Capturing candid but sharp shots of strangers is a tough technical skill. Lauren Scott explains how zone focusing can yield better street shots
Master the technique of zone focusing for sharp street shots
When you’re shooting on the streets, being subtle is everything. If you want true candids of people who are unaware of your presence, they will also need to be unaware of your big camera. Holding a DSLR right in front of your face shows subjects that you’re photographing them, but how else can you snap images?
In this tutorial we’ll show you how to use zone focusing to snap sharp shots on the street. With zone focusing, you switch to manual focus, set a lens to a predetermined distance and shoot subjects when they fall into this range of focus. The technique is ideal if you hold the camera at hip-level and can’t look through the viewfinder. Pre-focusing enables you to take pictures with greater accuracy and speed (without alerting those interesting street subjects to your presence). While older lenses have markings on them to aid zone focusing, you can easily work out the distance of a lens yourself. To determine the focus range (and change it) you’ll need to know the focal length of your lens, the aperture and the intended subject distance. Fortunately the method is much less complicated in practice than it sounds. You can also use an app such as DOF Table to work out all the distances for you.
This technique takes time to master, so don’t expect sharp shots straightaway. Boost the colours or switch to monochrome to edit and polish your photos!