Camera Focus Tips

Just as choosing where to place the emphasis in a sentence can entirely change the meaning of a phrase, a photographer’s point of focus can dictate the meaning and overall success of an image. This video reviews just a few ways in which new artists can troubleshoot when facing difficulties with focal point:

Manual or Auto Focus?

One of the easiest ways to troubleshoot is simply checking to see that the switch on your lens is set to automatic. If you’re finding that no matter how much you press down on your shutter button, your lens doesn’t seem to be making any sort of adjustments to your environment, you might find that the issue is as simple as forgetting to switch back to automatic focus from manual focus.

Check on Your Advanced Options

Have you recently lent out your DSLR to a friend or colleague? Take a quick look at the camera’s custom settings and be sure that the preferences haven’t been changed.

Take a Step Back

If your camera can’t seem to capture a detailed image, it’s possible that you might simply be a bit too close to your subject. Every lens has a minimum focusing distance; the longer the lens, the further you’ll have to stand back to get a sharp view.

Look at the Viewfinder Diopter

Sometimes, perceived focusing hardships don’t lie in the lens at all as shown by SLR Lounge. Rather, your viewfinder might be in need of an adjustment to match your eyes. A twist of the small dial on the side of your camera’s viewfinder can make all of the difference in finding focus.

Discover the Power of your Center Focus Point

On your camera’s viewfinder, you may have noticed Auto Focus points that help with finding a concrete focal point. However, in situations where lighting is sparse, it can be hard for your camera to register its surroundings. The central focus point is the strongest, most accurate, and most likely point on your camera to lead you out of a focusing jam.

Find the Focus Assist Light or a Hot Shoe Flash

As established earlier, it can be incredibly difficult to focus in low light. Some cameras have a setting that allows the attached pop up flash to flicker and subsequently provide a little extra light and a subject to focus on. Not every camera has a focus assist light; however, attachments such as a speedlight can perform the same trick.

Seek Out Contrast

Often times, cameras struggle to find focus in situations without much contrast regardless of how much light there is to work with. If you can find an area of contrast in your frame, it will be easiest to focus on that specific detail.

Stay Away from Servo Mode

Trust your eye over your machine. Servo modes that track AF points automatically can be incredibly inaccurate, especially when used in low light, low contrast situations.

Avoid Flares When Choosing a Focal Point

Although capturing a flare can be an artistic addition to an image, they very often reduce the contrast in a scene and make focusing much more difficult. Luckily, blocking out a flare can be as easy as using your hand to shade the lens of your camera or adding a lens hood to your equipment.

camera demonstration

Demonstration of how a hand can be used to block out sun flare.

Lock Your Focus

Sometimes, you’ll have the perfect equipment and circumstances to ensure that your camera and subject will not be moving throughout a shoot. If this is the case, switching your lens mode from auto to manual can ensure that your camera doesn’t begin to readjust focal points on its own. Alternatively, many cameras have an auto focus lock option.

Take Advantage of the Pre Focus Option

Holding the shutter down halfway can lock down on where your focal point will be in a composition. Once your camera has settled on a point of focus, it will often quietly beep; at this point, you can press the shutter down the rest of the way to immediately capture the moment.

Learn About Focus Peaking

A fairly new development, focus peaking is a feature that highlights the plane of focus on the camera’s live view. This can be used in manual as well as automatic focusing modes.

Know When to Utilize the Manual Focus

Especially if you are trying to differentiate between subjects on a similar plane of vision, auto focus can be indecisive and inaccurate. In some situations, manually finding your focus can be the best way to ensure that you’re capturing exactly what you want.

Use Live View

The LCD screen included on your DSLR camera can be one of your greatest tools as a photographer. Zooming in on details can be incredibly helpful when fine tuning your focus.

Explore Your Touch Screen

Focusing while using your camera’s live view is easier than ever with the touch screen capabilities many of today’s cameras possess. Simply touching the point that you’d like to be in focus is all the work necessary in making your image a reality.

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