IN ONE of my studio training sessions, my student complained about her focusing. She said her images are at times off focus. Her first suspect was her kit lens. I asked her to show me the images just to make sure we are on the same page, and yes, few images were out of focus.
I asked her which focusing point she was using. Since she understands that the center focusing point is the most accurate, she uses it then reframes. We tried it a couple of times to see if it’s a lens problem, but we just can’t seem to recreate the off-focus result.
We were shooting at f/8, therefore the depth-of-field is deeper. We decided to continue the tutorial and deal with the problem later. At some point during our session, I noticed that when she focuses, she then composes the frame, and at that particular moment, she bends backwards to get a bigger frame. I said, “Stop!”
Moving backwards for just a few inches puts your subject out of focus, since focusing is based on distance. When we compared shots taken with small back and front movement after focus from the standard shots, we finally found the culprit. Sometimes, when you are in the zone of framing your composition, you forget this essential rule of focusing.
I had the same experience when I was just starting in photography. After getting a 1.4 50mm, I was so amazed with blurring the background that 90 percent of my shot was taken with f1.4. I noticed that my shots were relatively sharp when using the lens in the studio. I had the impression that you can’t really get a good focus at f1.4
It turned out that I don’t move a lot when shooting in studio compared to shooting outdoors. Composing my shot after focusing was the same culprit. Shooting at f1.4 made it worse since even an inch of bending back and front kills the focus immediately. Even after finding out my mistake, I made the same mistake over and over again.
It is a common mistake when you focus before composing your frame. Some photographers would compose first then find the focusing point nearest to their subject before taking the shot. No matter which comes first and what shooting style you prefer, it is very important to understand that focusing is based on distance.
After focusing, when you go nearer or farther, you have to refocus. Moving left and right or even up and down a bit won’t hurt your focusing.
Keep on shooting, everyone!