The biggest issue for event photography I have noticed is camera not getting auto-focus at correct time. The moment you have to capture the camera is still focusing. If it would be landscape photography I could try again, but when covering event I can't tell the subject to do the actions again. Thus all I end up is getting photos that have no 'moment' captured in it.

What are some focusing tips and techniques that might help in such conditions?

I'm using Canon 600D with either of 50mm 1.8 or stock 18-55mm IS II.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What camera and lenses are you using? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 6:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added camera details! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 24, 2015 at 7:13

3 Answers 3


One of the best methods I have found that has worked well for me, is Zone focusing. I always aim to use a Manual focus lens with Hyperfocal Markings on it(However, it doesn't have to have these markings and a 50mm f/1.8 will work just as well).

These provide the distance of the DOF within a given Aperture size based on how far the focusing distance is and all items that can be brought into an acceptable focus.

As a rule, I carry 2 camera bodies with 2 lenses of different focal lengths. One with a 70-200 zoom that I tend to use when most people are stationery, IE sitting down for dinner or the stage, giving speeches ETC and the other, a manual lens that I use when mingling amongst people.

The discipline I have to have, is to ensure that I take all closeup pictures with the manual focus lens, from my pre-determined distance. this is the distance where my camera has been pre-focused at. The aperture then is the key, as the smaller the Aperture, the greater the DOF and the greater possibility of ensuring that the Moments have been captured at the optimal speed.

Taking into account that most clients are not overly fussed about the Noise Levels, but are more interested in the Moment, I find it liberating that I can crank up the ISO to 3200 and not have to worry about the Noise. Also, most events Photos get uploaded to archive galleries where the photos generally have to be a fairly small size to be viewed by 200/300 staff the following Monday, Noise becomes even less significant.

If the event happens to be a Wedding, the same rules apply, static moments I capture RAW/Full Frame but a lot of the candid stuff is once again taken with the means of Zone Focusing as you never know what you may catch.

The down side to Zone focusing; it produces the sharpest results at smaller Apertures I.E f/11 where a greater distance will be in focus compared to f/5.6 and less chance of misjudging your focusing distance, but this does mean; it can get extremely challenging in low light, specially for a newbie who is not experienced at this type of photography.

I was taught this technique years ago as a street photographer and my advise would be to do the same. learn your focal lengths, ranges and ISO combinations and see what gives you the best result, and then go for it!

The Canon 600D + EF50mm f/1.8 is a good combo to experiment with


The two lenses you are using are notoriously slow focusers. Good event photographers know they need the high quality fast lenses, both in terms of aperture and AF performance which are interrelated, that can make their job not only easier, but possible at all. Gear doesn't matter - is only half the truth. The other half is - until it does. When the technical capabilities of your gear are not up to the task for the shots you want to capture, then the gear does matter.

Beyond that there are some techniques that should help. Pre-focusing using back button AF is one. Since your 600D doesn't have a dedicated back AF button, you will need to remap the back button AE (the button marked with a "*") to function as an AF button. Enable IR Assist on your external flash. You are using an external flash, aren't you? And although it won't affect AF performance, don't be afraid to crank up the ISO a little. Being sure you have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action is more important for event photography than keeping the noise to an absolute minimum. I try to stay at ISO 3200 or below with my APS-C cameras, but when necessary I shoot at up to ISO 5000 with confidence using my full frame bodies.


Your biggest problem here is that you're using two lenses with are (in)famous for being slow to focus. (The alternative term here is "cheap"). Consider investing in a couple of USM lenses if you're serious about event photography.

Alternatively, look at your technique - are you pre-focussing on the area where you expect the action to occur? Are you using an appropriate focus mode - e.g. AI Servo if you're trying to photograph a moving subject?

Bottom line is that there's a reason professional event photographers pay top dollar for their lenses.


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