of 3200, continuous focus, spot focus, burst mode. You may even want to experiment with spot metering. This is only if you want your daughter. If you want the whole group, it will probably require matrix metering. You may have to manually adjust your white balance. These are the settings it takes for me to get acceptable shots of my DGD playing basketball. If you get a really bright gym then maybe you can drop the ISO to 1600. You may need some PP. Depending on how fast you want to shoot, you will have to choose between JPEG (faster) or RAW (will slow down as buffer fills more rapidly). RAW will give more flexibility in PP, but sometimes you will need the extra burst speed of JPEG.
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Old 02-25-2013, 03:45 PM   #8
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In simple terms, I think you are under-utilizing the lens and/or trying to get too much in the picture using that particular lens. (Especially so if you are a beginner and are unsure about focus points and metering and such.)

You had a good opportunity to zoom in on just your daughter, or on just some aspects of your daughter's performance, but instead (I think) you tried include others as well (in the way you might a point and shoot). That's not the lens to do that with, IMHO.

It's fine if you want to have others in the picture, but the focus has to be on your daughter. This takes some practice using this type of camera and lens.

Here's another way to think about it. The viewer should never be confused about what your main subject is - because your subject is always in focus. In your example, no offense - just pointing it out to make the point - I wasn't sure which one your daughter was and had to really study the picture and read what you wrote to figure it out. See how that's a problem? It's ok if others are out of focus if your subject is in focus, usually - unless that wasn't your intent.

For your pictures, try just focusing on your daughter next time. Don't worry about anyone else. Get in close, capture her facial expressions, zoom out a bit and get her and the flag without cutting off part of the flag, try to go for a nice composition, etc. Try shooting both horizontally and vertically. See what happens.
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Old 02-25-2013, 05:00 PM   #9
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I think Danielle hit the nail on the head. Your focus was in the wrong spot.

Also keep in mind that if you shoot RAW, you might be able to increase your shutter speed a bit more and underexpose the photo, but bring it back up in post processing.
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Old 02-25-2013, 05:58 PM   #10
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Thank you very much for all the helpful info/tips! Yes, I am a beginner and have a lot to learn! I bought the camera and then the lens thinking I would get better pictures. I am now learning that I am the one who has to make the pictures better!

My daughter had 2 shows, the picture I posted was from the afternoon show. I used auto area focus and that was a very poor choice. For the evening show I used the dynamic area focus and set my focus point right on my daughter and that was much better.

For the evening show I left the lens at 70mm and thought I would just crop in tighter as needed after. That appears to be a bad idea as well. So next week I will continue to set the focus right on my daughter and zoom in for the shot. I think I will set my ISO higher than 1600 as well in order to try to get a faster shutter speed.

I am beginning to understand the different focus modes, but not so much the metering modes. I left it in matrix.

Thanks again for all the help!
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Old 02-25-2013, 08:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhillerud View Post
Thank you very much for all the helpful info/tips! Yes, I am a beginner and have a lot to learn! I bought the camera and then the lens thinking I would get better pictures. I am now learning that I am the one who has to make the pictures better!
You've already figured out the most important lesson in photography. You'd be amazed at how many people never really get that. Just keep on trying and learning and eventually you'll get to the point where you're the one giving out advice.
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Old 02-26-2013, 02:40 PM   #12
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You've already figured out the most important lesson in photography. You'd be amazed at how many people never really get that. Just keep on trying and learning and eventually you'll get to the point where you're the one giving out advice.
Yep..Photography is 85% photographer 15% equipment.

there are a bunch of short films out there of high end pro shooters being given a $30 camera and challenged to see what they come up with. some of the results are stunning.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:21 PM   #13
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Did better this week, than last week! This picture was taken when she was moving a prop, so not at "full speed." But I love it! ISO 1600 only gave me shutter speeds of 1/200. Going up to ISO 3200 gave me fast enough shutter speeds 1/500, but more noise than I would like. Might try ISO 2000 or 2500.

Thanks for all the tips and suggestions!


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Old 03-04-2013, 09:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Did better this week, than last week! This picture was taken when she was moving a prop, so not at "full speed." But I love it! ISO 1600 only gave me shutter speeds of 1/200. Going up to ISO 3200 gave me fast enough shutter speeds 1/500, but more noise than I would like. Might try ISO 2000 or 2500.

Thanks for all the tips and suggestions!


wintergaurd color guard by hillekm, on Flickr
Ah, now that's what that lens is for! Nice improvement!
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Old 03-04-2013, 10:51 PM   #15
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Ah, now that's what that lens is for! Nice improvement!
Thanks!

You were right on last week with all your comments! I thought a lot about your statement that the camera should never be confused about what the subject is. I think in all honesty I was confused about what the subject was myself!

This week I focused just on my daughter and what she was doing. I am so much happier with this weeks photos. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm focusing on the fact that this week was better than last, and calling it success.

Next weekend we fly to Dallas for a competition. That week the camera isn't coming, not to the shows at least! I am going to watch my daughter dance, not through the viewfinder!
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