I shoot many event movies or other promotional films on a DSLR camera. Having a shallow depth of field is a great advantage, but at the same time also a disadvantage as it’s harder to focus. But this shouldn’t keep us away from shooting those cinematic shots on a wide open aperture.
There’re many tools that can help you with manual camera focus. But lets be honest here, nobody likes extra costs which only results in a more bulkier camera. One great advantage of working with a small camera like a DSLR is its small and lightweight form factor. With some tricks, used by many professionals, we can get great camera focus.
1. Know your lens
The first tip is probably the most important one of all; know your lens. The more familiar you are with your lens, the better you know how the focus ring reacts. Professional focus pullers are able to focus real time Steadicam operators by just looking at the scene and calculating the distance between the camera and the subject. For single camera operators, this ability is also a great advantage to focus fast and more correct. In the video you will learn a nice way to practice this.
2. Focus Pulling
The depth of field is always a specific area. When closing the aperture, this field gets bigger, which makes it easier for us to keep things in focus. But this also applies to the distance of the focus. Close objects have a smaller depth of field, while objects further away have a much greater depth of field. This also means that focus pulling will usually be easier when starting from an object closer to the lens and then pulling to something further away.
3. Following the Subject
In the third tip we’ll have a look how to keep someone in focus while following with the camera. The distance between the cameraman and the subject plays a big role here. You need to constantly measure this distance and adjust when the distance changes. This can either be done by adjusting the focus or by moving slower or faster. This tip also show you a away to practice this technique.
4. Focus Marks
When having more time to put things up you can create focus marks. Normally you would use a follow focus for that, but it’s perfectly possible without one. Just paste some tape marks on your lens for two or more focus points in your scene. Now you can focus very fast and accurate to specific points.
5. Focus Gear
I promised not to included any third party gear, but this one is so simple you can make it yourself or buy one for just $3. I’m talking about a focus gear here. This is used for a follow focus, but I find them very useful for handling the focus with your hands as well. It gives you much greater grip, especially on lenses with a small focus ring.