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Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 11:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I spent about 2 hours shooting portraits of a friend yesterday. Using a Nikon D-70 with the AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm lens on a tripod with a new set of 800 AlienBees.

My problem: the majority of my shots came out with "soft focus" around the eyes when i paid specific attention to this aspect throughout the entire shoot.

My procedure: position/pose the model, frame the shot through the lens, find the eyes and depress the shutter release halfway until the autofocus meter beeps, re-frame the shot with the shutter button still depressed then take the shot.

The result: soft eyes in the majority of my shots.

What am i doing wrong? Any suggestions would be welcomed.

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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 12:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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What focus setting do you have your camera set on. Some camers have a continous focus setting and if that is the case it will continue to focus no matter where you have preselected. I would check that setting.
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 12:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My first reaction would be your focus lock didn't work. My second thought would be if you are shooting wide open that your camera mirror is not exactly in alignment with your focal point of your sensor. While you think you are in focus through the viewfinder, the light still has to travel to the focal point of the sensor. This can be a common problem. It was with film and it can be with digital.

I have had focus problems more with digital slr's ever since digital slr's were created but I have experienced multiple scenerios, but mostly realizing that focus lock was not actually locking in and it would slip ever so slightly on reposition.

With my fuji s3 I can do a live image feed through to double check focus to the sensor and I can be dead on this way no matter what lens I use. I have to be careful not to warm up the sensor but a quick test always comes through for me now.

Using a multitude of lenses you will also find that focal points are different with each lens. I mean critical focus points. The kind that you think you are in focus but you will experience a back or front focus point do to dof with different lenses, 1.5x sensor factor, etc.

J T
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 05:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
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When you use the lock focus, recompose technique you often have the results that you are seeing. That is because you have changed the distance from the sensor/film plane between when you focused and locked and when you shot. If you are going to use the focus lock/recompose method, then you must compensate for the change in distance before you shoot.
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 06:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When you use the lock focus, recompose technique you often have the results that you are seeing. That is because you have changed the distance from the sensor/film plane between when you focused and locked and when you shot. If you are going to use the focus lock/recompose method, then you must compensate for the change in distance before you shoot.


So how do i compensate for the difference?
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 07:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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"re-frame the shot with the shutter button still depressed then take the shot."


There's your problem!
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-19-2006, 08:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clavo
When you use the lock focus, recompose technique you often have the results that you are seeing. That is because you have changed the distance from the sensor/film plane between when you focused and locked and when you shot. If you are going to use the focus lock/recompose method, then you must compensate for the change in distance before you shoot.
So how do i compensate for the difference?
First I would run some tests. Shoot the shot with the model's eye right in the center of your frame. Focus on that eye and shoot without recomposing. Now shoot again but start with your model off center. Lock focus on the eye and then recompose toward the center. If the eye in the first shot is sharp (after post processing) but not sharp in the second (after post processing), then you know for sure it is your technique and not the hardware.

Ways to compensate:

1. Try a different fstop. For example if you're now shooting at f5.6 try f11 or f16. This gives you more DOF.

2. Compensate by moving the camera slightly forward or backward. You can only learn from experience how much movement is needed. Obviously, your goal is to get the sensor plane of the camera the same distance from the eye you focused on. So you lock focus and you recompose. You should be able to tell just from "feel" about how much the distance has increased.

3. Make sure when you do the recompose that it is not so radical a movement that the new distance is excessive. So you can often combine 1 and 3 to get sharper eyes.

4. An even easier method is often just to use one of the other focal points that the camera offers for focus lock. For example my camera has 9 focus points. Just compose the photo, and then lock focus on the eye with the point closest to the eye (slight movement of composition may be needed).

Finally, it is sort of about the feel of the shot. I find my self just changing distance by a slight lean forward or backward. If on a tripod, then just a tiny scoot forward is all that is needed.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-22-2006, 11:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The guy had the D70 on a tripod so how could it change distance more than
a tiny fraction of an inch during recomposing? I don't get it, am I missing
something?

-- Gary
http://www.bronzedrreams.com
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-23-2006, 12:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sculptor
The guy had the D70 on a tripod so how could it change distance more than
a tiny fraction of an inch during recomposing? I don't get it, am I missing
something?
By rotating the camera to recompose, the distance to the eyes changes. Not by much, which is why you only notice at wide apertures. If your camera supports it, you can move the focus point to where the subjects eyes are, or switch to a fixed focus point closer to the yes, and accept that some cropping might be necessary to put the eyes back on the third (or where ever you wanted them).
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Re: Frustrated with my results, any suggestions?
Old 08-23-2006, 01:01 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sculptor
The guy had the D70 on a tripod so how could it change distance more than
a tiny fraction of an inch during recomposing? I don't get it, am I missing
something?
-- Gary
http://www.bronzedrreams.com
It changes more than you think. I know people hate to keep hearing the idea that the focus-lock and recompose method can have a problem when used at wide fstops, but it does. All you have to do is do the math. Draw a perpendicular line through the eyes down to ground. Now measure the distance from the film/sensor plane to the eyes and measure the distance to the lets say chest level on that same plane. You've just drawn a right triangle. The line from plane to eyes is the long side of that triangle so you can calculate is length. It will always be longer than the lower line.
Here is an article that diagrams this problem:
http://visual-vacations.com/Photogra...pose_sucks.htm
Cheers,
rfs
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