HDR Photography Tip: Stay Focused

This is a guest post from fellow photographer Bob Lussier

So you bought the latest and greatest Canikon 5D700 Mark XVII with a bazillion point auto-focus system. Awesome. Now turn it off.

I absolutely love the auto focus system in my D700. It is tack sharp, has 51 points of focus and can auto track a moving object by simply changing a setting. With my eyesight, I rely heavily on it. Except when shooting HDR.

Even the most sophisticated auto-focus system can fail you under certain circumstances. Ever try to focus on a fog bank or bright blue sky? Or in low light? If there is nothing to lock on to, auto-focus becomes uncooperative, continuously “hunting” for an anchor point.

If you add to the equation 3, 5, maybe 9 brackets for HDR, you are asking for trouble. If Auto-focus has to “hunt” in the middle of a bracket sequence, you run the risk of getting some fuzzy brackets. And nobody likes fuzzy brackets.

A lot of my HDR shooting is in dark corners of old buildings, The perfect situation for auto-focus “hunting”. I also often shoot wide open, selectively focussing on the subject. I rely on manual focus to ensure that my focus is exactly where I want it and that it stays there throughout the bracket sequence.

“But its really dark! I can’t see!” … No problem. Carry a small flashlight in your bag. Use it to light your subject as you focus.

Photo by Bob Lussier. View the photo on Bob’s Blog.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. This is good advice, and if I may, I have an alternative suggestion for someone who really, REALLY wants to use autofocus when shooting brackets for HDR. Set the auto focus engage by pressing the AF button on the back of the camera and turn off the shutter-release autofocus. Then set the autofocus to Continuous instead of Single. Use the AF button to set your focus before the first bracket, and it should stay in that one setting while you fire off the entire set, and won't keep looking to reset before every shot. I know Nikons do this, and I'm pretty sure Canons do so as well, although I don't know if they use different terminology.

  2. Very good advice Mark. Thank you for sharing it!

  3. I always switch the lens to manual when shooting brackets for HDR. Set the focus with auto, then switch to manual. This will ensure that each exposure has the exact same focus.

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