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What is Focus Peaking?
Focusing on a camera lens for a video shoot is a big deal. To a significant extent, good focusing determines the images’ sharpness and how much of the details would be captured in the camera lens.
Generally, the camera’s type determines if focusing would be easy or difficult to achieve. However, there’s a specialized technique called focus peaking used by videographers these days to focus faster and more accurately during shoots despite the camera lenses.
That said, what is focus peaking? Focus peaking is simply a focus tool that assists videographers in highlighting subjects and backgrounds. This assist tool works by outlining the subject’s edges in a contrasting color.
The sole aim of this technique is to help video creators know aspects of the subject that are in focus and those that are not. As the camera’s lens focuses on one part or the other, the overlaying color fine-tunes the sharpest areas and brings them to focus.
In scenarios where a traditional lens or the human eyes may have difficulty focusing on the subject, focus peaking will come in very handy by simply coloring the sharpest areas, thereby making the focus task a simple procedure.
Why use focus Peaking in video production?
Undoubtedly, focus peaking is a must-have tool for video shooting, and the primary reason that videographers use this technique is to assist the camera used for shooting to better focus on the subject. However, video creators use focus peaking for other equally essential reasons, which are;
- It is a fast Focusing technique – Focus peaking enables a manual camera lens to focus on subjects and backgrounds faster and better than the traditional live view technique.
- Focus peaking is perfect for detailed video shooting – Focus peaking is a great option in video production that requires every fine and minute detail about the scene to be captured.
Details like flowers, grasses, clouds, and dewdrops may be challenging to detect by an ordinary camera lens. However, every detail is highlighted when the focus peaking setting is on.
- It is suitable for low-light shooting – Focusing manually with a camera lens or an unaided human eye is not enough for shooting footage in a dim-light environment. However, with a focus peaking method, a videographer can focus seamlessly during low-light shooting.
- Good hyperfocal tendency – Another usefulness of focus peaking is its high focus tendency. A camera lens used with focus peaking can close up the distance between the sensor and the subject and bring the subject closer while producing images with sharp quality.
When focus peaking is not needed in video shooting
The focus peaking method does it better when it comes to good focusing on both the subject and the environment. However, focus peaking is not applicable in all cases.
Therefore, videographers should understand the video project before making a focus peaking decision. Here are typical scenarios that do not require focus peaking:
- When the field depth is remotely shallow – Shooting with camera lenses with a narrow depth of fields does not require focus peaking technique. A shallow depth of field is exact in capturing the background and subject; focus peaking may hinder the precision power by highlighting too much from the environment. Therefore, causing the result to be unclear and indistinct.
- When the focus peaking causes distractions in the video’s composition – Distractions like too many highlighted colors or light interference could put off a videographer while working with focus peaking. Such distractions affect the composition of the video, thereby rendering the work done unpleasant. However, a prior evaluation to determine if focus peaking will be helpful in a particular project or not would save the day.
Elements of Focus Peaking
Working knowledge of the elements of focus peaking will guide a video maker on how to use the technique in a video shoot. Below are the factors that enable focus peaking works its magic:
- Focus peaking colors
There is a range of colors used by Focus Peaking to highlight parts of the background or subject. Colors like red, white, and blue are available in low and high shades. (2) With the different color tones, one could easily choose a color that will contrast perfectly with the subject and scene. Therefore, focused areas are easily detected on the viewfinder.
- Focus highlighting level
Next to the peaking colors is the highlighting level. Basically, the highlighting level determines how high or low the highlighted area will be visible. Depending on the videographer’s intent, there are about four-level options available, ranging from the highest to the lowest.
- Split image
Just as it functions in a manual camera lens, the split image further aids focus peaking. The split image rotates the focusing ring to a particular angle and organizes the parts of the images as a line up. This element further improves the live viewing ability of the lens.
Also read: Different types of camera angles
One won’t be able to tell if all the desired details have been captured without first enlarging the images on the camera’s live view mode. Whether it’s focus peaking or a manual focus, magnifying the field is essential. Determining where the focus of attention should be would be made more accessible.
How to use Focus Peaking in video production
Using a focus peaking technique for a video is straightforward and does not require complex technical know-how. However, setting up a focus peaking method must be done appropriately to effectively and efficiently use it.
Here are the steps to take when using focus peaking:
Turn on/off focus peaking
On the menu settings of every camera, there is a button for enabling and disabling the focus peaking mode. Press the turn-on icon to allow peak focusing and turn it off to go back to manual focusing.
During shoots that require navigating from peak to manual focusing, a shortcut on/off display can be added to the home page for easy access. This will reduce the time of scrolling through the menu settings to locate the on/off icon.
Select the appropriate color tone
After pushing the on-button, the next step is to pick the color shade that fits the shoot. There are lots of color options at a videographer’s disposal. However, when it comes to a color shade’s choice, the subject at hand is the primary determinant.
Choosing a color that is the same as the subject will make it difficult to detect the highlighted parts. On the other hand, using a contrasting color, for instance, a red tone for a black goat, there would be a distinctive difference between the subject and the peak focusing.
Choose the desired focus peaking level.
The primary function of this menu is to define how bold the highlighting borders will be and how much of the focused areas will be visible. (1) Focus peaking level is subdivided into three groups, and they are;
- High peaking level
The high level makes the subject more prominent by increasing the borderlines and making them bolder.
- Medium peaking level
The medium level is in between the high and low levels. The lines are less bold, and the highlighting is gentle.
- Low peaking level
Only the sharpest aspect of the subject is highlighted at the low level. The lines are thin; hence, it may be difficult to see with the naked eye.
Set the focus peaking level to high for a bold, clear, and distinct outlining of the highlighted subjects.
Tips on shooting with focus peaking
Focus peaking has a significant impact on the outcome of the video. Hence, there’s a need for the effective utilization of this method.
Here are simple step by step tips on shooting with focus peaking:
- Set the camera lens to the required depth of field
- On the setting menu, choose the desired color tone, then click on the peaking level and select high level
- Next, it’s time to focus. Start by focusing manually on the subject till it is highlighted in the chosen color shade.
- Peak focusing is achieved when the subject is highlighted in the color shade set in the menu. However, if that’s not the case, keep moving the focusing ring till the highlighting is at its peak.
No, focus peaking is not found only on video cameras. Although, focus peaking was initially done with only video cameras.
However, as technology advances, still-digital and modern mirrorless cameras are built with peak focusing functions.
Yes, focus peaking can be done using manual camera lenses. Manual lenses with focus peaking are suitable for shooting in low-light conditions and high magnification.
This piece, ‘What is focus peaking?’ establishes that focus peaking is a valuable method for better and faster focusing on subjects. Focus peaking makes the subject’s edges more prominent by highlighting them in a different color tone.
Focus peaking is also suitable for use in dark settings and best for picking minute details that may be difficult to be detected by standard lenses. However, constant practice is the key to getting the best out of focus peaking.
As they say, practice makes it better. Experimenting regularly with this technique will help video creators become a master of it.
What stood out for you about focus peaking? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
- Eric Adams. (2017, February 21). This Secret Camera Trick Will Help You Take Better Photos. Retrieved from https://www.gearpatrol.com/tech/a330370/how-to-use-focus-peaking-photography/
- Peter Wood. (2021, November 30). Focus Peaking – Definition and Quick Photography Tips to Be a Pro. Retrieved from https://www.widsmob.com/tips/focus-peaking.html