How to Master Zone Focus to Shoot Street Snaps of People

If you’re still learning the ropes of street photography, mastering zone focus should be on top of your to-do list.

We can’t stress enough how zone focus is one one of the most useful techniques in street photography, so allow us to share yet another resource to help you get the hang of it. This video, by Swedish photographer and media producer Mattias Burling, shows us how the popular technique can be of great help to those intimidated by photographing people in the street. If you’re just starting out, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try!

Some will say that having people in your street snaps isn’t required, but the most compelling street photography involves some activity — that means people. It can be understandably perplexing and intimidating at first, but with zone focus, you’ll be able to essentially point and shoot with ease and speed. Watch Mattias Burling demonstrate how he does it in the quick video below.

Our photographer starts off with a helpful piece of advice: if you’re scared or uncomfortable taking street photos of people, you will get over it. Of course, that’s not without practice. This is where the zone focus technique comes into the picture. He used a 28mm lens for the video tutorial, which is one of the most popular focal lengths for street photography. But he also finds an 18mm on APS-C handy for keeping things in focus from 1.8 meters to infinity at an aperture of f5.6.

So yes, you’ll need a lens that lets you set the focus distance and keep it there. Focus by wire lenses aren’t the best for this because the focus distance often “drifts”, but some lenses, like the Fujifilm 18mm f2 and X70 lenses, can work. Then, you either set your aperture on the scale indicated on your lens, or with the help of an app called HyperFocal Pro (or this Hyperfocal Distance Table). The smaller the aperture, the greater the focus zone. With the wide angle of 28mm, you can pretty much get everything in the frame. Then, you’re on your way to mastering it with practice!

Want to learn more about how to zone focus for street photography? We have loads more resources to check out here!


Screenshot image from the video by Mattias Burling