Group shots. Weddings, events, parties, family gatherings; at some point there is always a group shot to be taken. I've been trying to figure out how to get the best quality group images - focus, depth of field, exposure, all of these things can make or break a shot (this becomes even more important if it's a paid job).
Arranging your subject
My subject in this case happens to be some Lego minifigures (to me this group *perfectly* represents a wedding party. Everyone has met a space monster [the relative you had to invite], a fencer [the one who doesn't want to be in the photo]...). Depending on the lens you use, you will get different compression and therefore the way you arrange your guests will determine how far away everyone appears, how many guests were there etc.
Aperture and depth of field
If it's a dark day, chances are you will want to go for a wide aperture to keep the shutter speed up. You focus, you shoot, you review, you swear. The focus can often be off, with the most important guests appearing fuzzy. Not good. Here are some examples:
The best results were with a smaller aperture (wider depth of field), but more importantly the focus is in the middle. The point of focus for a lens is a bit like the centre of a sphere. There will be some stuff in front of (and behind) that point which will also be in focus. Therefore, if you focused on the bride (say its the troll in the images above), there is less chance of second cousin Ken at the back being in focus. Clearly, as you decrease the size of the aperture (the f stop number increases), your depth of field will become more forgiving, and this will be easier.
With a full frame body like the D750, depth of field is even more narrow so even at f/16 not everyone is completely in focus. However, that being said unless someone is going to be reviewing a print with a magnifying glass, it may not be noticeable to the regular viewer. You still need to remember the focus point though - here it is on the troll, and second cousin Ken is still suffering slightly. If the focus is shifted to the hotdog guy (lets call him Uncle Bob), this problem is rectified.
The Wedding party
These examples are useful when thinking about a normal party, or a family shot at a wedding. However, there is usually the ubiquitous *everyone* image that is taken at weddings, usually from a height. Doing this, I actually found that (depending on whether you were shooting DX or FX) you could be a little more creative.
Our wedding couple now are the space ranger and the fencer, who are traditionally positioned at the front of the group.
These images were all shot with natural light only (backlit), so there would be no need for moving around lots of lights. I quite like the effect too, it does produce a nice, light, airy feel to the images, which would suit a set of wedding shots.
One final thing - if you aren't so fussed about all shots having everyone in focus all the time, using a full frame body can give you some nice images where you can focus on the main subjects (say a bride and groom).
This has been a learning exercise for me, and a very useful one. I really enjoy shooting with prime lenses, but they do take practice and an understanding of things like depth of field and focusing distance. Hopefully some of this stuff is also of use to you guys out there.