Twitter: coreyrich

ASK COREY: Do You Use Auto-Focus When Shooting Motion?

Hi Corey,

Do you use ant of the “auto-focus” settings with you Nikon cameras-and how? Also, when you are a one-man band shooting video on a remote trip and you are in bright light, do you find it difficult to see your LCD screen in “live view” mode?

-Dr. Houck Medford


When shooting video, or even time lapses, I am always in manual-focus mode.

Before I start recording, I “punch in” on the LCD screen and check focus. This means that I use the controls on the back of my camera to magnify the subject on the LCD screen and make sure that my subject is tack sharp. I do this for interviews, or long shots such as a climber on a distant ridge, or anytime my subject isn’t really moving. So, the steps are: compose the shot. Punch in on the LCD screen. Check focus. Punch back out. Start recording.

When it comes to filming a moving subject—for example, a skier coming at you—then it’s all about racking focus: This is where skill becomes part of the game. You need to have the ability to “pull focus,” as it’s called in the industry, to keep your subject in sharp throughout the shot.

To answer your question about seeing the LCD display in bright light, well, the cheapest and easiest method is to take your sweatshirt off and you drape it over your head and the camera to create a dark tent-like situation. Cheap and effective, but you look like a chucklehead doing it.

The more elegant solution is to pick up one of the many devices on the market that solve this problem. They’re called “loupes,” or sometimes just “viewing devices,” they range from $100 to a few hundred bucks, and there are a number of great companies that make them: Zacuto and Hoodman, to name two.

The next step is actually buying an external monitor that plugs into your HDMI port. These HD monitors are compact, high res, bright, even in broad daylight, and affordable. Good monitors also have hoods that can help with blocking bright sun. We exclusively use SmallHD monitors , they are the best in class. SmallHD offers a range of amazing monitor solutions, please check out our gear list online to see what’s always in our kit.

The best advice is to get a monitor that fits your needs, it’s investment you’ll never regret. Always use manual focus, get in the habit of checking it religiously, and start practicing pulling focus!


  1. Sukanta Kalai says

    I’ve always wondered about the ‘focus’ thing. wonderful post.

  2. Thanks for the tips Corey. It’s been ten years since I meet you and I have a question. You mentioned above about “pull focus” can you explain this a little further? Thanks

  3. JEFF OTERO says

    as far as manual focus, i do what u exactly say. because the subject is still, but wen the subject moves left and right and moves towards the lens and away from the lens i lose focus. i like shooting rap and breakdance videos where there lots of motion, do u have any sure fire tips for me to keep the moving subect in sharp focus all thru the video, thanks in advance……

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