How to take photos always in focus.
One of the most common problems photographers face is precise focus. It’s always annoying when you think you’ve taken a good picture on location and then go home to find your subject is a bit blurry. Here’s how to make sure your photos are always in focus.
Focus is very important for photography. It is an important part of taking sharp images and also a way to guide the viewer’s eyes. Humans are automatically drawn to sharp areas in an image. If you lose focus, something will look subtly off, like in this shot of mine.
I screwed up and focused on the boy’s hands. Otherwise, I love this shot, but sadly, since the focus is off, all I can do with it is use it as an example of my failings! Let’s make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you.
Select the correct opening
Focus and depth of field are related. The greater the depth of field, the more in focus your image will appear. This means that aperture is a big part of focusing, or really, a big part of how easy it is to focus.
Photojournalists and street photographers have a maxim: “f/8 and be there.” In other words, at f/8 with a normal lens, as long as you don’t focus on the background or extreme foreground, everything in your shot will be in focus.
Conversely, if you’re using a long lens and a wide aperture like f/1.8, your depth of field might only be a few inches. We covered this in full in my article on how to focus with large aperture lenses.
If you want your image to be in focus, you need to select the right aperture for the job. Unless you need to use a wide aperture for creative or exposure reasons, you should choose something between f/8 and f/16. It makes things infinitely easier. If you need to use a wide aperture, go ahead, just know that you’ll have to work a little harder to keep your images sharp.
Decide whether to use manual or auto focus
There are advantages to both manual focus and autofocus, especially when you take control of autofocus, as we advocate here at winadmin.it. In general, you should use autofocus by default unless:
You are shooting with a tripod and want to focus at a specific distance rather than a specific point.
You are taking photos of the stars.
It is too dark for the camera’s autofocus to reliably find focus.
You are taking a staged action photo and you want to pre-focus on the point where everything is going to happen.
You are focusing through something like a field of grass, a tree, curtains, or anything else that will cause autofocus.
Autofocus has failed.
I love manual focus and use it a lot for landscapes, but it’s too slow to use most of the time.
If you’re focusing manually…
If you have decided to manually focus, we have an article that walks you through the correct way to do it. The main takeaway is to use your camera’s live view screen and zoom in to 10x (or as far as you can zoom in). This way, you’ll be able to make sure that the smallest details are in sharp focus.
If you are using autofocus…
If you use autofocus, you have a few more decisions to make. You must decide which AF point, or combination of AF points, and which AF mode to use.
Your camera will give you the option of using a single AF point, a group of AF points, or the entire AF sensor to find focus. In general, a small group of autofocus points will give you the best balance, as you can position it on your subject and let the camera do the rest, without fear of it focusing on something random in the background.
You should use a single AF point if you’re shooting with a wide-aperture lens and need something very specific to be in focus, like your subject’s eye or a small bird in a tree.
You should use the full autofocus sensor when you need to be flexible, such as when you are doing street photography. If you’re not sure where your next subject will be, it’s okay to let the camera decide on a different focus point for each shot. This is especially effective when you are using an aperture of f/8.
To learn more about autofocus points, check out our guide to getting the most out of autofocus.
You also need to decide which autofocus mode to use. The three options are:
Single autofocus (One-Shot AF or AF-S), which finds focus and then remains locked.
Continuous autofocus (AI Servo or AF-C), which keeps trying to find focus.
Hybrid AF (AI Focus or AF-A), which acts as a single AF until the subject moves and then acts as a continuous AF.
I recommend you use continuous mode and back button autofocus, but that’s an advanced trick. If you’re just starting out, hybrid mode is the simplest and most flexible to use. If you know you are shooting subjects that are always moving, switch to continuous. If you’re shooting landscapes or other subjects that aren’t going anywhere fast, you can switch to simple.
Sometimes when using autofocus your subject will not be exactly below the autofocus point or group you want to use. If this happens, use single focus mode, position the subject directly below the autofocus point you are using, press the shutter button halfway to focus on the subject, then hold the shutter button halfway down to keep the focus on the subject. focus locked, recompose your image and fully depress the shutter button to take the photo.
Check after shooting
Focus is one of the few things you can’t really fix at home. It doesn’t matter if you missed focus by a few inches, you probably won’t be able to do much about a blurry image. This means that you have to get the photo in the right place.
Every few minutes, take the time to review the photos you took with your camera screen. If there are photos where you were using a wide aperture or might have lost focus for some other reason, zoom in to 10x and check; the screen is too small to tell for sure without zooming in. If the photo isn’t sharp, you can always retake it. If so, then you know that you are safe.
Being able to focus reliably is an important skill for photographers to master. Even in difficult situations, you should be able to go home with the photos you wanted to take.
Image credits: .