Composition and Focusing, I feel like a Noob asking this question :eek:

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by wheelhot, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Hello everyone, well I have a problem see, as many ppl say, one of the golden compositional rules is rules of thirds and one photographer told me that he only uses the center AF point (single center AF point) to compose his shots.

    Here is the problem, I tried his technique and I seem to get more out of focus shot then focused! Of course the camera focused much faster but to get the subject to follow the rule of thirds and still be in focus is ridiculously much harder.

    Hence, it makes me wonder, how do the photographers in the pre-digital days manage to capture tack sharp photos with a single AF point and still follow the compositional guidelines like rule of thirds?

    Anyone care to shed some light on this?
  2. dejo Moderator


    Staff Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    The Centennial State
    My old Minolta Maxxum would allow me to auto-focus on the center, hold that focus (by holding the shutter button halfway), then re-frame the shot while maintaining that focus.
  3. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I use the center point almost exclusively and very often compose using the rule of thirds. If you're dealing with a very shallow DOF, then it's best to change points or to focus manually (I usually opt for the latter). Otherwise, I rarely have a problem focusing with a half-shutter-press and then recomposing.
  4. wheelhot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Oh I forgot to mention, yup I did what you all are doing, focus on the subject and while holding the shutter button halfway, move the camera or my body to get it fit the composition I want, problem is....I still have problem getting the focus properly, it always off focus and if I tried getting the focus right, it is very very very hard and slow

    Oh and I am shooting at f/2.8
  5. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    Camera? Lens? Subject? Flick the camera to MF after focusing to determine if the problem is your movement, a lack of flat-field or the camera changing focus distance. Clearly it won't work if your camera is set to a servo mode, you need a one-shot type lock-on focus mode.
  6. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Try using a non-central AF point. If you're shooting a Nikon body, lots have AF-Lock button options that many people find easy to use, most others should have something similar. Alternately shoot for a crop in PP.

    Manual focus, servo focus mode on Nikon, or enough depth of field to be in the ballpark if the subject moves.
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    If you're standing close to the subject, then focus and recompose using the centre AF point will not work well, especially if you're taking a photo of a person's face, where you focus on the eyes/face, recompose, and shoot. The eyes will be OOF.

    Personally, I would use all my AF points. ;) I have a Nikon D300, which has 51 AF points, but I only set it to use 11 AF points so that I can change AF points very quickly. If I'm shooting a person in portrait mode, I'd move the AF point to the very right side of the viewfinder so that I can use it to focus on the eyes. If you're at a close distance and want to focus on the eyes, this makes a huge difference.

    However, if you're standing far away and using a long focal-length lens, then focus and recomposing will usually work so well that you won't see any negative effects.

    Oh, and if you can, try using the AE/AF Lock button. Have it set to lock focus only. That way, you don't need to half-press the entire time. :)

    Another alternative is to use it as an exposure-lock only (not both). I do this whenever I use spot meter, which is pretty often.
  8. leandroc76 macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2003
    Is he a Portrait Photographer? That's a rule I follow most of the time. Focus, then compose.

    For photojournalistic or candid, time is of the essence. f8 and be there. That's the only way to guarantee the depth of field will cover my subject no matter what the composition is.
  9. 147798 Suspended

    Dec 29, 2007
    All the answers here are correct. Sometimes, though, I center focus and the recompose and I forgot I'm still on AF servo, so it refocuses. Go to single shot AF and do this. It should work.

    The other issue would be DOF.
  10. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    first, the rule of thirds is not "golden." it's just a guideline that's more specific than "don't center the subject." if you have to have a theory backing your composition, the diagonal method is more sound.

    anyways, on recomposing: at portrait distances, it doesn't work. portraiture doesn't require speed, so manual focus or use the the nearest AF point.

    in the film days, cameras had huge viewfinders and precise focus screens. photographers still had to either recompose or focus on something parrallel to the point they wanted in focus. you can do something similar if your camera has interchangeable focus screens...just make sure your diopter is set up correctly.
  11. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    In the "pre digital days" we did not have automatic focus and simply turned the lens' focus ring until the subject was sharp. Worked most of the time. For sports and action it took some kill to keep roting the ring at the correct rate while you shoot.

    Now that AF works well you are giving up all control over focus to the camera and then complaining that it does not work. 20 years ago no one had this problem. See example is Sports Illustrated, and Nation Geographic issue for the 1960's They were filled were filled with good image all taken with cameras that have no place to put a battery.

    These non-AF camera were not all that hard to use. Even my grandmother could use one back in the 1930's.

