Question #12: About Focusing for Street Photography

Q: "Hi Valerie, Thanks so much for offering your help via this Q&A blog. My question is when you are out on a walk about for street photography, do you set the Fuji x100s to auto focus and rely on the camera or do you set the camera to manual focus and rely on zone focusing and shoot hyper focal (ie Aperture priority set to say f5.6 and allow for depth of field 1-5m)? I hope my question makes sense." Paul G.

A: "Hi Paul, this question actually just came up during my street photo workshop last weekend in Minneapolis. I tend to let the camera do the focusing for me in most cases. It's fast and accurate (and better than my eyes too!) I shoot street photography mostly in Aperture Priority. If there is one genre of photography where you need to let the camera do some of the work, it is definitely when you shoot street. It's all about being ready to capture a fraction of a second that will never happen again. In my opinion, street photography is more about your ability to anticipate and see the decisive moment than proving your skills in manual mode. That said, there are instances when manual focusing comes in handy and the use of zone focusing gives you a clear advantage to get the shot (and I need to use it more often!)

Zone focusing consists in manually pre-focusing your camera to a certain distance. This is particularly well suited when you shoot from the chest or hip without looking through your viewfinder. Another instance when zone focusing is recommended is when you find a stage (such as an interesting background) and wait for the right people to enter the frame. This is even faster than auto focus because there is absolutely no delay.

Street photographer and friend James Maher with whom I will be co-leading the New York City Photo Workshop in April 2014, recently wrote an article about zone focusing titled The Ultimate Guide To Zone Focusing For Candid Street Photography. I invite you to read it. I hope this helps! "



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