I had planned on diving into the components that make up exposure, but operating in typical ‘David Burke’ fashion, I am going to sidetrack and talk about focusing for a bit. Missi, brought a few questions to my attention and again I feel the explanation is worthy of a post.

The jist of the question was:

Do you use the center focus point to focus your shot then recompose OR do you use the focus point selection joystick to focus your shot?

Personal Preference will prevail here. There are a lot of opinions on what to do here. I used to focus then recompose until I learned a better way to do things. When shooting available light, I now choose to move my focus points for a 2 reasons.

  • I typically shoot with a Large Aperture (1.4 – 2.8) which creates a very shallow depth of field (DOF). If I were to use the center focus point and recompose technique, chances are the area I locked the focus on will now be on a different focal plane causing it to be out of focus. By using my focus points available, I compose first, move the focus point to the desired spot and shoot.
  • My camera has 51 focus points (as seen below). They are there to make my shooting experience easier. Moving my focus points on the Nikon D3 is a breeze and extremely fast. I recently considered downgrading to the Nikon D700 bodies (solely for the light weight of the bodies), however the deal breaker for me was that the focus points do not move as quickly. They are a tad bit sluggish for me and that is a big deal to me.
  • Nikon D3 Focus Points

Here is a shot of Bryleigh using a 2.8 Aperture.

Using your Focus Points

Using your Focus Points

See how out of focus everything is around her? Even her arms go out of focus. That is the beauty of using a Large Aperture. If you look closely, her right sleeve is on approximately the same focal plane as her eyes, so the sleeve is sharp too. I put the focus point on her eyes and the pressed the shutter. If I would have focused on her eyes and then recomposed the shot (using the 2.8 Aperture) the writing on her shirt would have been sharper than her eyes. When I am shooting portraits, both produced and lifestyle, I focus on the eyes. I want them to be the sharpest part of the image.

If you are used to the recomposing method, it does take some getting used to, if you make the switch. I encourage you to try it and do some tests to see if it works well for you. I think Glass is a very important factor of the equation as well. The better the glass the better the image will be ultimately.

All that said, the center focus points are definitely more responsive and sharper than the outer edge points (You can see in the example of my focus screen above, that the center area focus points are larger than the outer edges points) I still believe that the outer edge focus points give me sharper results than would focusing with the center spot then recomposing the shot.

I shoot like this: Compose, Expose, Focus, Shoot (repeat often ;-) )

*Note* When I am shooting with smaller apertures f8+ and off camera lighting, I am not as particular about the focus points. I have some leeway here, because I am using a smaller aperture which yields a greater depth of field (more areas are in focus). Large apertures, the eyes can be sharp and the nose and ears will be out of focus. The small apertures will keep all three areas in focus well.

Chew on this and post any questions or comments in the… uh comments section. LOL.