Did you ever wonder how the photographers of the past did it? All they had were manual cameras and yet somehow they had a method that beats even the latest technology in autofocus! Wonder what it was? Let’s find out first what it was and discuss what most call the best street photography camera settings.
The best street photography settings
Now, before getting into this, let’s get something straight. If you are doing something in your street photography and it works for you, then by all means, you’ve found the settings that fit you best and you probably want to stick with them. What I am presenting here are the tried and true ways that not only past photographers used, but most street photographers prefer today. But it’s not magic by any means. With that being said, let’s start with focusing on street photography.
What’s faster than autofocus?
I know you are probably wondering how something can be faster than the latest autofocus, especially when every new camera wants you to believe they have the fastest AF in the world. The answer is – pre-focusing. What photographers of the past did was to pre-focus their camera onto a certain zone and simply shot, paying attention so that their subjects were within that area.
If you look at the example below, the photographer could either pre-focus on the blue or red area. Then anything or anyone that came within the blue or red area (depending which they chose) would be in focus.
Autofocus also comes with certain issues, because even if you have the fastest autofocus in the world, it can only guess WHERE you want it to focus. When you have people coming at you, it will most likely focus on the person that is closest to you. You could change your focus points, put if you wanted to shoot outside of that point, you would have to focus and recompose. That is not a luxury you often have in the street. Zones eliminate that problem. They are like a forcefield that you have in front of your camera, whoever enters that force field will be in focus. Those fields usually require smaller apertures, hence street photographers usually rely on f/5.6 or f/8.