How to: photograph multiple dogs, keep all of them sharp, and still get a blurry background.

Most of the time I photograph one dog at a time. But sometimes I want to make a portrait with multiple dogs, and that can be a bit challenging…There are three main problems:

  1. Getting all dogs to look nice. At the same time.
  2. Getting all dogs sharp.
  3. get a blurry background.

This is an equation that can be a bit hard, but I think I have some useful tips!

Let’s start with the tech-stuff…

Depth of field

Three dogs are seldom at the exact same distance from the camera, so you need to work with a larger DOF. The easiest way is to use a smaller aperture. But – you also want the background to be soft and blurry and out of focus…Impossible equation? Not at all! The answer is to move the dogs further from the background! Allow me to demonstrate:

 

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f/2,8. Valle, to the right, is slightly out of focus. I need a larger DOF.

 

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f/4. All dogs are well in focus, but the background isn’t as blurry as I like it.

I moved the dogs about 2 meters away from the background.

 

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f/4. Much better background! 

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As the dogs were nicely in line, I tried f/2,8 (love that swirly bokeh…). Success!

Another move.

 

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f/5,6. At this aperture the dogs can be much more apart than they are in this photo, they will still be in focus!

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And… a squeaky toy to get their attention. Got it! 

So: dogs together, distance from the background, use the size aperture you need to get them all focused.

The further away from the background, the blurrier the background gets.

 

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f/2,8.

And it’s worth to keep in mind one more thing: the closer you are to your subject, the shorter DOF you get. Look at the leaves to her right, with the exact same settings except for the focal length (I would get the same effect on the DOF if I moved my feet…)

 

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1/125, f/2,8, 66mm

Still the same settings, but moved my dog about 1 meter (obviously a bad idea in her mind…no idea why…)webb-2011webb-2014

Kind of interesting, right? I know, one more thing to think about…but this is actually a great help! F/2,8 and a close-up a bit away from the background gives me a nice, sharp face AND blurry background.

The last one: my favourite from this session! I just love the leaves…

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