I have a D3500 with kit lenses which I use to shoot group portraits.

I have read extensively about lighting, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc., and have applied my learning to my photos. I shoot all my portraits in manual mode.

I have been able to shoot some really amazing photos, but I'm wondering if they could be even better based on photos I see other people post online.

My photos can be enlarged to about 16x20 and still look perfect, bigger than that and they still look good, but people start to look a little blurry after that point. Is there anything I can do to make sure people still look as sharp and in focus when the photos are enlarged bigger?

Do I need a nicer camera to get better photos? Or is there something else I should be trying?

Will having a higher megapixel camera make it so photos can be enlarged more? or do I need better lenses? something else?

I know focus is hard for group photos in general because people are different distances from the camera. How can I know when I've reached the limit of what is physically possible as far as good focus? Will a better camera help auto-focus on more people more effectively?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just on the point of focusing on "more people"... it's important to note that no camera/lens can focus on more than one distance at any given moment. That is, for any photo, only one distance is (let's say) precisely in focus. But, other distances can appear acceptably in focus. This is the concept of "depth of field", which can be subjective, but, yes, also relates to how large you enlarge the image (as well as viewing distance of the image). \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of lighting are you using? How many flashes or reflectors? What kind of modifiers? Are you shooting indoors or out? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mostly outdoors, ideally shooting for times of day when the lighting is nice (right after sunset, right before sunrise). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ "no camera/lens can focus on more than one distance at any given moment" @osullic I am aware of this---that's why I asked specifically "how can I know when I have reached the limit of what is possible" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 22:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Great - but it's still important (maybe for other readers) to point out that you cannot "auto-focus on more people". \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


You almost certainly do not need a higher resolution camera... "nicer" and more MP's won't help you as it is unlikely you are making full use of the resolution the D3500 already has.

If you zoom into an image and you start to see the square shape of the image pixels before the zone of focus degrades in IQ, then you have almost achieved the limits of what is possible. For me that's at ~ 400% magnification with ~4um pixels (D850/Z9) viewed at ~ 120ppi (16" MBP liquid retina display).

A 20" print from the D3500 is right at 300ppi; which many will say is what you need for a high quality print. But that's if you are going to be evaluating it with a printer's loop or with your nose against it. You should be able to go to at least twice that size (150ppi), even with more critical/shorter distance viewing. If your print starts to show the square pixel shapes the image is made of, you can resample it to break them into smaller squares which won't be (as) visible.

If everything is looking a little blurry and nothing looks sharp zoomed in more than 100%, then a better lens than the 18-55 and 70-300 kit zooms can help... but only if you are already using adequate technique (fast enough SS, etc).

If the issue is that the depth of field is too shallow and people not at the point of focus are looking more blurry, then you can increase the DOF. You have two basic choices here... you can stop down more to f/16-22; but diffraction, loss of light, and higher ISOs will reduce the amount of fine detail that can be recorded. Or you could use an even smaller sensor to increase the DOF; but again, there will be a loss of fine detail recordable due to diffraction and the loss of light; in this case due to smaller pixels, and smaller physical aperture (equivalent MP, same exposure settings).

By fine detail I'm talking about things like the weave a fabric is made of, eyelashes, etc. Probably not things like eyes/fingers (unless your subjects are quite distant).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally agree that at 150 PPI (or 40 inches) on this sensor there are still not noticeable pixels on a print. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 17:50

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