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Cameras, Lenses and Accessories: Discuss Soft focus in backlight...Do any of you have problems focusing in backlight? Looking around, I don't see very many portrait photographers, but I ...
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Old 10-10-2006, 19:08   #1 (permalink)
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Soft focus in backlight

Do any of you have problems focusing in backlight? Looking around, I don't see very many portrait photographers, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

I have a Canon 30D with a 50mm 1.4 lens. I haven't tried shooting MF yet (will this afternoon), but with AF the focus jumps to the contrasty area on the fringes instead of the face where I set my focus point. I don't have a hood yet. Would that help?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Amanda
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Old 10-10-2006, 19:15   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Soft focus in backlight

Most Af systems are not very good with low contrast subjects. Two suggestions - first strong sidelight on subject to assist focussing, lock focus, light off - take shot(s). Variation on first way, same sidelight, manual focus - take shot(s).

Second, IF background has no detail, or detail at infinity, use smaller apature to increase DoF.
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Old 10-10-2006, 23:20   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Soft focus in backlight

A hood will only help eliminate flare from light sources just outside the lens' field of view.

One way to help acheive this is to use an on-camera strobe set to AF illuminate only. Most dedicated flashguns emit IR light from a transmitter below the flash head to help with distance calculations and, on most of such flashguns, there is an option to have the AF assist lamp illuminate BUT also set the flash NOT to fire - my SB-800 certainly has that option, and I believe it to be true of the Canon flashguns as well.

This is why you'll see photographers such as myself shooting concerts with flashguns mounted but no flashes popping, since

a) We're not allowed to use flash at the venues but, more importantly
b) The AF assist illuminators help nail focus on otherwise difficult subjects
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Old 11-10-2006, 03:03   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Soft focus in backlight

Dab, I only use natural light and my typical subjects are running, playing, jumping toddlers, so adding a sidelight isn't really an option at this point, sad to say, but I appreciate the tip! Gonna tuck that away for later.

Viking, I don't have a speedlight, but I do believe that I have an AF assist lamp somewhere in my custom settings. Gonna try that. Thanks!

If you want to see an example of what I'm talking about, there's a shot in my flickr: She was fascinated by all of the dewdrops on the flowers. on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The focus is tack sharp on the highlights, but at 100%, her face (though not out of focus) is a little soft. I love backlight, so I this is annoying me to no end.
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Old 11-10-2006, 17:39   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Soft focus in backlight

Thought your reference to 'portrait photographers' in your post implied that was what you were after. In the situation you are in, sports photography mode may well be better, where you pre-set the camera to give the exposure and 'in-focus' zone in advance, leaving you free to get the shots.
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Old 12-10-2006, 05:01   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Soft focus in backlight

Oh thanks! Gonna give that a try too.
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