Photography exercise 2: aperture mode and position of focus

It’s been awhile since I posted results from one of my photography exercises using Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” book. I had two goals in mind when employing two of Bryan Peterson’s suggestions:

1) To get a correct exposure and some bokeh, I used the Aperture Priority (AP) mode with an F/5.6 aperture. In this mode, I let the camera choose the exposure, or shutter speed.
2) To get multiple faces in focus, with a good amount of bokeh, I practiced placing my position of focus (aka focal point) “one-third into the photo.”

Here are some shots using my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens putting these techniques to work:

1) Aperture Priority (AP) mode, F/5.6, Exposure: 1/1000, ISO: 200


* We wrapped up Erika’s photo shoot and as I was leaving she asked for a photo with her childhood pet, Ellie, whom she would be leaving behind as she ventures off into the big world, freshly graduated from college. Getting Ellie to sit still and look at the camera was a challenge (she kept trying to sniff my lens) so I was pleased to get this sweet photo of these best pals together.

* I positioned my point of focus on Erika’s cheek closest to Ellie which gave me the focus I wanted on both faces. But, I would have liked more bokeh in the background.

* When I took this photo, the bright sun came out making the photo a bit overexposed. But, converted to black and white the photo is a bit more balanced.

* Shooting in AP mode made for a relaxing experience, letting the camera work for me. However, I still prefer the control I have working in manual mode.

2) Manual Mode, Aperture: F/4, Exposure: 1/200, ISO: 400


* After my experience using aperture F/5.6 I tried an F/4 aperture setting to get more bokeh. I wasn’t sure it would also give me the focus I wanted on both of the girls’ faces but, it did!

* I positioned my point of focus at a spot one-third into the photo, which in this case was the skin on Isabella’s arm just above Nora’s head. I chose this spot for focus but, also to get a correct exposure for both Isabella’s darker and Nora’s lighter complexions.

* After several unsuccessful attempts (eg. only one face in focus, or exposure too dark/too light) I finally got both faces focused and adjusting to ISO 400 gave me the exposure I wanted.

Additional notes about both photos:

* Learning where to position my point of focus one-third into the photo was key. When focusing on one person, I simply focus on the eyes. Getting the hang of finding that “one-third into the photo” spot is still a work in progress for me but, executed properly, it works like a charm!

* I did not use a tripod because I was just plain lazy. For sure, a tripod can help achieve sharp, focused photos. I threw caution to the wind and trusted the VR (vibration-reduction) setting on my 50mm lens and my steady hold.

It used to be scary using my camera in manual mode but, now it’s more rewarding and less frustrating. I’m not a professional but, I just like to share what I’ve learned and encourage others to get out there, experiment and enjoy your camera! And, any of you seasoned photographers stumbling upon this blog post, please share your tips, comments, or website links!

Happy Shooting! 😉

p.s. I found this link on How to Take Group Shots which provides additional tips you might find helpful

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