AF Tip – Autofocus for Portraits

Posted November 25th, 2015 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink
Snow

Using the correct autofocus settings will help you create great holiday portraits.

Note: Part of this article is an excerpt from our new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time. It has been modified to include information on both Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

The holiday season is coming up and we’ll be taking lots of portraits of friends and family over the next two months. It is time to brush up on your autofocus skills for holiday portraiture.

The most important thing to focus on when you shoot portraits is the subject’s eye. Humans learn a lot about a person by looking into their eyes, so in a photograph, the eye must be critically sharp. Therefore, I generally like to use single-point AF area for my portraiture. This allows me to accurately select my focus point (eye) where a different autofocus setting like auto-area or group-area might pick a different point of focus.

Single AF

Single point autofocus allows you to focus on a specific object like an eye.

Group Area AF

Be careful when using other autofocus patterns like Group Area AF. As you can see in this photo, the pattern focused on the tip of the nose, causing the eyes to be out of focus.

If you shoot with a fast lens, like the 85mm f/1.4 lens with the aperture wide open, then you need to be particularly careful about critically focusing so you don’t accidentally focus on an eyebrow or the ear. At f/1.4, your DOF (depth of field) is so narrow that if you don’t focus directly on the eye, then it will be out of focus and the viewer will reject the shot.

Group Christmas Portrait

For group portraits, focus about 1/3 of the way into the group from front to back.

When you shoot groups, use a smaller aperture like f/8 or f/11 to gain more DOF, and focus about one third of the way into the group to maximize the DOF. In group portraiture, you don’t necessarily focus on any specific person; rather, you focus into the group to maximize DOF. One third of the DOF occurs in front of the focus point and two thirds of the DOF occurs behind the focus point.

When shooting portraits, you frequently need to focus, then recompose so the subject is on the left or right of the frame. Therefore, you’ll need to set your autofocus motor to single servo. On a Nikon, this is called AF-S, and on a Canon, this is called One-shot. If you if you are a back-button focuser (you know who you are), then you’ll set the camera to AF-C or AI-Servo for Nikon and Canon respectively.

Friends

For shots like these, I focus first, then recompose for the best composition. I also shoot in burst mode to try and capture the best expressions.

I keep my camera in continuous high (CH on Nikon, Continuous on Canon) frame rate so I can shoot bursts if necessary. Even in portraiture, there are times when it makes sense to shoot a quick burst of images in order to get the shot. If you use flash in your portraiture work, I suggest staying in single-shot mode; otherwise your flash units won’t be able to recycle fast enough to keep up with a fast frame rate.

Nikon Autofocus Book

Interested in learning more about autofocus on Nikon cameras? Check out our brand new book titled The Nikon Autofocus System, Mastering Focus for Sharp Images Every Time.

eBook

The Nikon Autofocus System eBook at Rocky Nook

Paperback

The Nikon Autofocus System at Rocky Nook

The Nikon Autofocus System at Amazon

Autographed Copies

The Nikon Autofocus System – Autographed Copies

Nikon AF cover





Holiday Event Photos from December GOAL Assignment

Posted December 29th, 2009 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

For those of you who read our newsletter, this month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment was to take some great holiday event photos. I promised I’d post some of my own for you all to see, so here goes!

Opening presents Christmas morning. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless remote.

Opening presents Christmas morning. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless remote.

Big Christmas party. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless remote.

Big Christmas party. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless remote.

Children peeking through the railing. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

Children peeking through the railing. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

A friend from Rwanda and his first time playing the Wii. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

A friend from Rwanda and his first time playing Nintendo Wii. Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

Elise's new ears. White elephant gift exchange! Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

Elise's new ears. White elephant gift exchange! Nikon D700, SB-600 wireless flash.

Sharing and caring kids. I volunteered to take a couple hundred portraits of children who were donating toys to FISH (a local charity). They also held a great concert for the community shown in the pics below.

Sharing and caring kids. I volunteered to take a couple hundred portraits of children who were donating toys to FISH (a local charity). They also held a great concert for the community, shown in the pics below.

Concert for Sharing and Caring donation to FISH. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Concert for Sharing and Caring donation to FISH. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Excited kids at the Sharing and Caring concert for FISH. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Excited kids at the Sharing and Caring concert for FISH. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Children's Christmas play at Harbor Covenant Church. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Children's Christmas play at Harbor Covenant Church. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Children's Christmas play at Harbor Covenant Church. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.

Children's Christmas play at Harbor Covenant Church. Nikon D700, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.





Gotta love that D700 High ISO

Posted December 16th, 2009 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink
Gig Harbor Christmas light boat parade. Nikon D700, 14-24mm, handheld.

Gig Harbor Christmas light boat parade. Nikon D700, 14-24mm, handheld.

A couple of nights ago my home town of Gig Harbor, Washington held the annual Christmas boat parade. Lots of people decorate their yachts in Christmas lights, then motor through Gig Harbor  in a long parade. It is great fun to come out and see all your old friends while enjoying the sights and sounds of the season.

Christmas lights reflected on Gig Harbor during the annual boat parade. Nikon D700, 24-70mm, handheld.

Christmas lights reflected on Gig Harbor during the annual boat parade. Nikon D700, 24-70mm, handheld.

For these photographs, I took along my Nikon D700 and shot the images between ISO 640 to 2500. Although I brought along a tripod, I actually didn’t use it for most of the photographs because I was able to keep my shutter speed fairly high. Also, the city dock was shoulder to shoulder with people, so there really wasn’t enough space to set up the tripod without tripping someone.

Shooting with Nikon’s large sensors and big pixels means I’m able to take photographs I never dreamed of before.  I continue to be amazed at the quality of the images at ISO 2500.

Keep pushing those cameras folks! They can take it.

Fisherman statue and Christmas tree at dusk. Gig Harbor, WA. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8, Tripod

Fisherman statue and Christmas tree at dusk. Gig Harbor, WA. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8, Tripod





© 2020 Visual Adventures | Site Policies | Web by Works Development