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Although I started in the 90’s with the EOS system, I never used the AF inherent in EF lenses.

As an amateur, I could take the time to take the best picture I could. I feel that I can get a better image quality if I manually focus.

I am now preparing to be a pro wedding photographer and my thinking was to continue to take fully manual pictures.

However, several persons, some of them pros, told me that it was crazy and that professional wedding photography was impossible without AF.

I tend to trust my own judgment and history, after all there is over a century of great wedding reportage without AF, but I am disturbed.

I seem to recall that AF or manual focus was more of a personal choice. The bride and group are not going to suddenly sprint toward you, and in general a picture-worthy moment should not alter fast enough that you can’t focus manually.

So, what are the reasons that using AF is essential for pros?

closed as primarily opinion-based by null, scottbb, Caleb, Itai, inkista Sep 9 '16 at 18:30

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    So let me get this straight: you're wanting to shoot weddings with outdated third party lenses and a broken EF lens? Do you realize how crazy that sounds? You might also want to consider that the expectations of most customers today are a great deal more than they were even a few years ago in terms of quality, quantity, and even the types of photos they expect you to deliver. – Michael C Sep 9 '16 at 8:55
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    "Why he is wasting his talent doing wedding, is another different story" do you seriously dismiss a whole genre as a waste of talent? I think this is actually the same story: somebody having a different opinion is not understandable to you and you dismiss it as wrong. – null Sep 9 '16 at 9:07
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    "Zooms is all i seem to see everywhere, bu that's a rant for another day." What's to rant about here? It looks like your question is a rhetoric one. You only want to brag about your skills and how everybody else is doing it wrong. To me, this comes across as judgemental, elitist and to some degree arrogant. – null Sep 9 '16 at 9:18
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    "Wedding photo, apart from high end studios, has always been the frowned upon choice full of amateurs, unrewarding, and undervalued. This is not my opinion, but the general opinion. The very rare photographers i read or saw valuing it were the high end ones." Have you looked at the industry in the past couple of decades? Other than the top <1% of commercial, fashion, and portrait photographers weddings are all that is left that pays much of anything. – Michael C Sep 9 '16 at 9:58
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    @Reed I've seen this question and one other you've posted this morning and it reads as such "I don't like something. Why does it exist. Because I don't like it. It's wrong and amateurish." You use what is right for you and what in your opinion will capture the best image. I expect next we'll see a topic of 'what is the point of photoshop'. You've mentioned that you wish to pick up a DSLR and become a wedding photographer I suggest you read and look at the industry first before poking holes in it. As for completely disregarding zooms.. I suggest reading about the Canon 70-200... – Crazy Dino Sep 9 '16 at 10:47
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If you'll excuse another oldish timer's comment: Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Wow !!!!

But, seriously, do what works for you. If you prefer not to use AF and can get the shots you want and do not feel you'd benefit from the very great benefits that many people feel it brings, then by all means use only MF.

If people ask, to avoid confusion, I say I'm semi-professional. What that really means is I'm a keen amateur who has been seized by the photography obsession. I'll happily take photos at no cost in many circumstances but sometimes people insist on paying me. Well, maybe not quite that purist - the paid jobs more than pay for the equipment (if you count my time at about $1 an hour). People like my photos and many think "I'm good". I don't know what 'good' is. I take photos I like and I enjoy people enjoying the ones that I like. Some are sharp and well composed and well exposed. Some are somewhat out of focus, exposed well enough and the composition may be influenced and all the former may have been subservient to the joy of having managed to get the shot. Some of the latter are amongst my better photos.

I use AF, MF, manual everything, Aperture priority, Speed priority, fill/no/rear curtain flash, HDR - auto-zone-contrast - or none. Auto-ISO (sometimes), ...

AND

I wouldn't be without AF.
I use AF most of the time - with MF override or fine adjust a finger twitch away. And somtimes I use MF, with AF backup just a finger twitch away.
I have a small stable of Sony digital cameras which have focus-highlighting when in maanual mode - you can see "in focus" areas painted with an identifying overlay. That allows me to manually focus with ease , if desired, on a single leaf deep inside a tree or glade, or the left eye or right eye or ear or hair curl or ... of a subject - after, if desired having achieved "good enough" focus with AF.

MF can be (and for me always is) available essentially instantaneously, and when I want it I am extremely pleased that it is there. But, for me, and not for all, AF is the workhorse, the essentially perfectly focusing and high speed assistant that puts the focus where I want it faster, in most cases, than I can, and entirely accurately enough, in most cases. With a quiet beep
(depending on mode) to let you know that it's good to go.
I wouldn't be without it.

