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Focusing settings and techniques for street photography
  
 
ontime
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


What kind of focus settings are you all using with your Fuji cameras when you do street photography? MF? AF? Single shot? Continuous? Zone AF? Single point? Etc.

I'm starting to get more into street and I'm finding it's much more technical / fast paced than my usual type of photography (strangely enough, shooting alpine climbing isn't super challenging from a pure technique perspective). I want to learn from you all.



Oct 14, 2016 at 05:12 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


I use primes almost exclusively for street photography. (I'm a huge fan of zoom lenses for landscape and similar photography using a non-fujifilm system.) As you point out, one often has to work quickly, and for me primes give me one less thing to think about in that situation.

I virtually always work with AF when shooting street. I tend to rely on the center point and a quick focus-and-recompose with the shutter button half pressed when necessary. While there are some situations in which this doesn't work, there are far more in which it works best for me.

I never use burst mode for street, preferring to try to time the exposure manually. I may make a quick series of photographs of something if it is evolving quickly. (A look at the contact sheets of many "classic" street photographers shows that this has long been a very common approach.)

I virtually always use aV (aperture priority) mode. This allows me to decide what aperture the camera will use, often important to me in this kind of work. It does mean that I have to keep an eye on the shutter speed and perhaps change ISO or aperture accordingly.

I use the exposure compensation dial a LOT. I have learned to operate it without taking my eye from the viewfinder. I typically compensate by 1/3 stop toward a darker image as a starting point. When the subject is in shadow I may well compensate toward a brighter image and allow the background to blow out — though I may also decide that I'd prefer to make the adjustment to the shadows in post. I don't have a single principle that I apply here, and I make the decision quickly on the spot.

I tend to set ISO perhaps a "stop" higher than I might think I'll need. I'd rather have to deal with a tiny bit of noise in post than find that I run out of light and end up at too slow of a shutter speed or otherwise miss the shot. Part of my work involves handheld night street photography, and I regularly shoot at 1600 or 3200 and will push to 6400 if necessary.

This all takes a lot of practice, since you have to get to where you are reacting to a lot of things quickly and instinctively — from camera settings to (more important!) your subjects.

Don't beat yourself up for missing stuff. It happens all the time. (I have a little joke that I use. When I see something happen that I miss, I mutter "click" and then smile at myself.) There will be more opportunities.

Dan

NOTE: I'm describing what works for me, but I'm very aware that others approach this differently. For example, a "classic" approach is to use manual focus lenses (perhaps because we used to have no other choice) and train yourself to use the focus ring quickly without even looking at it.





















Oct 14, 2016 at 05:37 PM
leighton w
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


I use some of the same settings Dan uses.

On my X-T2, I have exposure comp set to "c" so I can control it via the front command dial. I shoot Aperture priority and auto ISO with the max ISO set at 6400 and the minimum shutter speed at 1/400. I use center focus and I use it like Dan. I always shoot RAW. I also keep my camera in boost mode.



Oct 14, 2016 at 05:58 PM
ontime
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


Thanks for the tips! I'm a huge fan of auto-iso and I find on all my cameras I'm in aperture-priority 98% of the time, with auto-iso ranges set based on the performance of the camera and lens focal length.

As for autofocus, what about for moving subjects e.g. someone walking through the frame? I've been having trouble landing focus for a single-shot recompose, especially if there's a busy background the camera might want to focus on. In the past I've done a manual pre-focus along the same plane as an anticipated subject, but I think that's too slow for a spur of the moment shot.




Oct 14, 2016 at 06:40 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


ontime wrote:
Thanks for the tips! I'm a huge fan of auto-iso and I find on all my cameras I'm in aperture-priority 98% of the time, with auto-iso ranges set based on the performance of the camera and lens focal length.

As for autofocus, what about for moving subjects e.g. someone walking through the frame? I've been having trouble landing focus for a single-shot recompose, especially if there's a busy background the camera might want to focus on. In the past I've done a manual pre-focus along the same plane as an anticipated subject, but I think that's too slow for a spur
...Show more

With the newer lenses and bodies, tracking a moving subject works a lot better than it did on earlier mirrorless cameras, including those from Fujifilm — though it isn't perfect.

The "busy background" problem — common with street photography — is one good reason to narrow the focus area to the center of the frame, and to not allow the camera to try to select on its own. Here you try to get focus by half-depressing the shutter while the AF area is on the moving subject, then keeping the shutter half depressed you either recompose or track the subject.

The pre-focus method can work if you know you'll have time. For example, let's say you find a nice composition and you simply want to wait for a subject to walk into the frame and crystallize the image. Here you could prefocus, either manually or by AF'ing and then turning AF off, and simply wait.

It also makes sense to use no larger of an aperture than you need to since the added DOF will give you a bit of wiggle room that, say, f/1.4 may not.

Dan



Oct 14, 2016 at 07:04 PM
 

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leighton w
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


Also helps if you don't have your focus square too small.


Oct 14, 2016 at 07:19 PM
charles.K
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


With the XT2 it will also depend on your lens. With the 16/1.4 and 23/1.4, I use a f stop of 4 to 5.6 depending on the available lighting, and the AF to wide and then either AF-S or AF-C depending how dynamic the scene is. With the 16 it is very fast and responsive and the 23 is not far behind.

I generally prefer zone or large single focus area in AF-S, but it is surprising how well the XT2 responds dynamically.

The longer lenses I like the 35/1.4 and 56/1.2 I opt for AF-S, sometimes AF-C with large AF single square.

For specific street portraits with the 56/1.2 I use AF-S and small single square to nail the near eye. I have tried using the eye-AF and still have to fine tune how to use it. I still find this the most reliable way of nailing the eye/lashes in focus.



Oct 14, 2016 at 11:30 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


My street lenses, in order of usage, are:

35mm f/1.4 and 23mm f/1.4
14mm f/2.8
60mm f/2.4 macro

I also have the 50-140 zoom, which I use mostly for other things.

Dan



Oct 15, 2016 at 12:43 AM
rbf_
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography



The 14, 16 and 23 also come with a mechanical focus clutch on the lens that allows you to 'pre MF' and then pop the clutch into that focus. You need to do this to use the MF ring as well and need to be in AF-M mode. I haven't played with it much but it's a pretty interesting difference in the lens design unique to the 14/28, 16/1.4 and 23/1.4.



Oct 15, 2016 at 07:48 PM
DaveOls
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Focusing settings and techniques for street photography


Thanks for all these tips on street.


Oct 16, 2016 at 11:01 AM







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