Posing Groups: Focal Plane
Back to the technical considerations, we talked about focal plane, I wanna talk to you a little bit about why that is so significant, in an image like this, for instance, I've posed them all together and they're laughing and it's playful, I'm stepping back, I'm shooting with a 70 200 2.8, they're backlit and I've got a front light on them, I'm pretty sure this is a fill flash on this shot, the SB-910 and in this exact same scenario, the little boy in the back, he's having fun, but he's slipping, you ever pose people and people kind of slip out of frame? He's falling backwards, he decides to change, he stands up and suddenly he's really far back from everybody else and I have to reset, jump up, lean forward, come on, come on, come on and do it in a really high energy way, so I keep his expressiveness and I don't lose him to thinking about how high he should jump up or how far he should lean in, when you have people thinking about how to pose, you are not getting authentic expression, yo...
u're getting, I'm thinking about how to pose, (laughs) so you need to be able to keep that energy moving. Let me show you a video, that's a clip of a dad with two daughters, that we just filmed the other night, exactly how deceiving it can be to set up a small group and to think you're relatively on the same focal plane, in terms of everybody you're photographing. So when I'm thinking about what I set up, this shot right here is I want a shallow depth of field, so that I can really focus on them as a portrait, but I have to pay a lot of attention to the focal plane they're on, so in this exact scenario, they look so cute, but you can see there's between the front of Eva's face and the front of Ella's face is this much room, (laughs) which when you're facing them, it doesn't look like that, but it really is that far apart, which is pretty dramatic, if you think about focusing on one thing, it would make sense that it's this much of a distance, she's gonna be out of focus or she's gonna be out of focus, if I'm shooting it anything shallower than maybe a F5.6, depending on my proximity to them, so the closer I am or the farther I am from them is gonna make a big difference, so because of that, I either choose to shoot with an extended field of focus and go ahead and just have everything in the shot, which doesn't feel as high end portraity to me, or I say we need to adjust them, so that I can still stay relatively close, I'm probably gonna switch to a 85 1.4 lens on this, I'll be relatively close, but I'm gonna need to either bring Ella forward or Eva back, so you girl, go on back, (laughs) yeah. There you go, so, but that is kind of deceptive, isn't it? It doesn't look like it's that much room between them and if you can get in the habit of when you're posing groups to think about the other dimension of distance, not just what you're looking at straight on, that'll really help you to correct a lot of accidental, out of focus shots. Yes, Russ?
So you have a question from someone online, who says, where is the focal point between like, say five people, do you just go straight for the middle?
I do, I go straight for the middle and specifically if it's an odd number of group, I go for the closest connection, usually there's two people leaning together, one on there, something like that, I just make sure, if it's a larger group and I'm going for the middle, I have to be far enough away, that I am getting them all sharp, 'cause it's really easy to get lost in it, I'm having fun, I'm playing with you and suddenly I'm on you, I click and you guys are out of focus, because I'm just too close and my field of focus has narrowed that much.
And then maybe one more, Lindsay and three others have this question, how can you achieve posing triangles, while keeping everyone on the same focal plane, do you not try and keep them on the same focal plane, do you embrace that depth sometimes?
You know what, who asked that question?
Lindsay, excellent transition question, (laughs) I would like to speak to that, specifically I try and mix it up and bury it, I often find one of those major errors I see, in terms of large groups is people are soft somewhere and that is usually the reason, there's other times that you wanna mix it up, for whatever reason, one thing I always like to do is ask anybody there at the shoot if they have any ideas of things they'd like to pose, things they'd like set up and you get some of the quirkiest, silliest things and oftentimes they're like crazy (laughs) or they just don't work, but other times, it's magic, like oh, hey, Timmy, who's eight, that was the best pose ever, I'm gonna write that down and do that every time now, I love that. I just photographed this literally I think two days ago at my workshop in San Francisco, this is Laurie Fuller, a photographer, who actually was on Creative Live for the Sale, Sale, Sales course, Laurie and her family, this is shot you know, on a stairwell right in the Embarcadero, it is shot at a... with a 35 1.4 lens at an F3.2, so there's four of them, I've got a good enough distance away, I'm shooting at a F3.2, they're all together, then the idea is, let's break them up and move them apart, if I do that and they're up and down and all over the place, what do I have to do from a lens perspective, what do I have to do from an F stop perspective, things start changing, so you move 'em up and down in that kind of rock star way and we're thinking about things like, if I put the children in the back and the Dad in the front, the Dad will look huge and the kids will look tiny, so we have to do a couple of things, in terms of literally how they're represented and then I have to change some things, so I change my lens and I change my field of focus, I now step back, I switch to the 85 1.4 lens and I'm switching my F stop from a 3. all the way up to an F14, which is a really big differential and most likely in a situation like this, I could get away with a lower F stop number, but I don't know in terms of movement or change, I already feel like I'm at a really, really far distance, 'cause we have stairs, right, so they're going up farther than it looks like, in terms of the length apart them, apart with them, so F14 is kind of just one secure way to do that, so that answers your question, Lindsay.