Wedding photography Autofocus issues

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Tom
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#1
Was wondering if any more experienced wedding photographers out there would be able to give me some guidance.

Basically over the last few months I've started photographing weddings, and I've come to realise that I'm getting a large proportion of shots with missed focus, particularly in slightly lower light scenarios. I own a Nikon d800 and d750, and tend to use the 85 and 35 1.4G prime lenses on those bodies. Typically I use single point continuous AF with back button focus, and while I realise these probably aren't the most accurate settings for grabbing focus in low light, it does seem the most convenient for moving subjects. I also tend to have the focus assist light switched off.

I'm by no means new to photography, but I think the critical nature of wedding photography, and the requirement to be able to photograph in all/any scenario has highlighted an issue I hadn't realised was there previously. Being quite new to this field, I think partly the issue is down to me, rushing shots, when the camera needs slightly longer to grab focus (these primes not being the fastest to focus). I tend to find that the worst shots are at the very start of a day, while I'm still settling down.

Anyway, I'd be very interested to hear what settings more experienced wedding photographers use throughout a wedding day, at different times, e.g. ceremony, candids, dancing, etc. to give me the best chance of nailing focus every time. Cheers!
 
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Tommy
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#2
Was wondering if any more experienced wedding photographers out there would be able to give me some guidance.

Basically over the last few months I've started photographing weddings, and I've come to realise that I'm getting a large proportion of shots with missed focus, particularly in slightly lower light scenarios. I own a Nikon d800 and d750, and tend to use the 85 and 35 1.4G prime lenses on those bodies. Typically I use single point continuous AF with back button focus, and while I realise these probably aren't the most accurate settings for grabbing focus in low light, it does seem the most convenient for moving subjects. I also tend to have the focus assist light switched off.

I'm by no means new to photography, but I think the critical nature of wedding photography, and the requirement to be able to photograph in all/any scenario has highlighted an issue I hadn't realised was there previously. Being quite new to this field, I think partly the issue is down to me, rushing shots, when the camera needs slightly longer to grab focus (these primes not being the fastest to focus). I tend to find that the worst shots are at the very start of a day, while I'm still settling down.

Anyway, I'd be very interested to hear what settings more experienced wedding photographers use throughout a wedding day, at different times, e.g. ceremony, candids, dancing, etc. to give me the best chance of nailing focus every time. Cheers!
I used to have a similar set up to yours and the truth is that if you are using the correct shutter speed to freeze movement you shouldn't be having focus issues but I did as well.

Have you micro adjusted your lenses to the bodies you are using?

Even after this if you are shooting at large apertures you will likely still have focus issues due to the small d.o.f.

I ended up switching equipment to Sony. My keeper rate increased dramatically no DSLR system is going to be 100% perfect due to the way a.f works on a DSLR. Sony has on sensor a.f which is 99.9% perfect, they also have eye a.f which is also very good. This is probably why you will have seen wedding photographers in particular switching over to mirrorless and in particular Sony. Now days if I miss focus it is my fault rather than a fault of the equipment.
 
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Dave
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#3
I'm still on 2x D750 and rarely have a focus issue as described - well only when its my fault lol

I don't use continuous or back-button, and I have enabled Focus Release too

The only other thing I do, which I found helps, is that I tend to use only the centre focus point (the most accurate type) in lower light especially, and yes this means the subject is very central for which I have another solution - I crop it, sometimes heavily :D

At 24mp its way more than needed so even a hefty crop isn't an issue

Dave
 
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Andy
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#4
I used to shoot weddings with a pair of D750s (but this technique was needed with my previous D700 and D3 too so more of a general technique) and found in lower light I needed to give the camera a split second longer to achieve the best focus instead of pressing the shutter the millisecond it hit "focus". The way I understood it, the camera was getting enough contrast to say it was in focus when really it needed just a little more to make it perfect, letting it settle for a little longer achieved much better results in my experience. In REALLY low light/low contrast I needed to swap over to AF-S single point and stuck with the centre point for most accuracy too.

Obviously the above is reliant on the lenses being fine tuned etc, but in my experience I never had to adjust any Nikon branded lenses!
 
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Gil
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#6
For weddings - I find that particularly for situations when people are moving in low light - eg on the dance floor, AF certainly is not as capable compared to earlier in the day with better light. It is not as fast to react, and so the keep rate definately drops. That combined with using the widest apertures if you are working without flash I definately find it more challenging. I tend to take lots more photos and accept that not all will be acceptable.
 
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Andy
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#7
Just as an extra, the AF assist light is there for a reason although if I remember correctly it doesn’t illuminate on AF-C. If you didn’t want the white light, it’s possible to use the red focus assist on flashguns to help, my SB800 allows you to configure it so you can use the beam but the flash won’t fire although I have other guns that don’t allow this. The Godox trigger I have also has the red assist beam too, obviously if you haven’t got anything to trigger turned on no flash will fire either.
 
