Focus on the Face

This is a bit more on the same line as the last post, but it has to do with blowing highlights in white, or avoiding turning white into gray... and it's something you really need to pay attention to, especially at weddings, where you have lovely white dresses next to black tuxedos. Something's got to give. You don't want the tuxedos to be dark gray, or the dress light gray. You don't want the dress so over-exposed that you can't see the details, either.  This is one way to tell a really good photographer from the rest. Dresses are white, but you can still see the details, tuxes are black, but still with details, not various shades of gray or big black and white blobs. Anyway, so you're at the wedding and want to take some pictures. Once again, remember you have to tell the camera what it needs to know. Many people use a gray card to help with getting the exposure right in these difficult situations. If you let the camera read the light off that gray card, you're probably going to get the exposure pretty close for everything else. What if you don't have a gray card? Well, in a pinch you can use your hand. Make sure the palm of your hand is in the same light as your subject, focus on it, and set your camera's exposure settings to whatever your camera told you. We'll talk about gray cards and things another time, for right now we'll make it fairly quick and easy by just focusing on faces. Now, things can get more complex if you're dealing with a very light person or a very dark person, and you'll have to learn to adjust for that, but for the most part just remember that faces are the thing. I'll show you what I mean. I took this picture of sweet little Mia a few years ago at my niece's wedding. She had just learned to walk, she hated the head band, and had places to go and people to see.
Flower Girl on the Move
I believe very strongly that the best pictures of children are from their level, so I dropped to my knees to get this shot. That got Mia's attention, but I was far enough away that I was not in her face or intimidating. (Close shots can also distort faces) I was using a zoom and was back about 15 feet. The white dress was the problem. If I would have snapped this picture as framed, the dress would have come out gray. Instead, I focused in tightly on Mia's face, like so.
Focused tightly on the face
I then depressed my shutter button halfway to lock the focus and exposure, unzoomed (is that a word?) far enough to get the rest of her, and took the picture. I was using a fill flash so she didn't have dark circles under her eyes, and she has those nice little lights in her eyes, but I was far enough back that I didn't blow out the white dress into a large white blob with no detail whatsoever. This is where practice comes in. I was able to do all this quickly because I had learned how to do it ahead of time. At the wedding is not the time to learn how to use your new camera. It's hot, the cake is melting, everyone's makeup is melting, people are stressed, and now is not the time to add to the chaos. Use your zoom and stay out of the way. You'll probably actually get more interesting pictures that way.

3 Replies to “Focus on the Face”

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