    Just wait until cars have automatic brakes. People will complain they were in two rear end collisions in the last two months and ran down four pedestrians. Then you will be able to type into some car forum about how "back in the day" when you had manual control brakes (with your foot) that you never had the problem and you could drive for years and never kill anyone. No one will believe you or they would think that looking out the window and judging speeds and stopping distances would be to hard to learn.
  12. wheelhot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Aaah, thanks for the responses guys and gals, you'll have been great :cool:

    Ah, my fault, I own a Canon 1000D/Rebel XS, I use 2/3 lenses mostly, 50 f/1.8 and 100 f/2.8 Macro, well I have no problem using MF with my 100 but I do have problem with my 50 since its focusing ring is very small and not to mention not able to rotate to or more then 360.

    I believe it has something to do with the camera changing focus distance due to my movement but like I mention, it is really hard to move the camera at the same distance especially when it is needed to place the subject off center and still getting the subject tack sharp.

    Hmm, well I don't have a Nikon body, someone said something similar but I dont exactly get what they mean, since I'm using Canon :(

    Shall try to get use to this :|

    Yes, he is a portrait and wedding photographer.

    Thanks for the tip about the aperture, shall keep in mind :)

    Thanks, well even I change to single shot AF, I still get this problem. Somehow I get this problem much easier on my 50mm then my 100mm :eek:

    Thanks and for the link, very interesting.

    Thanks for the well writeup about the pre-digital days and no I am not blaming the camera, I am actually blaming my self and actually seeking for help.
  13. leandroc76 macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2003
    One other thing... I don't know about everyone else but I don't understand why everybody feels the need to know what camera a person shooting with.

    If someone asks a fundamental question, the answer should be fairly fundamental.

    It's like someone asking what the best air compressor is to blow up tires with, and we gotta know what car their driving! Doesn't make sense.

    If someone doesn't understand how to use their camera then that's a different story.

    For some reason for EVERY question asked here we gotta know what camera.:eek:
  14. TheReef macrumors 68000


    Sep 30, 2007
    NSW, Australia.
    I have my AF (center point) assigned to a different button, and half way press AF disabled. Maybe that'd work better for you?
  15. wheelhot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Wow, never heard of that before, oh yeah regarding the AE lock/AF lock thing, Im using Canon and I find out there are 4 options, the thing is, some of the options works the same?
  16. wheelhot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Alright, lemme add what I meant in the previous post, someone mentioned about AF-lock option.

    I went to my Canon custom functions and I end up with 4 options:
    0 - AF/AE lock
    1 - AE lock/AF
    2 - AF/AF lock, no AE lock
    3 - AE/AF, no AE lock

    what are the differences between all of em? I tried using all of them and they seem to work the same with each other, 2 of them work by pressing the AE button to focus and the other 2 works by pressing the shutter button halfway to focus. So what are the differences since I got 4 choices?

    Thanks, I always wanted to know the difference and maybe this might help, I shoot in Manual.
  17. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    These are all explained in the manual better than anyone could do in a paraphrasing. Look in the index under custom function settings.
  18. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    Shutter (half-press): AF/AE lock
    *: AE lock

    Shutter: AE lock
    *: AF

    Shutter: AF
    *: begins metering, but no exposure lock

    Shutter: begins metering, but no exposure lock
    *: AF

    you want 1 or 3 for back-button focusing. i use 1. the advantage is that you can choose when the AF restarts, instead of it restarting every time you press the shutter. i don't think this is actually related to your problem, though.

    starting with the 40D generation, Canon added an AF-On button, which does the same thing as * on CF fn 1 or 3, but it won't override the shutter half-press AF unless you change the functions settings...i think. i don't have personal experience.
  19. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Ah, focussing was such a trial back in the bad old days of film. We turned a knurled ring. Thankfully, it's so much easier now... ;)
  20. wheelhot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Alright, I did some search and guess I shall share it with you all.

    Link 1
    Link 2

    Pretty interesting though, seems more like a mix debate, some say focus and recompose using APS-C is near pointless due to the small viewfinder and makes more sense when using a FF which has a much larger viewfinder.
    (I wonder how 5D users use focus and recompose, the AF points is practically smack in the middle, unlike D300, D700, D3, D3x, 1D, 1Ds which has lotz of AF points that is able to follow the compositional guidelines)

    Some even said that the focus and recompose technique should be avoided at all cost cause of the high probability of getting OOF subjects (I think it's from link 2)

    Anyway, guess lenses with full time manual focus all the way then, use the center AF to quickly achieve focus and use the focusing ring to fine tune, pity I only got my 100mm which is FTM :rolleyes:
  21. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA

    Bunch of cr@p- I do it all the time on APS-C and don't have any viewfinder issues. My 400 has buttons on the lens barrel to override the AF and I use them a lot to recompose after focusing- it's quick and easy and works just fine with an APS-C sensor camera.

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