Gimbal stabilizers are an essential piece of gear for filmmakers, but even though they offer silky smooth camera movement, they also make focusing a hell of a chore. When both of your hands are busy handling your gimbal, how are you supposed to manage your camera's focus? You could always hire a focus puller, but those cost money that you may not have. You could buy a follow focus, but good luck operating two pieces of high-maintenance equipment simultaneously.
What if you're out there shooting solo and need to move your camera and keep your subjects in focus? Well, in this video, Chrystopher Rhodes of YCImaging shows you a few hands-free ways to keep your shots clear and crispy. Check it out below:
Let's state the obvious here—shooting solo has some drawbacks because it limits you in some major ways. Think about it, you're trying to pay attention to your subject's performance while also executing precise camera moves and pulling focus at the same time. That's nuts—and really difficult. But since not everybody is going to be able to have help on a shoot, these focus tips from Rhodes are really helpful if you find yourself shorthanded.
So, here are four things you can try to do to keep your shot nice and clear if you're unable to pull focus after you hit record:
Maintain your distance
One of your best bets for keeping your subject in focus hands-free is by trying to maintain the same distance between you and them throughout your shot. Set up your shot, get it in focus, take note of how far away you are from your subject before you start recording, and then try your best at keeping your camera the same distance away from them. You might want to also figure out how much wiggle room you have to get a little closer or further away without losing focus.
Choose a smaller aperture
If maintaining a consistent distance is difficult for you or if your camera settings don't give you any wiggle room, you can try choosing a smaller aperture. This will increase the focus range and allow you to keep not only your subject in focus but the background as well, which means you won't have to worry about maintaining a specific distance between you and your subject. However, this also means that you not only sacrifice shallow depth-of-field (in case that's what you wanted) but you also lose quite a bit of light, so be sure to account for that.
Focus to the middle
Rhodes demonstrates a great method for maintaining focus when your camera move increases or decreasing the distance between you and your subject: "focus to the middle." So, if you do want to have a nice shallow depth-of-field but you also want to move your camera closer or further away from your subject, you can walk to the halfway mark of your camera move and focus on your subject there. Then, when you start recording your shot, you will gently walk into focus rather than out of it.
Use focus peaking
If your camera has focus peaking, you might want to consider using it. It makes it a little easier to know what's in focus within your frame.
What are some other helpful tips for hands-free focusing? Let us know down in the comments.