Improve your focusing technique

Improving your focus accuracy and technique can help bring your photography to the next level. Modern DSLRs are constantly improving in terms of resolution and sensor quality and can test your focusing skills due to the extreme level of detail they are capturing. In this blog, I’ll provide some tips to help improve your focusing technique.


1. Controlling the autofocus points

All modern DSLRs have a number of autofocus points that you can use to focus on your subject. You can see these autofocus points on your viewfinder and cameras will typically highlight which points are actively being used by flashing or changing colour. Most cameras will allow you to select which autofocus points you want active and even allow you to choose a single autofocus point (check your camera’s manual for more information on how to do this).

Many photographers let the camera automatically select the autofocus points. This means that the camera will identify the main subject and determine how to focus the image. While this can be great for quick and easy shooting, it can also result in some badly out-of-focus images. To ensure the image is always accurately focused, I recommend taking control of the autofocus points yourself and using a single active point. At first, this may be slow and cumbersome but it will quickly become instinctive. Most importantly, it will keep you in complete control of the process.


2. Placement of the autofocus points

The second difficulty students often have is not accurately placing the autofocus point. The classic example of this is in portrait photography where the photographer places the autofocus point slightly to the side of the eye, as opposed to directly on the eye. This results in an out-of-focus eye which can negatively impact the photograph (in portrait photography, the eyes should be the sharpest part of the image). Just remember that when using a single autofocus point, you should always place it exactly over the point you want in sharp focus.


3. Continuous autofocus mode

Another area where students can learn to improve their focusing technique is by using continuous autofocus mode, as opposed to single-shot autofocus mode. With single-shot autofocus mode, you firstly half press the shutter button to get the camera to focus on the image (using the active autofocus points) and then further press the button to take the image. In the slight delay between focusing and taking the image, there is a possibility that you or your subject may fractionally move, resulting in the subject being slightly out of focus.

Continuous focus mode can help to eliminate this issue because it will continue to focus when you half press the shutter button, meaning that if you or your subject moves during this split second between focusing and taking the image, the camera will still deliver a sharp image.

Personally, I shoot almost exclusively in continuous autofocus mode with a single autofocus point. Try it yourself and please let us know how you get on.

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Written by: Philip Leonard

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