If you don’t like that your camera re-focuses every time you press the shutter, try moving the autofocus activation from the shutter to the AF-ON button on the back of the camera. It takes some getting used to, but after you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to lock focus and recompose without worrying about whether you accidently tapped the shutter. This function is available on most mid-range or higher SLR cameras.

  1. Thought I would give this a try, not that I found it a problem with the camera re-focusing every time I press the shutter. All I found myself doing is leaving my thumb on AF-ON button. I feel this technique of locking focus might be fine if you want to shoot a singer at a mic, but if he takes a step back, you’re stuffed. With the shallow DOF against you, it doesn’t take much. I also find it is when a singer is pulling away from a mic, or coming in to sing, that you can capture some more interesting expressions than just someone singing into a mic.

    I have been frustrated by images that are slightly soft, but I am putting this down to using the off-centre focal points. I have tried using the centre focal point more often, pulling back the focal length and recomposing in post. This has worked but it is hard not to use all the focal points and compose correctly. Also, when using the 70-200, to capture a guitarist without cutting off any off the guitar you need to use the top focal point to place it on his face will at 70mm.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks very much for detail comments. I find that the success of this technique depends heavily on the camera being used and the photographer’s shooting style. I’m a huge, nay massive, stickler for focus so believe, me when I say I understand.

    What body are you using?

    I personally found this technique more difficult when I used Canon cameras and consumer Nikon bodies. The AF-ON button is simply too small and too close to the grip (hence the tendency to leave your thumb on it). Furthermore, Canon cameras do not give focus confirmation in Servo mode, which always left me wondering if the camera was finished focusing.

    If the singer moves away or towards the mic, you’re no most stuffed using the AF-ON button with Continuous Focus than you are with focusing on the shutter with Single Focus. Just focus and recompose again.

    Soft images can definitely be the result of using the outer focus points, especially if they are non-cross-type and not sensitive to f/2.8. This also depends highly on the camera you’re using.

    You’re correct that when using the 70-200mm, you do need to use the top AF point to focus on the face. This is why I try to avoid using the 70-200 for this type of shot. When possible, I prefer to be closer to the performer using the 24-70mm.

    Thanks again for the comment Kevin!



  3. Hi Chris,

    I am using a 40d, and agree with you regarding how small the AF-ON button is, and the tendency to leave your thumb on it. And having no focus confirmation while in Servo mode is a pain.

    I can see that using AF lock while the singer is standing at the mic (point A), and then when he takes a step back to point B may be helpful, but it is the image where he has just finished screaming the last line of a chorus and sways back, that fraction of a second where he extends himself away from the mic. His head may move away by only 6 inches but it is enough to be out of focus if you have AF locked on his face while singing. I feel that you would need to be using the camera’s re-focusing ability to catch it.

    I have found that I use the 24-70 more often than not, especially when there is nothing between you and the edge of the stage. I find that the minimun focal length of the 70-200, especially on the crop sensor of the 40d is just too close and guitars get their heads and body cut off. That said, the 70-200 is a gem of a lens when you have that little bit of distance, and it only needs to be 6 foot, between you and the edge of the stage.

    Cheers, Kevin

  4. This is a wonderful idea. I am sure many people will find this useful. Singapore Photography

    • Thanks Burton. This configuration really helped me get more from my camera.