Which Meter did you use? matrix/spot/center weighted?? Which mode? Its a nice photo btw. F-stop maybe try f/11. I've been praticing where to place the AF point especially when shooting in situations where there is a shadow or another light source (ie stage lighting). On the Nikon site they explain each meter modes. I usually shoot in spot or center weighted.
try pointing the camera at her shirt & shooting one near her face. Compare the two.
Here is a similar picture...I was in matrix, but metered off of the green tree canopy, locked, recomposed, and shot. It's not perfect, but the best I could do in harsh conditions. Sometimes you can meter off of any shaded green area, and then adjust the exposure a bit in either direction.
The shot of your boy is more interesting to me becuase of the framing and depth of field (blurred background). I'm not sure what you are asking about 'focus', but you should usually focus on the eyes in portraits like these.
I've been shooting more portraits lately too. My main problem is holding the camera steady. I try to dig my left elbow into my body to hold the camera steady and squeeze the shutter release with my right finger (Press and hold). If I don't then my pics look slightly blurred. As far as focus points, (for me) it really depends on how the light is hitting the subject. then I will find a spot that is midway between the lens and subject. For instance, your son's ear is more in focus than his mouth/nose. I would have either focus on the collar or the nose. Also, I would use center-weighted. AF-C. so that my metering is a little bit more accurate.
Since it's digital, you have no excuse shooting with different apertures. try moving it up/down a notch. I can't tell by the exif but which lens are you using? I haven't played with manual mode a lot. Mostly I shoot Aperture to let the computer pick my Speed, and vise versa. Your speed could also be a factor.
On the boy pic, you had EV+/- 3. shutter 1/125 Put your info in using this website.
The photos are decent. They seem a little underexposed on the subject but I think a little bit of color correction would fix that right up. There are a couple of ways you can get the exposure closer for this type of shooting.
1. Flash Fill
2. Exposure Lock
Personally, I prefer exposure lock over fill flash. The only downside is flash is easier to learn and use but if you have the time, you should definitely experiment with exposure lock. Also, if you're going to use flash within close proximity of your subject (like in these photos), you might want to look into outboard flash and defusing. Flash would be too harsh that close to the subject.
When using the exposure lock method, I generally use spot metering (aka center weighted) and meter on something with a luminance half way between the extremes you plan to frame. Different colors have different luminance with the same light so it's a bit of trial & error but the results are usually way more pleasing to the eye and more color accurate.
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