Project 2

Cap­tur­ing can­did but sharp shots of strangers is a tough tech­ni­cal skill. Lau­ren Scott ex­plains how zone fo­cus­ing can yield bet­ter street shots

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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!

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