How to Maintain Focus on a Moving Subject When You're Shooting Solo
If hiring a focus puller is out of the question, here are some techniques you can use to keep focus on a moving subject all by yourself.
What is one of the most essential qualities of a great image? Sure, good composition, color, and lighting are high on the list, but focus has to be somewhere at the top (along with exposure). This is why filmmakers who can afford it hire a focus puller to ensure that every image is crisp and clear, but for those who can't afford it, what are some techniques that will help those who have to shoot solo? In this video, Parker Walbeck offers some great advice on how to maintain focus when shooting a moving subject alone, so you can avoid the dreaded fuzzy picture, the costly reshoot, and the hours of frustration.
The four ways of maintaining focus that Walbeck talks about in the video are certainly novice concepts, but if you're a beginner, they are definitely things you'll want to be aware of.
- Set focus and maintain the same distance from your subject
- Hold camera/stabilizer with one hand and manually focus with the other (good for handheld look)
- Shoot at a higher aperture
- Use your camera's auto focus feature
If you're a more experienced filmmaker, I think the main lesson you can learn from the video is that while there are several ways to keep your subject in focus, it may be the nature of your subject's movement that dictates which one will work best.
Each technique has its pros and cons.
- Setting focus before you shoot is great, because you don't have to adjust your focus ring, allowing you to pay more attention to your subject. However, you have to be right on the money with your distance, because one misstep means a blurry image.
- Manually focusing is great, because you can ensure that things stay sharp, but maybe it's not ideal when you're forced to hang onto an expensive camera rig with one hand.
- Shooting at a higher aperture will give you more wiggle room when it comes to keeping subjects in focus, but say goodbye to shallow depth of field.
- Auto focus is a great tool to help you find focus, but not all cameras have that feature, and even if they do, the feature may not be all that accurate.
In the end, it's good to know a variety of ways to do a task so you can figure out for yourself what works for you and the specific shot you're trying to capture.