Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Photo Tips - Focusing

Have you tried out the various focus modes on your camera? Or are you still in auto mode?  I have to admit that I have stuck mine in auto and never moved it.  Apparently, there are situations where this might not be a good idea.

Cameras have focus points and focus modes.  

Focus Points:

These are the little dots that you see when you look through the viewfinder.  They will light up when the camera has focused on a spot.


This is an example of what the focus points might look like, but different cameras have a different number of them (more expensive = more points usually), and they may be placed in various arrangements as well.

Focus Modes:

The focus modes give the camera the ability to handle different focusing situations, like still shots or movement.  Most cameras have four different modes. Check your manual (there are links at the end of this post) to see how to access your focus modes.  

Single Area Focus Mode (Nikon=AF-S; Canon=OneShot).  When you press the shutter down half-way, the camera focuses and then the focus locks.  If your subject moves, the camera does not compensate.  It remains focused on the original point and you will have to start again with your focus.  This mode is the one to use when you are doing still life shots or when you want to recompose a shot (more about that next week).

This photo was focused using the single area focus mode.

Then, I moved the candle snuffer backwards, it became out of focus, and the camera did not compensate for the change in distance because it was in single mode.  The result is blurry.


Continuous Focus Mode (Nikon=AF-C; Canon=AlServo).  When you press the shutter down half-way, the camera focuses on the subject.  However, in this mode when the subject moves, the camera adapts and ensures that your subject remains in focus until you depress the shutter fully and take your photo.  This mode is the one to use for action shots like sports or children playing.

So, you can see the difference in this set of photos.  I used the continuous focus.  The first shot was basic.


Then I focused, kept the shutter depressed halfway, and moved the snuffer backwards.  The camera automatically changed the focus so that the second shot is not blurry.


Automatic Focus Mode (Nikon=AF-A, Canon-AlFocus).  The camera will do all the thinking for you, choosing either the single area focus if your subject is not moving or the continuous focus mode if the subject has movement. This mode is what most people rely on so they don't have to think about focusing.

MF - Manual Focus Mode.  You must use the lens ring to focus your photo and often the lens has a little button or tab that you switch over for manual.  Again, your manual (sorry, I know) can show you how to activate the manual mode.

Just to get my feet wet, I am going to try setting the focus mode to AF-S (yes, I have a Nikon) when I am shooting still things, and using the focus mode AF-C when I am shooting a moving subject.  I will keep you posted on how it goes.  If you try being brave and getting your focus out of the auto mode, let me know how you do.  I'd love to hear.

Next week I want to talk a bit about some focusing techniques, now that you're all pros on which mode to use.  :)

Also, I am going to make sure that the manuals for these different camera types are available on the photo tips tab so you can find them easily in future as well.

References:
Camera Tips - for Nikon users
Digital Photography School - for Canon users

Manuals:

7 comments:

Pam said...

Thanks for the links to the manuals. I'm a point and shoot, haven't a clue what I'm doing, too lazy to go and look up the manual sort of photographer. If the manual's on my computer I have a better chance of reading it.

Adrianne said...

OK, here's my issue with focusing. It shows on my screen what's focused in... and even though I squint, it's still too hard to tell!! I can't imagine those who use the even-smaller viewfinder. So I find I have the best luck in auto-focus since at least it picks up on *something* to bring in clearer.

Am I the only one who struggles with this? Am I missing some great trick, or do I just need to break down and get new glasses? :)

Kadie said...

I do all manual focusing. I dropped (gasp) my camera a while ago and the auto focus doesn't work now. (I know, it made me sick to my stomach!)
I took a photography class in college. Back in the day when they didn't have auto focus. So I don't really have a problem with doing the focus manually. I kind of feel like it gives me more control. Except when I am photographing my kiddos. Then I wish I could set the auto focus to refocus when they move.

MiMi said...

Thanks for the links! I'm gonna look at mine and see what it says.

Renonda said...

I really need to start working with my camera more. I hardly ever change the settings on it. Thanks for the tips on focusing.

Annie said...

Thank you for the tips! Found you in Bear Rabbit Bear link party. I am your newest Linky follower, looking forward to getting more photo tips!
Annie
http://peachesandbees.blogspot.com

Trish - Mom On Timeout said...

Great tips! I love learning about my camera. Thanks so much for sharing at Mom On Timeout!

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