I almost invariably waste all the focus points that reviewers and top photographers seem to value so much. I usually use single centre point spot focus, with recompose if needed (knowing the pitfalls of doing so). Occasionally I use movable single point AF. Once in 3 blue moons I use multi-point focus, and so far, wonder why. Then there's face tracking and smile shutter and subject tracking (OK that has its place) and more. And you can try all these and see how they work. But even rather plain vanilla AF is astoundingly useful, does not stop you using MF in a trice and allows you to transit to and fro with ease.

In modern mirror based SLRs AF can have alignment issues due to the length of the sensor light path and main light path being able to be slightly different due to lens seating micro-differences. This can be calibrated out and should be. Properly calibrated AF can (and does) produce results that are indistinguishable from MF. And which may be better as 'the machine' has fewer off-days than people do (but non zero).

Mirrorless cameras with in sensor AF sensors do not have this lens seating calibration issue.

Overall- MF is great, it allows the eye-brain system to pick the focus point in 'visually confused' situations. Results are about as good (or bad) as from good AF - but in most cases AF will get there first and often by a good margin. In a wedding situation - especially high tension, catch the moment moments such as bride-walking-up-the-aisle, first-kiss, exchange-of rings, throwing the boquet, quick meaningful glance - AF is your great friend in a competently engineered system - with MF and focus peaking lurking a finger twitch away.

I feel.
Others may disagree.


Note: "Flame baiting" comment by reviser not apposite. The comment was clearly intended in a good sense AND was clearly accepted as such by the OP. We had had an exchange of amicable comments on this and another post of his hours before the "revision". The suggested removal detracts from the general gist of the response. And, fwiw, note Michael Clark's comment, which is ignored by the revision, and would also be rendered meaningless by it.

  • Thank you for the elaborate answer, you make a good point for both alternatives. My experience is based more on taking my time to properly compose, adjust and focus. I have never really shot "on the fly" in reportages, sports or photojounalism. I guess you are right, i maybe should use AF for weddings and buy a modern zoom. (Though i am only doing weddings because it is the easiest way to earn money, as soon as i can earn doing portrait, art, commercial, studio, stock...i will probably drop weddings becasue while i enjoy taking wedding portraits, i disklike the journalistic part of it. – Reed Sep 9 '16 at 9:52
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    "...as soon as I can earn doing portrait, art, commercial, studio, stock..." reminds me of this one. The portrait market is even more saturated and undervalued than the wedding market. Photos as art unless you're one of the 0.01% with a reputation are pretty much worthless. Commercial and studio work can still be doable if you don't mind living like a pauper because you'll only make barely enough to pay for your expenses, mainly because stock is dead. Why would anyone hire a studio/commercial photographer when they can find what they want and license it for $20 on a stock site? – Michael C Sep 9 '16 at 10:15
  • Alright, Michael Clark, maybe i need a reality check; that is why is so great about forums, it chalenges my opinions and preconceptions, so thank you all – Reed Sep 9 '16 at 10:32
  • @Reed I came back to post a reference to my "High ISO" answer - not realising (stupidly) that you had asked both questions. Note that I'm trying to criticise how YOU wish to take photos - just noting that what you are talking about is a subset of what other people do and want. What suits some people will not suit others. The rich tapestry of line. Thankfully. | I've waited years for ISO ability to get to where it is now :-). The photo at the end of this answer of mine utterly depended on AF. Right hand, left window, across body. Snap shot. – Russell McMahon Sep 9 '16 at 13:12
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Short answer: because not everything that you may want to photograph wants to or will stay still.

Long answer: very much depends on the subject you're shooting, the equipment you're using and so on. In manual focus film cameras and lenses, there are things designed with manual focus in mind - i.e. matte and/or split focusing screens, focus rings with large throw. In common DSLRs of today many things are changed - because many of them use smaller sensors, the viewfinders are also smaller as a result; the focusing screens are different because manual focus is not prioritized; in fact, what you see in focus in the viewfinder may be slightly out of focus on the sensor. Because of advancements in sensor and AF technology you can now shoot in much less light than you can on film and that's just one thing where manual focus may not work. There are multiple examples where AF is almost irreplaceable - sports, live music (with erratically moving performers), birds and wildlife, pets, small children. Just the same way there are other scenarios even on digital where manual focus might be the better choice - macro, landscapes, still life and so on.

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