Focus in candid street photography   4 comments

If you are interested in the street photography you already know basic techniques of focusing

  • Hyperfocal distance
  • Zone focusing
  • Autofocus

There is no reason for me to explain concepts of Depth of Field (DOF) and hyperfocal distance in this topic. Internet and many books have plenty of useful information in any level of details.

When I use my Point&Shoot camera (Canon S90) most of the time there is no need to be concerned about focusing.  This camera has such deep DOF that only very special circumstances make me think about changing my focus settings. Effectively, Point&Shoot always has hyperfocal distance or very close to it.

I don’t use hyperfocal distance with my DSLR camera unless my composition demands focus to infinity. Control of DOF with  selective focusing is the basic method in the photography to direct viewer attention. As another big bonus, large aperture allows using fast shutter.

I use combination of zone focusing and autofocus. Before I make the shot, camera is always prefocused for predicted distance.  If I decide to use viewfinder there is always option to use autofocus (with separate AF button). Modern lenses with quick shift make this mode of operation very convenient. My older favorites don’t have quick shift so I prefocus them pointing to some boring object. To use autofocus photographer has to understand its intricacies and limitations.  Don’t focus by pointing to the smooth wall and, probably, forget about autofocus when it is dark or other special conditions.  Many photographic sights are the great source of information about autofocus.

Don’t settle on one-fits-all rule. Find your own style to take your best pictures.

Related topics

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Pentax 70 mm f/2.4 DA Limited for Candid Street Photography

Pentax 14mm f/2.8 for Candid Street Photography

Canon S90 for Candid Street Photography

Why is the candid photography unique?

4 responses to “Focus in candid street photography

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  1. Hyperfocus, I think you mean Hyperfocal …and you left off Manual Focus which is a bit of a sin. Hyperfocal isnt really useful for street, you cannot decide that your subject is always going to be at that distance. More applicable to landscapes where you make your decisions prior and not during the action and it also requires that you lens has a scale.

    Some points about manual focus…
    Instead of being focused(grin) on achieving focus, manual focus affects you differently. You don’t center the subject or use a focus point while composing and when focus comes into view on a fast lens its very apparent. For me it means I’m often watching a background as much as the subject and Im framing and composing as I bring up the focus at the same time. I feel that AF might cause you to lock on but in manual focus its the last action before firing the shutter. On the forums some will say odd things like my AF is faster but that has no truth and I have less missed focus pics than if I had been using an AF lens. Its also common to see poor focus from an AF lens and it might be fortunate that there is a greater tolerance in street photography but it remains that proper focus is no less important.
    DOF has a strong relationship to manual focusing whereas an AF user regards the OOF effects more.from these aperture choices.

    An AF lens makes for an awful mf lens so if anyone wants to try manual focus …get a manual focus lens, it not missing AF …instead its designed for its focus throw and focus action and is designed for manual focus.


    • Interesting post. Thank you for noticing confusion in Hyperfocus/Hyperfocal. Actually, Hyperfocus means completely different thing so I will correct my post.
      I assumed that Zone focusing and Manual Focus is the same thing but I am, probably, wrong.

  2. Hyperfocal is concerned with determining the distance of foreground/background in focus for a given point of focus. Its a technique that uses the distance and aperture scales on a lens (and impossible on the likes of a Nikon G lens).
    Zone focus is using DOF to shoot without focusing, to capture a subject because of where they are positioned in the range of the DOF.
    And Manual Focus …its seeing in the viewfinder that the subject is in focus and is independent of aperture except that you might have chosen for the sake of shutter speed or you might change aperture for the sake of composition.

    I’m a manual focus shooter and yet many forums have many members that think its a macho thing and I think referring to them as members is likely the only truth (grin).

    All three techniques are so different and have their own reasons.


    • Ant,
      Thank you for interesting comment.
      Obviously, you don’t need aperture scales on lens to use hiperfocal. You can find many DOF calculators or print graphs from internet. And even if you can use lens scales these markings may have different assumption for quality of sharpness (circle of confusion) then you need. This is all interesting and technical but has little relation to what I do.
      Because situation can change any time we satisfied to get sharpness in specific zone. Many street photographers like very deep DOF. Cropped chip and high ISO (with small aperture) definitely helps.
      I like relatively shallow DOF. Sometimes, I use very shallow DOF. The main difference is how to bring subject to the zone. Sometimes, I use quick AF button. Many times I use manual focus or just set to estimated distance.

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