View Full Version : Street shooting technique with fast lens
Is it just me? I like to shoot candids in street shooting or photojournalist style. I haven't had much luck "capturing the moment" with a fast lens wide open. When I pre-focus, I'm out of focus half the time due to the narrow depth of field. If I wait to focus until it's time to shoot, I miss "the moment" half the time. Shooting at f/8, I have no problem, but at f/2 I'm out of luck. Anyone have better luck?
Short of being able to set up the shot (i.e. pre-focusing on the subject and waiting for something worth shooting to happen) I get better results at small apetures and hyperfocal focusing techniques or Zone focusing. If you want to shoot wide open, then practice guestimating distances or shoot at 4-5.6 and give yourself a little more room for error.
Most of the times it's practice, Huck. I do hate the effect you get when you shoot at small apertures (no depth! :( ), so I've tried to squeeze my gear's capabilities by prefocusing. Most of the times, I get decent shots prefocusing at the very edge of the lens limits: kinda f4, 1/60 under poor light.
But I don't think there's a magical trick to make it other than practicing your focusing skills. An advice I read was that it's better to keep your lens on infinity always, so that you know where to turn the ring when you have to focus.
Let's hope I'm being clear. It's been a loooong day! :)
you've not told us what your set-up is, so I don't really know what is the real cause of not being able to focus fast enough. But if you're using a rangefinder, some solutions come to my mind:
eyepiece magnifier: better view of the rangefinder patch
focussing tab/lever: better control over the focussing barrel
But I wonder whether you really have a problem, because
"When I pre-focus, I'm out of focus half the time due to the narrow depth of field. If I wait to focus until it's time to shoot, I miss "the moment" half the time."
So, half your shots are okay because you pre-focus, and the other half is good because you waited to focus until it's time to shoot. I wish I had a hit rate like that... ;)
A difficult problem... I use to rely on wide angle lenses and dof so I have not too many problems with hyperfocal distance, but of course that works better with small apertures...
There was a discussion on tips for street shooting here http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=008Pa1 , maybe you could find something there...
But as Peter says, if you're on a hit rate of 50% you can be more than happy :)
Anyway, better to take the shot even if focus isn't all that perfect than loosing it, after all, film is (still) cheap ;)
DOF is so small below f/5.6 that I don't even try using hyperfocal methods. You are up aginst the limitations of the optics. What works for me is when using a small f/ is just knowing that focusing is required. I have found that many times you can predict where your subject will be and so focus precisely ahead of when you take the shot. For example. Something is going on over there which you think has potential. So you raise up your camera and set focus and exposure then lower it back down. Often this may occure some time before the hoped for candid event occurs. Even if your subject saw you setting up they forget shortly after you lower your camera and look disintrested. But now you are all set up. Then when the proper moment presents itself all that you need to do is rise up and take the shot. This does not work every time. I learned to use it to good effect before autofocus anything.
Sorry I didn't reply sooner gang. It's been a busy week . . . & tehn I'm leaving for 10 days in Nova Scotia.
Thanks for all the great replies & for the encouragement!!:) I needed that because it can get frustrating. :bang:
Great photo, Kris! Can I have her #? :)
pvdhaar, to answer your question about my set-up . . . After shooting with Nikon AF equipment, I decided to go MF last year & bought an FM3a. I have 35/2, 50/1.8, & 85/1.8 as fast lenses for that outfit. Last fall, I dug out my old Canonet GIII QL17 (f/1.7) out of the attic that I hadn't used in 15 years or so. I used it for family snapshots in the old days & didn't realize its potential. I started fooling around with it & enjoyed it. I am still using it. I wanted the flexibility of interchangeable lenses on a rangefinder, the availability of shutter speeds faster than 1/500, & the reliability of a body that isn't 25 years old, so I purchased a Rollei 35 RF with 40/2.8 & 75/2.5 lenses as a rangefinder outfit.
I had given thought to adding a 50/1.8 or f/2 for low light shooting, but with my expeiences, I'm not feeling like it will be worth it. I can use my SLR for pictures where the focusing is more deliberate or use my AF equipment for fast low light shooting. I like the rangefinder approach for that shoot from the hip style, but that may not be compatible shallow depth of field.
Thanks again for everyone's suggestions. I'll try them out & will continue to experiment - especially pre-focusing on an estimated distance or selected spot.
Cheers. :) See you in a couple of weeks!:)
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