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Large Group Portrait using remote trigger

edited December 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum

I've received great tips on this site, so I figured I'd try again.

I'd like to take a large group family shot (20 +/- people) this weekend.

It will be during the day, indoors, using a tripod and remote trigger.

I'd planned on also using a speedlight if need be.

Given my options of the 2 kit lenses, and my 35mm f/1.8, I would assume the 35mm is the way to go? The room is a banquet type venue so I think we'd have the space.

Given the amount of people, I'm wondering if shooting at around f/11 or f/16 would be best?

Another question, what about the focus settings? How do I keep focus using the remote trigger?

Thanks in advance to the good people here who take the time to help out a rookie like myself.


  • edited December 2014
    Let's see what lens to use first. Going to assume that your location is not large enough to use the 55-200mm. So right off the bat, that's eliminated.
    Between the 18-55mm and the 35mm what's the difference other than focal range? Well, the max aperture, of course. Given that you'll be stopping down anyway to get a larger DOF, there really is no reason to pick the 35mm over the 18-55mm.

    How far to stop down depends on how your group of people are positioned, your focal length, and your camera position. I would take a test shot at f/8 and then adjust from there. Stop down further for greater DOF and open up for less.

    For focus, you're going to want to pre-focus and the turn off AF to lock it. So with the camera on the tripod, use Single Point AF to set your focus. Use Live View if you want. Focus on probably someone on the middle row. Then just turn the AF switch on the lens to M. Don't touch the manual focus ring and your camera's focus will be fine. On remote trigger, the camera won't look for focus; it'll just take the shot.

    What speedlight do you have available?
  • edited December 2014
    Really, the 18-55mm over the 35mm? I was under the impression that the 35mm was a "sharper" lens. You make a good point about the greater DOF though.

    With this being a larger group, am I best staying below f/8, maybe f/11-16? My hope is this would help keep more of the group in focus.

    Ahh, turning off the AF switch on the lens is the trick then; interesting. I had planned on using Single Point AF, then pressing the trigger. Thanks for the tip!

    I picked up a 3rd party speedlight off Amazon, mostly to help with indoor shots of family, etc. Still learning the ropes on how to use it (bounce off ceiling, etc), but can see the advantages of using in certain settings.

    Thanks again.
  • edited December 2014
    Nah, the 18-55mm is actually a very optically sound lens. It doesn't have the largest max aperture, it doesn't have the fastest AF, and the build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but sharpness and acuity aren't issues with this lens. Stopped down at f/8, this lens is tack sharp across the frame and will rival much more expensive lenses.

    Do you need to stop down more to f/11 or f/16? Maybe. Take the shot at f/8 first to see. While stopping down past f/8 will give greater DOF, you start to introduce diffraction. Using a relatively short focal length at f/8 from a distance may already give sufficient DOF.

    Knowing how to utilize the flash is the hard part I think. I would suggest researching on what happens to the effects of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO when flash is introduced.
  • edited December 2014
    I suspect that you'll need a bit wider field than the 35mm can give. If possible, preview the space and try to figure out where people will be placed. The 18-55mm is quite sharp enough, even if the 35mm is better. Some of the 35mm's virtues are in other areas that are less important for this.

    The lens is at its best at about f/8, so if you can get the depth of field necessary with that, you should stick with it. Again, it's a matter of where people are placed, and how wide a field you're going with, as depth of field increases with width. Try to stay under f/16, where diffraction may affect sharpness, but do not worry too much, as portrait shots such as this do not need the maximum needle sharpness as much as they need overall depth of field.

    @ohyeahar is usually right about many things, but he is not right about the auto focus and remote. At least on a D3200, the camera will seek auto focus on remote. However, in remote mode, as in any mode, focus priority exists, which means that if for some reason the camera cannot confirm focus it will not fire. This is an unlikely event here, but obviously if your life depends on the shot occurring and the subject is dark or difficult, manual focus will be necessary as it is in other circumstances.

    Edit to add: I should also add that because there is no "half pushed down" option in remote, focus and AE hold obviously do not exist either. It's basically single point.

    Depth of field can be complicated, but remember first of all that it is on a logarithmic scale. The further away you are, the greater the DOF, and this applies even to what you're focused on now. A useful rule of thumb for middle distances is that whatever your focal point is, your total DOF will be about 2/3 behind that and 1/3 ahead, so remember to focus a bit closer than the midpoint of your desired DOF.

    AS focal length decreases, DOF goes up radically. If you focus a 50mm lens at 5 feet, DOF at f/16 runs from 4 to 7. For a 35mm lens, the same setting gives you about 3-1/2 to 14 feet. If you focus a 28mm lens at the same distance and aperture, DOF extends from about 2.6 feet to nearly infinity.

    At the distances required for a big group shot, I doubt DOF will be a big worry for you with either the 35mm or the kit lens.
  • edited December 2014
    @bruto, If lens is in manual focus, remote release (or any release) won't trigger AF.
  • edited December 2014
    @bruto, what focus settings would be best then?
  • edited December 2014
    Yes, needless to say, AF only works when AF is on, but it does work with remote.

    I would set it to AFA and dynamic area, which are my general defaults. Because it fires all at once, it will probably be effectively the same as AFS and single point anyway. If you are pretty sure of where all your people will be, and can set up in advance, manual focus will almost certainly work too. At 35mm or wider, your DOF will be pretty generous.
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