Even though we ARE Nikon lovers,we are NOT affiliated with Nikon Corp. in any way.


Sign up Login
Home Forums Articles Galleries The Winners Portfolios Recent Photos Search Contest Info Help News Newsletter Join us Renew membership About us Retrieve password Contact us Contests Vouchers Wiki Apps THE NIKONIAN™ For the press Fundraising Search Help!
More5

How-to's

Incorrect focus

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)


Keywords: photography, sins, tips, fixes, focus, jrp, seven_deadly_sins, incorrect_focus

This is the thrid part of the series The Seven Deadly Sins in Photography

The Third Sin:

Incorrect focus

Most of our camera manuals end the section on Focusing by stating: Aim, Focus, Shoot. Sounds easy, and it is, but focusing where is the key for better images, whether, portraits, close-ups or landscapes. Remember that our manuals teach us what we can expect from the camera, not what to expect from us the camera users and how to become better photographers.

Portraits

Since I mostly shoot family pictures, and they are always on the move not giving me the opportunity to set up, I practiced and practiced until I learned that the key for a successful photograph –apart from exposure and composition- is to know exactly where to focus and do it quickly.

By asking your model to move or positioning yourself so that both eyes are parallel to the focal plane, you may have a winner focusing at either eye with your medium telephoto lens, even if wide open:

01

My Kabul Girl
Granddaughter rushing out the door into the cold.
Nikon D700, 85mm f/1.4D AF @ f/1.4, 1/800s, ISO 200, SB-800 diffused.
Click for an enlargement

 

To read the rest of the article, please log in. This article is available to all Silver, Gold and Platinum Nikonians members. If you are not registered yet, please do so. To discover the world of Nikonians and the advantages of being a registered member, take our short discovery tour.

20 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on December 3, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

You are welcome, Aart

Aart Louw (AartPapaya) on December 3, 2017

In a scenery, landscape. Focus at the nearest object closest to you. The fare away mountains does not have detail in any case. Thanks for portrait pictures, it is my bad spot.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 16, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Glad to hear you liked it, Andrew

Andrew Lee (Udall) on November 16, 2017

Ramon, excellent advice. Appreciate the time and care you took to explain these handy tips and tricks. Andrew

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 12, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Ravi, On my grandson pictures I was forced by him to apply a skin softening filter to reduce his acne. That's why it looks "strange" in comparison with the other shots, but still good to prove the point I was trying to make.

Ravi Subrahmanyan (nikonzen) on November 11, 2017

Thanks JRP, for this very interesting series. My attempts at this aperture tend to look more like your grandson than the ladies. I'm curious, what was the difference - not just the angle of the face? The Kabul girl and your daughter are so much more in focus overall. Technically I can understand that it means the face fits within the even the shallow DOF, but there seems to be something more. Ravi

Marcus Dotson (nboston) on November 10, 2017

Michael, I understand the concern for distortion and foreshortening. I have used wide angles for in-home and environmental portraits on many occasions. The solution to eliminate those problems Is to place your subject in the center of the frame and arms, hands etc on the same plane of focus. Capturing a portrait using these techniques can be very telling. I have used Hasselblat 50mm and RZ76 65mm very sucssfully using these principles. I would encourage the audience to try this. Bringing the subjects environment into the frame can be quite impressive. I enjoy your articles and certainly hope you continue to produce them. Your years of experience are most helpful to all photographers aspiring to improve and learn.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 9, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Michael, great to see you over here ;-) Thank you for your comment.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 9, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Marcus, Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I am not a professional photographer, just an amateur with almost 60 years of practice and learning. What you say is correct for same aperture and same image size in the viewfinder. However I have seldom use the same image size in the viewfinder when taking a portrait with a wide angle lens, and a medium telephoto lens, for example. I hate distortions. So I was talking in practical terms. Sorry if my comment is misleading.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 9, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Mark, thank you very much. She likes that picture too ;-)

Michael Sherwin (msohio) on November 9, 2017

Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014-2015 Ribbon awarded for his most generous donation to the Fundraising campaign 2016-2017 Ribbon awarded for his extraordinary support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017-2018

Great reminder. I find I am best served by spot focus one the leading eye.

Marcus Dotson (nboston) on November 9, 2017

Actually the focal length of the lens has nothing to do with depth of field. If the aperture is the same and the IIMAGE SIZE in the viewfinder is the same the depth of field will be the same. Focal length determines only how close or how far from the subject you need be to frame your subject. I know this from experience of being a full time professional portrait photographer for over 40 years. I do enjoy your article and the best advice is to focus on the nearest eye as you point out.

Mark Makowski (MarkMako) on November 9, 2017

I've never taken portraits but my friends tell me I should start doing it to get my new business off the ground. The article is great; covers quite a few things I've never considered. I especially like "My Kabul Girl"; it's priceless.

Mike Vandevelde (AzTrail) on November 9, 2017

Ramon, thanks for the great advice. In the rush to get a nice photo with friends, its easy to get distracted. Now I have something to consider and watch out for. Mike

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 8, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Wednesday, 08 November 2017 ) (Edited by jrp Wednesday, 08 November 2017 ) Frederic, your comments on having the subject moving away from the wall, etc, are right on. However they underestimate the effort it takes to have a grandson always on the move to pose for 5 frames. I did hunt for him for over a month. "I am tired", "I have not shaved", "I have work", "I have too much homework", and so on. When I finally made an appointment and got him to pose, the sky was almost dark. By the third shot he said "Are you done"? So I was not about to say: move forward one step ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 8, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Marsha. Thank you, Bonnie. Thank you, Frederic.

Frederic Hore (voyageurfred) on November 8, 2017

A followup to my previous comment, if some members take photos of loved ones or colleagues, and end up with images that are very slightly soft, you can still get some amazing sharpness from the image by using Smart Sharpen in PS-CS5, 6 and CC, and select Lens Blur to correct for the softness. For Radius, select 1.0 or 1.3, Threshold of 5 or 6, then move the Amount slider to adjust the sharpness you want, before digital artifacts start to appear. The advanced settings will give you further control of the final look.

Frederic Hore (voyageurfred) on November 8, 2017

Good article JRP with a good demo of what the DOF looks like with a portrait lens like the 85 1.4 fully open. The same applies to the 50 1.4 too. I always focus on the eyes, but with my 85 1.4D lens, and 50 1.4 prefer an aperture of f/2 or 2.8 to get more of the face sharp, when filling the frame, because the DOF is so narrow. In the fourth image, of your grandson in front of the white wall, my own personal feeling is the DOF is a touch too shallow - I would have again been at f/2 or 2.8. I would have him move further forward from the white wall, so that it is more blurred out. Thanks again for your great tips! Cheers, Frederic in Montréal.

Bonnie Christensen (BChrisRad) on November 8, 2017

Donor ribbon awarded for her most generous contribution to the 2017 campaign.

Thanks Ramon. Somethings I had never thought about, but will add to my quiver of photographic tricks to hopefully help me take better photos. I do recognize the need to experiment, so these tips will become second nature.

Marsha Edmunds (meadowlark2) on November 8, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for her support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Fellow Ribbon awarded for her continuous encouragement and meaningful comments in the spirit of Nikonians. Donor Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

I am going to put these tips right to work with some experimenting. Thanks so much for putting this article together.

G