Don't use Focus & Recompose

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by adamfilip, Jul 14, 2018.

  1. adamfilip

    adamfilip TPF Noob!

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    Hey Folks, I have been an avid photographer for over 20 years, I am a gear head and I love learning about photography. Many many years ago a friend suggested I use focus and recompose and it really made sense at the time. but even when using pro gear and lenses I noticed that I often dont get eyes in focus and for the life of me I couldnt figure out what I was doing wrong. But I finally figured it out and im baffled that i didnt realize it all along.
    When doing portaits or candids using a Iens with a shallow depth of field I suggest you avoid using Focus and Recompose. When you focus using centre AF point and then recompose your shot, you tend to shift the focus plane behind the persons head and eyes are often out of focus, So instead compose and then select an AF point thats closest to the eyes.
    This is more and more important the faster the lens is.(f 1.2, f1.4, f2.8) with a shallow depth of field and with long focal lengths. as the available depth of field available is very shallow. Stepping down to a smaller aperture can help, but it also eliminates the bohek/separation of subject to background.
    Focus and Recompose is still a valid and useful technique but just not in every situation. with modern cameras with many available focus points there are better ways to achieve critical focus
    This is not new information, but its good knowledge that every photographer should really grasp
    hope this helps.
    See this illustration.
    See how recomposing shifts the focus plane!

    FocusRecompose.jpg


     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
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  2. Jeff15

    Jeff15 TPF junkie!

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    Hello and welcome, an interesting first post....
     
  3. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    Use a telephoto focal length lens so you're further away from the subject, and not quite a tad deeper DoF.
    My go to portrait lens was a 200 mm f/2 lens and for some portraits of individuals I used a 300 mm f/2.8.
     
  4. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    The graphic assumes the lens used has a totally flat focus plane. The actual field curvature of the lens used will vary.

    That might be your problem instead.
     
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  5. adamfilip

    adamfilip TPF Noob!

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    Yes I did assume focus plane was flat. just to simplify concept.
    Focal length and distance will also affect how much of a shift of focus will occur when recomposing.
     
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  6. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Not quite sure what you're getting at. For people, I leave it on spot and focus on the eyes, adjusting for DOF to keep the rest in focus. Whether I recompose or not the eyes remain in focus unless Ive exceeded my calculated DOF. Landscape I will use multiple points but usually the distance is great enough that the DOF is not a factor.
     
  7. adamfilip

    adamfilip TPF Noob!

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    Not as relevant for landscapes as you tend to stop down to increase DOF,
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Welcome to TPF adamfilip!
    In general, I tend to agree with your ideas regarding focus and recompose. At typical "portrait ranges", focus and recompose can indeed, easily, cause focus to be incorrect! There are a number of web articles the delve into the problems with missed focus due to focus and recompose, one of which was titled Why Focus-Recompose Sucks, and which got a lot of exposure back in the day in the www photo community. Photo Technique #006 @Digital Outback Photo

    If your camera offers an AF square that's off to the side of the frame, close to the eyes and face of a portrait subject, it is best to use that AF square, for sure.
     
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  9. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    With a longer lens like a 135 at headshot distance, I have less than 3/4 inch dof at 2.0 so usually stop down to 3.2 where I have slightly over an inch. Unless the subjects nose is on the camera access putting the eyes on the same plane, I don't reliably get both eyes sharp til 3.2. That has a side benefit of minimizing CA and better sharpness on my lens. Bokeh is still off the chart. I don't trust the camera to pick the focus spot among those proudly proclaimed dozens of spots, I use only one, I spot meter/focus with one spot. It is moveable and I move it as close to just below the eye as possible. My 850 has a button handy for that. If you raise the camera using a center spot, you are measuring focus along the diagonal but when you lower the camera, it is now shooting along the shortest distance to the subject. When you have less than a half inch of dof behind and in front of the eyes, that can make one eye soft. The eyes are usually the most important element of a portrait and having them sharp is usually desireable. So yes, move a single spot to focus with minimal camera movement to recompose. This isn't as critical if shooting from further back for say torso, 3/4, full length, environmental portraits or when stopping down to include the bg or a sense of the bg in the image. But when measuring dof in less than an inch, it is important for a high percentage of shots with eyes sharp.
     
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  10. chuasam

    chuasam Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    eh? who even uses focus and recompose anymore?
    I can't even manual focus accurately enough.
    my camera can autofocus and take the shot in probably a 1/10th of a second.
    I have 153 focus points and the big challenge is landing a point on the iris and not that eyelash
     
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  11. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Chuasam, my nikons have a focus confirmation in the view finder. I used manual focus for 25 years before digital, worked fine, works fine now except when I am in situation where quick focus needed. Then I use an auto focus lens. For most portraits I manually focus plenty fast enough and nail focus fine tuning with focus confirmation. In studio on a rolling stand, I can use live view focus that highlights areas in focus. Nails it. My uncorrected vision is 20/1200 and my viewfinder eye isn't quite 20/20 so is my reading eye and I manually focus fine with it. And that's at 6' with a 100 at 2.0 and only about an inch dof. 153 focus points are great but I only need one on the eye I want in focus. My MF film camera has no electronics and is manual focus as well. Focus and recompose doesn't require manual focus. Half click the shutter to lock focus or, as my camera's are set up, the shutter doesn't effect auto focus, I back button focus and that locks focus and the shutter button only fires the shutter.
     
  12. chuasam

    chuasam Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    when I shoot, I don't stand still and wait for the subject to stay stock still.
    I'm bouncing around, bantering, clowning and trying to get a reaction that I like.
    Autofocus exists...why not let the camera handle it
    DSC_3544.jpg
    DSC_3742.jpg
    the kind of portraits I do make it hard to use manual focus accurately
    DSC_9760.jpg
    (this was 8 years ago and I have no idea what my concept was *LOL*)
    oh yeah Surrealism haha DSC_0121.jpg
     

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