My “5 Fs” (finding, figuring, framing, focusing and firing) was conceived to help photographers remember the things to consider when photographing a subject in real life situations. If you practice this system it will become your working technique as a street photographer.
The fourth “F” is FOCUSING.
Hocus pocus they took away the focus?
I believe that the focus should be on what the viewer should see first. For many years, the average photographer has not had to think about focus. That control was taken away from us with the introduction of autofocus. If you study the work of renowned photographers’ photos you will find that focus plays a big part in guiding the eye of the viewer to a spot in the subject area that the photographer wanted. The focus was placed on a spot in the subject area which made the most sense to the photographer at the time after considering many elements, factors and details that are a part of every subject. With autofocus, it is difficult for the camera to know where the photographer wanted the focus to be placed for the best effect.
My technique has changed very little over the last forty years. I have used many types and sizes of cameras, but the type I prefer for street photography is the manual SLR. This type of camera offers me a very accurate view of the subject in the viewfinder. The view shown in the viewfinder is made through the lens itself to give an exact picture of what the lens see’s.
Another very valuable aspect to the viewfinder of an SLR and that is the ability for me to focus anywhere in the viewfinder. Many cameras have the focus area only in the very center of the viewfinder and to accurately focus, the camera must be pointed at the spot desired and then reframed to make the shot. There is no time for that when photographing at the speed of life.
Many of my students had no knowledge of this “off center” focusing and that it could be done at all. When they understood and practiced this option, they were grateful for the information, because now they had learned a new way to control the effect of their photograph by the use of accurate off center focusing.
Reframing is another function that must be made when there is very little time to make the shot. My technique is to focus as I am framing, always adjusting the focus on the center of interest as it is always moving and constantly changing as the world whirls before us. Quick, quick we must be very quick and place the focus where it will do the most good.
In this photograph, I noticed the relationship between the toes of the man in the cart with the boys who were also lined up like the toes. To emphasize the toes, I placed the focus on them, without having to move the camera to focus off center. I also included in the frame the wheel which gives the viewer added information and at the same time there is a further relationship with the spokes of the wheel and the toes and the boys. With my Nikon F-3 film camera, I was able to manually focus on the toes without changing the framing by focusing off center to the right in the viewfinder.