In wide-aperture macro scenes like this, perfect focus on the right spot is essential.
** Poppy Pastel, California Gold Country **
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Sometimes getting the ideal focus point is so essential that you just can’t trust the camera’s autofocus (or your own eyes through the tiny viewfinder). But if you have a tripod and digital camera with live view, live-view focus could change your (photographic) life. I started doing it regularly when I came to mistrust the autofocus on one of my lenses, but the results were so good that I soon started using live-view focus on virtually every shot.
Here’s the recipe:
- With your camera on the tripod, compose your shot (it won’t work without a tripod)
- Turn on live view (on some cameras you need to go into the menu settings to enable live-view the first time—once it’s enabled, you’ll be able to engage live-view with a simple button push on the back of your camera)
- Position the live-view’s placement window (usually a small square that can be moved with the camera’s arrow keys or joystick) over the point at which you want to focus
- Magnify the view to maximum
- Focus: some newer cameras allow you to autofocus at this point, but I usually focus manually with my lens’s focus ring
- To verify your results, review the image you just capture and magnify the focus point you used (I’ve found live-view focus so reliable that I rarely verify my focus unless I think vibration or scene motion might be a problem)
I particularly like this technique for macro photography, where even a fraction-of-an-inch miss can mean failure, but it works well for any scene.
Raindrops, Orchid in Lava Tree State Park, Hawaii
Not only did I use a wide aperture for this image, I used a 100mm macro lens with 58mm of extension, leaving me a paper-thin focus plane and not a lot of light in my viewfinder with which to view it. Using live-view enabled me to see the image exactly as I’d capture it and to decide the focus point that gave the best combination of foreground sharpness and background softness.
Raindrops on Poppy, California Gold Country
Adding an extension tube to my 70-200 lens and dialing to f4 gave me the extremely soft background I wanted, but narrowed my margin of focus error to just about zero. The only thing in this frame that had to be sharp was the raindrop at the base of the poppy, an easy target in magnified live-view.