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Where to Focus when Photographing Large Group of People

photographing large group of people
Photo by: Jon

A most frequently asked question by beginners when faced with a situation where they need to capture large groups of people arranged in multiple rows is… 

Best place to focus in group shots?
Group shot, all faces focused help?
Where to Focus in Group Photos?
How to get group in focus?

Well different people frame the question differently but what they are all asking are the same; they need to make sure that all the people in a group, from those in the front row to those in the rear are all in focus. 

The trick to get everyone sharp in a group photo is to use a small aperture preferably f/16. In any case it is not recommended to go wider than f/11 for getting reasonable depth of field for photographing large groups of people.

Now comes the most important part… Where Do You Focus for Group Shots

First and foremost you need to have an understanding of how depth of field works. When we focus on a certain point, depth of field is not distributed equally towards the front and back. Out of the total available depth of field for any given aperture, focusing distance and sensor size combination; 1/3rd will be in front and the remaining 2/3rd will be towards the back.

So for example you are focusing on a point that is 10ft away and the total depth of field available is 3ft then everything from 9ft to 11ft will be in focus.

where to focus for large group shots
where to focus for large group photos

In order to make the maximum out of available depth of field when photographing large groups with more than one row of people always focus on the eyes of the people in the front row. As you have more depth of field behind than in front you will have the remaining rows also in focus.

 If you focus on the back row or somewhere in the middle and as a result eyes of people in the front row appear out of focus then it will completely ruin your shot. Instead if people in the front row are sharp and those towards the back are slightly blurred it will still be an acceptable picture. A group photo session is one those situations when the depth of field preview button becomes invaluable, use it double check the depth of field available with your current settings and make changes if necessary.

Here are some Tips and Techniques for Shooting Large Groups.
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