What is Zone focusing with flash? Watch this short video on Mark Cohen to get a better understanding of this technique.
© Michael Engler Filmproduktion
Mark Cohen is one of the early pioneers of street photography. His book “Grim Street” is an inspiring collection of early Americana street photography – all black and white. I suggest adding this one to your collection.
What is Zone Focusing?
This is a technique used where you manually set your focus to a predetermined distance.
Why zone focus?
Zone focus allows you to completely eliminate any lag with autofocus or missing focus. It also allows you to capture moments very fast.
When to zone focus for wedding photographers?
Dancing, receptions, cocktail hours. Fast moving subjects.
How do I add flash?
The most basic method is on-camera flash. The flash is inserted into the hot shoe of your camera. The flash can also be connected through a cable or triggers. More on that in another post.
Camera and flash settings.
There’s many ways to go about this. This is just one simple method that works for me to get me in the ballpark with the flash exposure for indoor use.
16 rule – for indoors.
Just set everything to 16 and go shoot! That’s all. kakonk!@#$%^&* JK – if it was that easy would you be reading this? 16 is the number to remember here.
Camera lens – manually set your lens to 1.5 meters. Turn off the autofocus.
Flash Power = set the flash to manual mode, 16th power (this is for most standard powered flash guns)
ISO set to 1600
Aperture set to f16 – This is a good starting point for when you are close to your subject. Think of your aperture as the volume knob on your stereo except backwards.
Is your flash to loud(bright)?
For example you shoot a close subject from 1 foot at aperture f16. Your photo is too bright, you can close your shutter down to f22 to tone the flash down. Opposite, your flash is not bright enough at f16. Your subject is a group of 8 people 6-8 feet away. Open the aperture up to f8 to let more light in. One other option of controlling the brightness of your flash is to adjust your iso and leave the aperture set. Example. Aperture is f16 – ISO 1600 – flash power set to 16 and the photo is to bright. You can bring your ISO down to 800 to bring the flash down or if the photo is dark you could bump the iso to 3200 to make your flash brighter. The final option is to adjust the flash power higher or lower but I typically set it to 16th power and leave the flash alone when zone focusing indoors. 16th power on the flash will give you plenty of recycle time and should last all night with good batteries.
Shutter speed doesn’t really matter. You cannot go above your cameras flash sync speed. Canon is 1/160, Fuji is 1/250 (besides the x100 series with leaf shutter). The shutter speed is more less your creative factor. The slower the shutter the more ambient light you will have in your photo. You can also drag the shutter to bring in light trails. I recommend shooting between 1/60 – 1/4 depending how much ambient light you want in your photo.
The best lens for zone focusing are wider lenses. 35 – 28 – 24 – 21 in full frame or 23 – 18 – 16 – 14 – 10 for mirrorless. The wider your lens the more depth of focus you will achieve.
These are the lenses and flashes I have used for zone focusing.
24-70 2.8 ii