Do you focus and recompose for portraits?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by lance70, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. lance70

    lance70 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I was wondering what focus technique everyone uses for portraits? Do you focus and recompose your shot or move your focus point? Maybe both depending on what aperture you use? Thanks :)


     
  2. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    yes. I like to use the center focal point to achieve focus on the eyes. If I didn't recompose the composition/framing would be awful.

    this is same for f/1.4 or f/11
     
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  3. JonA_CT

    JonA_CT TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I try to use the appropriate focusing point for portraits...if it's available. Since it's often not on my D600, I end up focusing and recomposing a bit.
     
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  4. lance70

    lance70 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I agree, that's the method I use but usually I'm indoors and have strobes firing and camera set around f8, wasn't sure for people shooting wide open if they would still get a tack sharp focus on the eyes after recomposing.
     
  5. dunfly

    dunfly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't do portraits a lot but lately I have been trying to move the focus point to where I want it rather than recomposing. Focus accuracy seems to be a little better that way.
     
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  6. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    I combine JonA_CTs method with back-button focus.
     
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  7. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    When I shot with a D5100, I often had to focus and recompose since it only had 11 focus points and only the center one was cross-type. This worked pretty well most of the time, but also resulted in a lot of soft focus when shooting wide open. Since upgrading to a D500 last year, which has 153 focus points, and all of the selectable ones cross-type, I move the focus point and get much more consistent and sharper results.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
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  8. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    ^^This.
     
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  9. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I use BBF as well, so that helps, and you just get better at it over time -- not moving the camera in or out, just rotating it enough to get your shot.
     
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  10. jcdeboever

    jcdeboever TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    On film I use the center, lock it, recompose. Digital, I was doing the same but recently, on my Fujifilm, the face / eye detection works excellent. I don't know if that is cheating but I don't care as long as the results are there. I still don't trust it for some reason, even though it hasn't failed me.
     
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  11. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    that's one of the features i'd like to get from the newer Nikon AF modules. the d4, d810/850, d750, d500 all have that.
     
  12. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I typically don't recompose shots.

    Imagine that the focus plane of your photo is like a sheet of paper parallel to the front of the lens. The thickness of the paper is the depth of field. Now the focus of the camera moves that plane of focus back and forth in the scene until its where you desire or where the AF detects the contrast difference in the scene to lock onto.

    Now this is important because once the focus is set if you then recompose you change the angle of teh camera and lens relative to the scene. What can happen then is that perfect focus plane on the original subject can have the depth of field slip off that point. This issue is clearly more apparent when using wider apertures and thus smaller depths of field; whilst with a smaller aperture (bigger f number) you get a bit more leeway as your depth of field (paper) is greater (thicker).


    My approach is to shoot using whichever AF point is best for the scene based on the situation and composition. For a static portrait you can often have time to freely pick which AF point you want to use. However if you are in a situation where you can't focus on the point you want in focus using a dedicated AF point then you've a few options

    1) Manual focus - tricky on many modern DSLRs as the viewfinder image isn't best designed for it and many lens focusing systems are also designed more with AF than with MF in mind (which means more movement of the focal plan for less of a turn on the focus wheel). Live view and magnified view can be a big help if you're on a stable support and have time to use it

    2) Focus and recompose - you risk the focal plane moving off the subject, but otherwise this can be a quick and simple method

    3) Focus on the point using AF as normal then shoot the shot wider than you need to, with a view to cropping in editing to achieve the desired composition. (note despite many peoples claims - this is not a crime ;))



    Note - AF always goes for the closest point it can focus upon under all currently active sensors. So if you've got them all active all will be used, whilst if you've only got one then the camera will work to find that closest point of contrast difference only under that sensor (note it might use other sensors to help with that process, but only the one selected really matters in so far as the photographer is concerned)
     
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