Focus Tip: AF-C/AI-Servo and back button focus

I am often asked “can I not leave my camera on AI-Servo (AF-C if you are a Nikon etc)?

The answer is: not a great idea normally. Because you cannot recompose. The moment you try that, taking your focus spot(s) away from your subject, the camera focuses on whatever is behind the subject!

But there is a trick, and I used it today to photograph these amazing insects:

Namely this:

  1. Set your autofocus mode to AI Servo/AF-C.
  2. Select “back button focus” in your camera’s menu (i.e. focus when you press a button on the back of the camera, not whenever you half-press the shutter button).

Now you focus as follows:

  1. Follow the insect, or hockey player, or whatever you are shooting.
  2. While doing this, keep the back button focus pressed, so your camera adjusts to follow the subject’s distance.
  3. But when the butterfly sits and you want to recompose, let go of the back buttoin focus. You can now move the camera to recompose, yet when you shoot, the camera will not adjust its focus.

Done and done!

A quick note about that amazing insect. Nature knows what many beginning photographers do not: you need a catch light in the eye to make it look real and alive. The butterfly’s owl eye has that catch light (the white circle part ion the “pupil”)! Amazing, eh? So learn from nature and always include a catchlight in your portraits.

 

Mnemonic Monday

OK, it’s not Monday, but that alliterates.

You all remember my mnemonic “400-40-4” for indoors flash for events? If not, read up on the Willems 400-40-4 rule for ISO, shutter and aperture.

I have another one for you: 4000-400-4. That is 4000 ISO, 1/400 sec, and f/4. And that is for hockey in a well lit hockey arena. Easy to remember, and results are thus:

200 mm lens, 4000 ISO, f/4, 1/400 sec, stabilizer mode 2

Have fun!

See. Feel. Touch… and read.

Great news. The first of my books is now available as a printed book, from Amazon. 

Go here: https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Willems/e/B01CYO8Z92 and select the paperback edition. It is large (roughly 8×11″) and easy to read – it is also the very latest edition of this, the “know your camera” book.

Perhaps finally time to learn to use that expensive camera? I suggest you’ll find this book a very welcome addition. You’ll finally learn to take it out of the auto modes, for a start – freeing your creativity.  Become the photographer you always wanted to be!

And let me know what you do with your new knowledge.

More printed books soon.

 

Group Tips

Today, a few group tips—an excerpt from my “Portrait Photography” book, whose thoird edition comes out soon.

Tips for posing the family and other groups.

  • Avoid straight lines: each head should be at a different vertical position.
  • Sit–stand–lean: Create a combination of sitting, standing and leaning to achieve this.
  • Avoid having people face the camera straight on; Place people at an angle.
  • Alternate those angles. See who fits with whom, both in terms of relationship and in terms of the “look” of the photo. For individuals, have them turn around and see what flatters them most.
  • Create little groups, by having people face each other, or stand back-to-back.
    “If it has a joint, it is meant to be bent”. Bend at the knees, elbows, wrists, whatever has a joint should be bent somehow,. This gives the photo a much more realistic look and feel.
  • If you have limited space, squeeze people in as much as you can.
  • If you are outside, have the sun in your group’s back, and light the front with flash or reflectors. Do not have your subjects face into the sun (wrinkles show, and people squint).
  • If at all possible, find an elevated position to shoot from. That way, you get a more dynamic picture and you get everyone in easily, without heads being hidden behind other heads.

See? Nothing to it!  🙂

Macro fun

Canada’s silver dollar used to carry the “Voyageur” design on the obverse side. This year, a special 150 year anniversary edition, with the same design in the centre:

The original looked like this:

Those are simple iPhone shots. But proper shots of coins are taken with a macro (or as Nikon calls it, a Micro)  lens, i.e. a close up lens.

And once I do that, I see something amusing. Look at the native person in the front of the canoe.

In the original, he is traveling nude:

In the re-issued coin, he is wearing a loincloth!

I can just imagine the meetings that must have happened on this subject at the Royal Mint of Canada. Though I do wonder about the political correctness aspect: why is nudity so bad?

In any case: it is only the macro lens, in my case the 100mm f/2.8, that allowed us to see this design change. Who knew?