How to achieve focus in low light...


TPF Noob!
Oct 3, 2010
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Dallas, TX
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What is the proper way to focus when shooting in a low light situation? Are you supposed to illuminate the area and then get the focus before going back to the low light setting?

And my second question is... I've been trying to get used to shooting on M and setting everything myself. Should I be doing the same with focusing? Is auto focus amateur night?
I do it 2 ways:

Either light up the area, then let it focus on it and once in focus turn AF off

OR better yet, just focus manually

AF isn't amateur, also shooting everything in M doesn't make you pro either. Almost everyone shoots in AF because it's just a lot faster and convenient. I, personally don't rely on the automatic metering system so when I shoot AF my cam is always set to spot metering and only is using 1 point of focus. I compensate for the rest. When I first started photography I thought that real pros shoot everything in M - wrong. Shutter priority and Aperture Priority modes are just as useful because in certain situations you don't have a lot of time to take the shot, so you could rely on those, or even on the P mode at times.

It's not the matter of how you took the shot, it's the matter of taking it. Some people take awesome photos with an iPhone, forget about P&S with everything set to auto.
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Many camera/flash combos have an autofocus assist setting, either a red-colored pattern or a white light that is emitted,and projected toeward the target area; the camera's AF system will lock on to the illuminated area. THis almost always is set up to work ONLY in Single-shot AF mode.

Using the autofocus assist system on most modern d-slrs, you can get good focus in the dark, like on a raccoon raiding the garbage can, or people dancing in basically, near-darkness out on a dance floor.

Autofocusing is here to stay. Most modern AF cameras have poor viewfinder setups for manually focusing, and so even professionals use AF today. Most consumer to mid-level cameras have viewfinder systems that are not all that great for manual focus ascertainment.
Autofocus on a DSLR is not amateur night. DSLRs don't have viewfinders designed to focus manually. Can it be done? Sure. I have a whole set of manual lenses. But, if they could autofocus, I would use it.

The trick I use to focus at night is to set your ISO as high as it will go ("H" if you have a Canon). Then, focus as best you can with the light available. If there's a point of light, like a streetlight, try to focus on it. Then, once you think you have your subject in focus, take a 10 second shot with the ISO all the way up. You can then check your focus by reviewing teh photo on the LCD. Keep in mind that you'll need to zoom in on the picture to be able to tell. Everything looks sharp on a 2 inch LCD screen, lol.

Once you have your focus, you can reset your ISO and other settings and shoot away.
Don't forget that your lens has markings on the top for distance-to-subject.

If you have a sensible f-stop dialed in, your DOF hyperfocal range can be calculated
When i shoot at night, i usally try to get a modeling light on.
The few times I've shot at night I've found it easier to use Af and has been more accurate with my shots Being new to photography ive been using M alot and was faithfully using Mf but when I got home some shots I thought were in focus were blurry. So decided to try both again lol.

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