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By Anthony Q. Artis | Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quick tip: Knowing when to use autofocus in videography

If you’re only used to shooting video with a consumer camera or camera phone, you may rely heavily on autofocus. It’s a habit you should break if you want to shoot professional-looking video, because autofocus is simply not reliable under many shooting circumstances. For example, it’s all but useless in low-light situations, and sometimes if you have other people or objects that cross in the foreground of your subject your camera’s autofocus may choose to focuses on the wrong subject.

Detail of autofocus switch on video camera.

Sometimes using autofocus is the best way to get the shot you need.

This doesn’t mean that you should never use autofocus. It does have its uses and sometimes may be the only realistic way to pull off certain shots. Here are three scenarios in which autofocus may be your best bet for getting the shot you need:

1. Moving fast on your feet with the camera When there’s a tricky camera move you need to pull off, like a dramatic flyby, it’s difficult to maintain your composition, move fast with your camera, and not trip at the same time. Here, autofocus will probably be your best option.

Videographer shooting a juggler in a park.

Autofocus can help you move fast on your feet and focus on your shot without falling.

2. Certain pan or tilt moves Certain pan or tilt moves may be easier with autofocus. In good lighting conditions, your camera may adjust faster and smoother than you can manually.

3. Heading multiple jobs at a shoot If you’re acting as cameraperson, director, and audio engineer all at the same time, shooting a chaotic situation (a run-and-gun shoot), it’s a great time to hit the autofocus button.

If you’re interested in more video tips, check out Anthony Q. Artis’s full course, Fundamentals of Video: Cameras and Shooting.

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