What Focus Mode / Autofocus Area with D300 / D3 to shoot a wedding ?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by orcama60, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. Thank you in advance for your help. Pretty soon I will be shooting a wedding and this is my first time with the D300. For the processing, at the church, what would be the best Focus Mode / Autofocus Area Mode to use ? Considering that I will be shooting in front of, so the bride will be walking toward me, think It would be better to be at Dynamic Area AF and Continuos Servo, right ? What do you think ? Have you done it before ? Base on your own experience, what combination would you pick ? No flash will be allowed and I will probably use the 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR II for this shot.
    Best regards
  2. I currently use Continuous AF, Dynamic 51- 3D.
    Manual focus point selection to 11 points, and very important, AF activated only with the AF-ON button.
    ... And not to have blind faith on the AF system.
  3. Thank Jose. Yes, for focusing, I do have my camera setup to focus by pressing the AF-ON button. Do you use 51-3D full frame of the person you are focusing on ?
  4. Full frame? I don`t understand... Are you refering to Automatic AF Area?
    I like that settings for speed. If the subject is erratic, I select the optimal focus point (one of the mentioned 11 points), I try to focus on the eye and leave the system to track it... this only when it isn`t any other solution. It use to happen in a very few seconds. I use to find that if DoF doesn`t help, most pics are not perfectly focused here.
    If the subject is static, I simply keep the central focus point, focus on the eye, recompose and shot.
    It`s important to hold the camera firmly while the AF is working, and to place the AF point exactly where you want it... it could sound silly but in my own experience is not as easy. If time permits, I use to focus several times before shooting.
  5. "I like that settings for speed... " I`m refering to Dynamic AF area, 51 points 3D mentioned above, (not to Automatic AF Area which I never use).
  6. You might try a practice run with a lady in a white dress...and hope your camera can do a good job of autofocusing on a low-contrast subject. One old film hint: focus on a pew -- turn your AF off on the camera...and when the bride is at that point...take your shot(s) -- and hope you are good at your first wedding. [Without being the crinch, a wedding is not the place to test out new ways to get images for a one-time event.]
  7. [Without being the crinch, a wedding is not the place to test out new ways to get images for a one-time event.]
    Of course not Jerry, I am doing my practice but I wanted to hear the advises from those who have been shooting weddings before.
    Full frame? I don`t understand ...
    Full framing the bride ( from top to bottom ) in my viewfinder Jose.
  8. "Full framing the bride ( from top to bottom )..."
    No one on Photo Net knows what the inside of the church look like...[the church you will be shooting in.]
    A 50mm lens at 12 to 18 feet distance should give you a bride-and-her father moving down the asle. A 70mm lens setting at 16 to 24 feet may do a good job of covering two people, head-to-toe. It all depends on how fast the bride moves in the church, too.
  9. In my opinion the 51-area mode is erratic and cannot be trusted to work correctly in a critical situation with a moving subject. I would use 1-point or 9-point focusing.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Except for the dancing part, the subjects in wedding photography are typically fairly still. Most brides don't exactly race down the aisle.
    For weddings, I typically use Single Servo focus mode (AF-S) with focus priority, and I use just 1 AF point. I may switch to Dynamic AF with 21 points for the little bit of action photography I may come across during weddings.
  11. Ok, when I talk about the bride, I am talking also about the person who will be walking her through the aisle, not just her and of course nobody knows how the light will be, how the church looks like, etc, etc, .... I am just asking that If I frame her ( with her father, uncle or whoever would walk her to the altar ) from top to bottom, what in your opinion would be the autofocus area mode and how many sensors would you use BASED on your own experience with a D300 / D3 ( which share the same AF system ). I do know already that using 51 will slow the camera and it is kind of erratic, especially if there are too many people around. For just one person ( two ) walking together, it might work fine but I would like to know what setup have you used in a wedding to ONLY photograph this shot, when they are walking to the altar, again, using D300 / D3. Can you share please ? And probably the 70-200 mm f/2.8 is a bit too long but that depends how far I would be from them, so I am not discarding this lens but that is not the question but the best AF / sensors to use.
  12. There you go Shun, than you so much for understanding and sharing. Your advice is very welcome and will take it in consideration. I do agree. The bride will not be rushing when walking to the altar, not one does that. The walk slowly so you have time to compose and shoot.
  13. "so the bride will be walking toward me," For the type of shots where someone from the wedding party is walking towards you, you should probably use continuous focus (AF-C), especially if you are shooting wide open [as DOF is kind of narrow], especially with the 70-200mm. Accurate AF will be critical. And the D300 AF system is excellent for this type of movement. For the typically still shots, AF-S is fine. I always use a single AF point (from the middle 3 columns).
    Keep in mind that if you are shooting with flash, the infrared AF assist will not work in AF-C mode.
  14. You may want to take the following into consideration:
    - static vs moving image
    - for an image with both static and moving subjects, focus on static vs moving
    - focus on subject moving across vs moving from back to front vs moving from front to back
    - center vs off center focus
    - focus setting and exposure metering at the same area vs at different areas
    - critical focus area closest to the front vs otherwise
    - able to release shutter only when in focus vs otherwise
    These cameras' settings can be tuned for each of these situations, and the permutations of several of them. The good news is that the settings exist, the bad news is figuring out where they are in the numerous buttons/knobs/menus and how to set them.
  15. Are you the official wedding photographer?
    If so, will you be able to get within 10 to 15 feet of the bride as she is coming down the aisle?
    If you are able to get closer, what other lenses will you have at your disposal?

