Should You Be Using the Focus and Recompose Technique?

focus and recompose technique

Photos in this post by James Brandon. Author of Tack Sharp.

Focus and Recompose Technique 

To find focus with the center focus point, then re-orient the camera until the correct framing is achieved.

I must admit that I’m a photographer who has used the focus and recompose technique in the past, but after getting several out of focus shots during my photo shoots (especially at f/2.8 or faster), I decided to look into the topic further.

After doing some digging on the web, I found out that most photographers say that the focus and recompose technique sucks (for most situations), including photographer, James Brandon. His e-book, Tack Sharp, explains why in-depth.

Here’s a diagram from Brandon’s e-book to help explain.

focus and recompose technique - Sharp Photos

To make it plain and simple, if you focus on your subject’s eyes, and then re-orient the camera so that the center point is over the subject’s torso, then you’re now focusing a little bit behind your desired point.

You can sometimes get away with this if your depth of field is deep enough, however, the faster your aperture is, the more out of focus your original point will be.

The solution is to choose the focus point closest to the your desired framing and do minimal recomposing if necessary. This means a camera like the 5d Mark III will really excel at focusing because it has so many focus points for almost any framing situation. This also means an older camera like the 5d Mark II will have more trouble nailing focusing since it only has 9 AF points.

However, there are a few other factors that may affect how you want to choose your focus point. If you’re using a 5d Mark II like myself, then you should know that the center point is  the only cross-type AF point. Meaning that it uses both vertical and horizontal lines to find focus. In low lighting situations, the cross-type point becomes the most reliable focus point. In these cases it may be better to just focus and recompose with a large depth of field or focus with the center point and crop to the right composition in post.

Nail your focus every time

Using the right focus point is only one of the many things you can be doing for sharper photos. Get James Brandon’s e-book, Tack Sharp, for 30% off on PhotoWhoa (expires on November 30, 2012).

  • Heather Anderson

    Focus-recompose = bad.