A lot of photography and what we perceive as a good photo is based on personal preference. That’s one of the great things about art, it’s different for everyone, which means there’s a wide variety of styles for us to choose from and develop our own personal variations. However, if there is one thing we can all pretty much agree on it is that a photo really needs to be in focus. As least, if that was the intention. There are certainly time when a little creative blur can make an awesome photo. But when you’re shooting things like portraits, landscapes, and commercial work focus is a must.
So what’s the best way to get tack sharp focus every time? Luckily, there are few options! Let’s get started with some of my favorite methods…
With continuous autofocus engaged, your camera does the brunt of the work for you. It’s perfect for shooting moving subjects. Once you set your focus on a certain subject or object in your composition, your camera will take it upon itself to “track” that subject and adjust focus as needed. Pretty cool, right? It’s super useful in a lot of occasions, like sports photography or shooting photos of your kids playing in the park.
However, there are disadvantages to continuous focus mode. The main issue being it can really slow down your process if you find yourself wanting or needing to try out a different composition.
Single Point & Area Modes
Depending on the make and model of your camera, you could have multiple options when it comes to how many focus points you wish to use. They will also be named different things depending on which brand camera you are using. On the most basic level, you can set your camera to use a single focus point. As the name indicates, this will provide you with a single point in the frame in which your autofocus will base it’s settings on. In many cases, you will be able to move this single point around to different areas of the frame by using the wheel or arrow pads on the back of your camera.
Similarly, most DSLRs will also feature area modes or matrix metering. With this setting, rather than gauging focus from a single point in the composition, your camera will employ multiple focus points to get the most accurate reading. On some cameras, this can be over 30 different points!
I have a lot of mixed feelings about manual mode. I learned photography on old film cameras and lenses. Many times, I never even had the option to use autofocus! I’m grateful to have learned how to use manual focus and actually became quite quick with it the more and more I practiced. With older lenses, you can get really sharp focus using manual mode. However, with many newer digital lenses and cameras, manual focus isn’t always the best option. These finely tuned pieces of equipment are designed to offer great results with autofocus, and can often leave disappointing results when you try to use manual focus.
Know Your Gear
Ultimately, getting great photos comes down to know your gear inside and out. Especially including it’s focus modes and features. Since different settings come in handy for different shooting situations, it’s always best to read the user manual that came with your camera. I know, I know. It’s long. And kinda boring. But it’s totally worth it if you are serious about improving your photography!