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Alan
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#8
I'm not a wedding photographer :D but just wanted to add something regarding mirrorless to f2.8's points above.

I've had mirrorless cameras for years and I just used single point AF moving it about as needed but in recent times I've started using face and eye detect and they're an absolute revelation and I wish I'd started using them years ago. These systems allow greater control over composition as you can place the subjects face just about anywhere in the frame and they give you more time to concentrate on composition and capturing the moment without taking brain and muscle time away from those tasks for focusing.

It's years since I had a DSLR and I may be wrong but for relatively slow moving people shots I'm struggling to imagine a DSLR being as flexible and consistent as a mirrorless camera especially when shooting at wider apertures when DoF possibly wont be enough cover any slight focus issues you run into for whatever reason.

Anyway. Just stuff to think about from a non wedding happy snapper :D

I hope you get it sorted Tom, one way or another.
 
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Name
MG
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#9
Few questions from me:
1) Care to share any examples i.e. so we can see settings (mainly shutter speed) so we can rule this out at least.
2) Are you focus recomposing? Could be a cause if so, i.e. your locking focus, recomposing, but the subject has move forwards/backwards from the initial focus.
3) As raised above, it's worth doing some tests and fine tuning your lenses (my d750 and my first 35 sigma art was massively front focusing, even the mico adjustment couldn't get a reasonable result, i ended up exchanging the 35mm but the 2nd still needed fine tuning slightly)

quite a few variables to consider.
 
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Gil
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#10
I'm not a wedding photographer :D but just wanted to add something regarding mirrorless to f2.8's points above.

I've had mirrorless cameras for years and I just used single point AF moving it about as needed but in recent times I've started using face and eye detect and they're an absolute revelation and I wish I'd started using them years ago. These systems allow greater control over composition as you can place the subjects face just about anywhere in the frame and they give you more time to concentrate on composition and capturing the moment without taking brain and muscle time away from those tasks for focusing.

It's years since I had a DSLR and I may be wrong but for relatively slow moving people shots I'm struggling to imagine a DSLR being as flexible and consistent as a mirrorless camera especially when shooting at wider apertures when DoF possibly wont be enough cover any slight focus issues you run into for whatever reason.

Anyway. Just stuff to think about from a non wedding happy snapper :D

I hope you get it sorted Tom, one way or another.
The AF system on Sony and Fuji has definitely been reasons that have made be think about jumping ship to mirrorless.
 
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#11
When I shot Nikon, and fairly similar set up I had no issues with AF. The micro adjustment setting might be worth a try.

I wouldn't be able to charge people if I had this issue :(
 
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Gil
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#12
Lets face it - chasing people around with the arrows and the focus spot or using the centre focus and re-compose isn't gonna give you 100% keep rate in the excitement of a party and with moving subjects even in AF-C. You can either try to take shots and get a mixture of good and bad ones, or just choose the easy shots when people are more stationary. Your success will vary - getting some help with Eye AF and Face Detect sounds like the way to go....
 
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Simon
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#13
What is meant by low light?

I shot a party recently on a D750 and was at 6400 ISO, 1/60 and 2.8 from memory, may have even gone higher ISO and had no problems with AF (maybe missed the odd one in error).
 
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Cam81
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Name
Tom
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#14
When I shot Nikon, and fairly similar set up I had no issues with AF. The micro adjustment setting might be worth a try.

I wouldn't be able to charge people if I had this issue :(
Yes absolutely, hence why I'm trying to improve my percentage of keepers. I've AF fine-tuned all my lenses, and so far I've always made sure I have a second shooter (who incidentally shoots with Sony A&ii's ). So in the instances I've had some missed focus, I've usually had some back-up, and I've not missed any essential shots yet.

People are presumably paying you? And you’re really asking this?
Don't get me wrong, I've taken plenty of perfectly in-focus shots too, but its definitely harder to hit focus in lower light. Just looking for others thoughts on this, and where I could change my settings a bit to improve.

I used to shoot weddings with a pair of D750s (but this technique was needed with my previous D700 and D3 too so more of a general technique) and found in lower light I needed to give the camera a split second longer to achieve the best focus instead of pressing the shutter the millisecond it hit "focus". The way I understood it, the camera was getting enough contrast to say it was in focus when really it needed just a little more to make it perfect, letting it settle for a little longer achieved much better results in my experience. In REALLY low light/low contrast I needed to swap over to AF-S single point and stuck with the centre point for most accuracy too.
This is really useful... Previously I used a 70-200 and 24-70, and I never seemed to have AF issues then. Its only quite recently that I made the decision to change to prime lenses. I'm thinking It's possible that i just need to work a bit slower/calmer, giving the lenses a bit more time to reach focus.
 
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