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Focusing - moving subjects at weddings

One thing I can seem to find much information about on this vast blog is focusing technique for the moving subject.

The scenario that I'm seeking help in Is really bride walking down the aisle of a dark church.

Say I'm at a wedding, the bride coming towards me. I'm on a 24-70 set to f2.8 because of the darkness of the church, iso is high to get a shutter speed capable of minimizing motion blur, I can't use flash in church and I'm set to Ai servo (sorry I forget the nikon equivalent)

What do I do to get the pin sharp image? My usual method of focus and recompose is useless on a moving subject, and if I use centre point only I'm focused on the torso risking the face being out of focus.

Do I follow the subject with an off centre point and hope the light is enough to allow the less sensitive point to lock on?

Obviously this problem isn't as bad when the bride is a further distance away but as the bride gets to closer to the camera focus is more of an issue.

I struggle a little bit when it comes to shooting a moving target in low light so aby info would be great.


  • If neil is reading this a tangent about this would be extremely helpful, or a link to one I have missed if there already is one.
  • From your post I am going to make the deduction you are shooting with a 6D?

    I used to shoot that camera and I struggled with the same issue. I shot focus/recompose with centre point for everything static but would have to use servo AF with centre point for those shots. My solution was cropping.

    Tried all the other AF points but they are useless, so the crop method was the only thing I could do.

    I solved it properly by using a 5D3. It is one of those times where better gear truly does fix the issue. Contrast the 6D crop solution with the situation at the weekend - really dark ceremony - 2.8 was nowhere near enough. I shot a 50mm 1.2L @ 1.6 and that gave me the light, and AF on the cross type outer points gave me mostly usable shots.

    Same technique as I tried with the outer points on my 6D, just the camera now actually works. My 7D2 is even better in low light and has better finder coverage.
  • edited November 2015
    No i'm shooting with a 5D mark iii. 

    I had a go today using the outer focus points over the eyes, still came away with some blurry images and my shutter speed was 1/400.

    Just needing some practice I think. 
  • Hmm!! That surprises me. I can't post the images as I was second shooting and the couple hasn't had them yet, but I had no major issue and I wasn't shooting that fast.

    I dont get 100% bang on sharp, but a decent percentage in low light - 70% maybe? In horrid light that obviously drops. I have found the cross type points make a big difference, too.

    I really am surprised you're having issues. That said, I have seen it with my 85mm 1.8. Random unexplained, looking like camera shake and only visible on a 100% crop. Don't think mine experience of that was AF related but I could very easily be wrong. Am testing some lenses at the mo, I'll have a play...
  •  If I can't flash when the bride enters I will shoot in continuous bursts for 4 or five frames at a time and there are generally keepers in there. You could prefocus in an area she is GOING to be in and wait then shoot. I get permission to flash for the processional almost always. If not I apologize politely after the ceremony. ;)
  • I use back button focus for any moving subjects & have always found 2.8 to be sharp enough for a bride walking down the aisle even if by chance I grab the torso and not the face (except beware of getting the flowers).
    I also use Nikons Group mode....which give me 4 focal points all focused around the face.

    Just as MikeZ said.....use the flash, especially for the processional.
    I shoot LOTS of catholic weddings in the Boston area and have never been told "no flash during the processional"

    Best of luck!
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