Lesson Five: Mastering Focus

Focusing is an extremely important foundation for both technical and creative success in filmmaking.

To focus while filming, you’ll first switch your lens into manual focus (some lenses don’t require this switch for video). Manual focus will allow you to determine where focus begins and ends and is an important technique in storytelling. Some cameras (such as the D850 and 5DMIV) have touch screen focus, which can be helpful in certain situations, but I prefer the creative look of pulling focus by hand and I want you to master that in this course.


Focusing is a simple concept but it does take practice to master. Turn focal ring so the subject comes into focus (taking care to also stabilize while pulling focus). Note which way to turn the ring to pull focus closer versus further. On my Sigma ART lenses, I turn the ring clockwise to bring the focal plane closer to me. 


Refocus for each shot.


Practice first with stationary objects before graduating to moving subjects.


Focus with intention when storytelling: Focusing causes the viewer to look exactly where you want them. An in-focus foreground brings the viewer’s attention to the foreground. An in-focus background with an out-of-focus foreground sends the viewer’s attention to the background. 

Rack focus: Shifting focus from a nearby object to a faraway object within the same shot. By adding this selective focus to an otherwise static shot, you can move the viewer’s attention from one part of the screen to the other for a more dynamic shot.

Tip: Use the zoom button on the back of your camera to preview your focus while in Live View/video mode.