Thursday, November 13, 2014

Focus abilities of the Nikon D750 under poor lighting

When shooting lifestyle I am often pushing the limits of lighting, and it seems the better the cameras are in their abilities to auto-focus in poor light, the more reckless I become. The Nikon D750 incorporates the latest AF improvements of the D4s and D810, and even goes beyond. So, needless to say, the more I use the D750, the more I push its limits.

In lifestyle shoots where I use back lighting for many scenes, I rarely employ even a fill reflector anymore. Part of the reason is that the popular style today in lifestyle imagery is for a more candid, snap-shot look where blown highlights, flare, flat lighting is the norm, and I try to mimic this with my technique. Of course I could only do this when using a camera that can support my pushing the technical limits to their extremes. The D750 is such a camera, and I have now put it front and center in my lifestyle workflow, ahead of the D4 and D810.  At 6.5fps the continuous speed is sufficient for most lifestyle action without adding extra frames that just bog down my editing later. I now find myself shooing under 2000 frames in a typical lifestyle shoot, where as 4000+ was my prior norm. While part of this is attributable to the slower 6.5fps -- I used to shoot my D4 at 8fps -- the main reason I am shooting less is that I have a hard won confidence in the D750 to deliver an in-focus image under grueling circumstances. No matter how bad the lighting situation, the D750 delivers the highest percentage of in-focus images of any other camera I use for lifestyle photography.

I generally keep the D750 set for continuous 3-D AF for lifestyle photography. It is fun to watch the focus square jump all around the view finder as it seeks its focus point while the models move about. I sometimes use the Group-area AF when the subject is not moving too much and the light is flat and dim.

Below are samples from a few lifestyle shoots I did over the past week.

This model was standing under a canopy in deep shadow. The sunlight was glaring off the background building surface. Later in post-processing I was able to open the shadows of the model's face and bring down the blasted highlights to harmonize the overall lighting. This shot was much tougher to pull off than it appears here. It takes a camera with an extensive dynamic range to pull off a shot like this. 

In this scene with the model running towards the camera and the one below where she is running perpendicular to the camera the 3-D focus tracking locked on to her face and followed her wherever she was in the frame. Result: all the shots were in focus. 

For a scene like this where the model is small in the frame and the background has a confusing pattern, I again place the 3-D focus point on her head and if followed her wherever she moved, and was not thrown off by the blotchy background leaves.

There are two tungsten lamps in the background shining directly into the camera lens. I could barely see the details of the models face when I looked through the viewfinder, yet the camera delivered well over 95% of the images in sharp focus on the model's front eye. 


  1. very nice images, I love these 'behind the scene' posts

  2. The D750 isn't supported by Lightroom yet, correct?

  3. Brycia, Lightroom 5,7 with support for the Nikon D750 is now available. See this blog post about downloading it: