focus in photography

How to get Better Focus in Photography

A sharp image is said to be in-focus. How do you do that? Well, you will see 2 options: Autofocus (AF) and Manual Focus (MF) on your DSLR Camera. 

Autofocus (AF)

If you select Autofocus (AF), the area of the frame that the DSLR will use for autofocus is shown by focus points in the viewfinder, when you’re photographing a scene/subject. (Out of all the focus points, the active focus points will flash in red)

single focus point

If you want to select a single focus point, press the + button on your DSLR, then turn the wheel to select your single focus point. (Refer the above image of a Canon 1500D DSLR)

(If your subject lies in the center of the frame – select the center focus point; if your subject lies on the left of the frame – select the left focus point and so on).

In the below image, the center focus point is selected. 

What are focus points on a camera

Once you’ve selected your focus point (say for instance, the focus point selected is center focus point since your subject lies in the center of the frame) – when you look into the viewfinder, you’ll see the center focus point flashing in red. That means, only the center focus point is active, rest all focus points are inactive. Now, halfway press the shutter button to lock the focus and then take the shot.

You can also enable & set the Live View Shoot Mode to select your Focus point and capture the photograph. 

Manual Focus (MF)/ How to lock Manual Focus

autofocus to manual focus

To set Manual Focus – shift the button from AF to MF. Move the Focus Ring manually till your subject appears sharp in the viewfinder. Once you get that, halfway press the shutter button to lock the focus and then take the shot.

When to use Manual Focus

how to do manual focus with focus ring

While photographing in dimly lit/ low light scenes (subjects in low light), your camera will struggle in AF mode. Each time, you try to take the shot, the lens will turn from one end of its focusing options to the other and back again before deciding on where to focus. Hence, Manual Focus is recommended for dimly lit scenes wherein you can set the focus using the focus ring to get a sharp image.

In astrophotography and cases where the camera’s AF mode cannot find sufficient contrast in the scene (low-contrast subjects) to set the focus point, manual focus is recommended.

Other conditions where camera’s AF mode finds it difficult to set the focus point:

  • Subjects with repetitive patterns
  • Photographing under a light source whose brightness, color, or pattern keeps changing
  • Night scenes
  • Very small/tiny subjects; click here to read the blog on macro photography which means photographing sharp, close-up pictures of small subjects (insects, flowers or inanimate objects) with macro lens to bring out their fine details 
  • Backlit subjects
  • Subjects that keep moving within the AF point and can’t keep still due to subject blur or camera shake
  • Subject moving away or approaching the camera
  • When soft focus lens is used

Autofocus (AF) Settings (available on a Canon DSLR Camera)

One Shot AF: Ideal for focusing on still subjects.

AI Servo: Ideal for focusing on moving subjects.

AI Focus: If you use this setting and focus on a subject; when the subject moves, auto switches from One Shot AF to AI Servo.

In case of portrait photography, always remember to focus on the eyes of the subject and the captured image will be a sharp one.

For landscape photography, we recommend – you use a higher f-number (set a small aperture f11, f16 or f22 to create a Deep Depth of Field so that all the objects/subjects (humans, animals, rocks) in the foreground and background of the scene appear sharp (the entire scene is in focus and appears sharp).

To read the blog on What is Bokeh and Depth of Field (Deep Depth of Field, Shallow Depth of Field), click here 

In the below pics, Aperture of f/4 was used to create Shallow Depth of Field & Focus point was changed in every pic.

In this 1st pic, focus was set on the man; hence all others are out of focus & appear blur

Focus in DSLR photography

In this 2nd pic, focus was set on the woman in the centre

How to focus in photography

In this 3rd pic, focus was set on the first woman who is welcoming them with flowers

How to focus in DSLR photography

We bring you ‘Jo & His Camera’ Comic Strips wherein a Magical Camera gives DSLR photography tutorials to Jo.

To understand Focus, Click on the Image below to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, the concept of Focus with the help of practical examples.

Focus in Photography

When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.  

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