  16. Thanks Elliot, I will not be able to use flash. I have not been at the church yet to do my practice ( will go several times before the wedding and make notes with somebody posing for me ) but I will see the difference between continuos ( AF-C ) + single point and continuos ( AF-C ) + Dynamic autofocus area ( 9 or 21 sensors ) and determine what will be the best option. These shots are "moving" ( walking to the altar and coming out of the altar after the ceremony ) photos so that is why I am asking this question. Beside this one, as Shun said, only when they are dancing is the other moving picture. Other than those, pretty much they are static so single point + AF-S would work fine.
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Maurice, I would recommend not only visiting the site a couple of times beforehand, but also try to be there at around the same time of the day to check out lighting. For example, once I shot a wedding at a church where there is a large stain glass window behind the altar. At certain time of the day, the sun is coming through from behind that window, making the couple seriously back lit.
    Also, if there is a rehearsal, I would try to be there and also take some pictures. For a lot of these things, you are much better off knowing it beforehand.
  18. Depending on the subject (static vs in movement) I used to shoot AF-C or AF-S... but I found that too many often I had to switch between settings, areas, etc. to suit the needs. I decided to use just one only setting for such kind of work.
    Time ago I finally found the settings that works to me in a reasonably good way. The AF-C could be not as... "optimized" or "perfect" for static subjects, but in my experience gives better results under this kind of conditions. It`s way faster (imagine e.g. the static bride that suddenly moves her face looking for someone... you may need to refocus and recompose several times very fast; with AF-C and shooting priority you will get the shot, something I was not able using in other settings.
    Please understand me well... I don`t want to mean that you have to "focus on the bride" ("overall" bride... ;) and keep pressing the AF-ON while composing during the walk; for sure it doesn`t work. In my experience the focus points will be jumping from one to another along the whole area and the pic will be definitely out of focus.
    I`d simply manually select the focus point at the extreme (I know it`s a non-cross type one), it will let you to have it near the bride`s face in a vertical full body composition (or like the one you mention, bride+father). I then place the focus point over the bride`s eye and push the AF-ON button to focus -and/or- to track it. If it fails, I release my finger and push AF-ON again, until the subject is in focus or tracked by the system. After that I have an small instant to shoot, or to recompose and shoot. If I let the system to track for even a few seconds, in my experience the focus will be lost. You can track the subject leaving your finger pressing the AF-ON, or to remove it after focusing to recompose.
    I use manual selection of 11 focus points to reach the one I want as fast as possible... 51 focus points are a waste of time.
    It doesn`t matter if the subject is static or not, if static, better for me. Using this system you have to set the AF and shutter release button separately, and to shooting priority. You have to shoot as soon as you know the static or moving subject is in focus. With a little practice, even the sound of the SWM will help you to know when.
    As usual, it is a very personal preference... I used to think that AF systems were not so great or fast; after so many approaches, I found this is the way I get more keepers.
    Obviously, it could not work for others. You have to personally check which method works for you.
  19. Are you the official wedding photographer?
    Yes John, I am. They are both friend of mine and they asked me to shoot their wedding. They do have a lot of confidence of me and they like my style ( if I have some .... lol ) ... and there will not be any other photographer assisting me but I will have my son to help me carry other stuff that I need. I will have 2 cameras ( D300 -my personal- and probably a D7000 - have not decided yet if I go for the D7000 or D3 / D700 -rented- ), several lenses but mainly, one of them will be the 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR II on my D300 and probably the 17-55 ( or 12-24 Nikon ) on the other camera; will have a SB-800 or SB-900 on my D300 and the other on the other camera ( regardless if I use them or not on both cameras ), tripod ( with ball head after the ceremony ), monopod, about 4 ( 8gb - 60 MB/S ) memory cards; also I will have in my luggage ( lol ), a 50mm f/1.8, 35 mm f/1.8, 16-85 mm VR and the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 ( for close up - rings, etc, etc, ); also I will have an umbrella, a 24x24 lastolite softbox and 2 sun reflectors. After the ceremony, there will be a reception in the country near a lake so I am planning to bring the reflectors just in case. Ceremony will be held at 2:00 PM ( EASTERN TIME ) and the reception from 4 - till close ( 11 pm probably ). After the wedding I will get drunk after being working the whole day and enjoy mi pictures ( lol ).....
    Shun, I will be visiting the church several times. I am reading wedding books, consulting you guys about questions, getting experience by shooting with my camera almost everyday with somebody that is posing for me, you know, I am trying to be mentally and technically prepared. The day before the wedding there will be a rehearsal and by then, I should be ready to take pictures on that day and make my final pre-adustments before the great day. By the way, this is the second time in my life that I am going to shoot a wedding by myself. The first time was in 1990, with the Nikon N8008, SB-24 and two lenses: 35-70 and 70-200. I did not have any experience but the groom was my friend and he asked me to do it so I did. Don't ask me to show the pictures cause I don't have them. Second time that I shot a wedding was last year when my cousin got married here in Florida but I was the best friend, so I could not be the first photographer but I had the chance to shoot some pictures but they are not that good. I was drunk and enjoying the party. They hired another photographer. So this time, practically will be my first time after being shooting continuously since I bought my D50 in 1996. I was shooting ocasionally since 1992 and 1996 for personal reasons that I do not want to share. So I really do appreciate all of the help you can share with me, especially if you have previously shot a wedding because this time I am doing this to get into this business and the portfolio that I am creating will be filled with those pictures from this wedding. This is my opportunity to start my career in this business so I am taking this very seriously. Thanks in advance for all your help.
    Jose, you are right, it does make sense to be at only one AF and what you said about if the bride moves or not, this happens a lot of times and if you are not prepare, you may loose that great moment that last seconds to capture the best shot. I will practice with Continuos + Dynamic area AF and seed how do I feel from now till then.

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