Friday, February 7, 2014

Hocus Pocus, How To Focus

When you look through the viewfinder and hold the shutter button down halfway, you probably see a variety of rectangles that light up, perhaps in red. Most cameras come pre-set so that some or all of the rectangles are “active,” meaning that they are all attempting to acquire focus when you aim the camera at your subject.

While that works reasonably well much of the time, there are many other times when it does not provide accurate focus. After all, the camera is just a non-thinking device, and does not know what YOU want to focus on.

If you have not read Wednesday’s and Thursday’s blogs, you might want to do that now so that the rest of this article will make more sense. Those blogs deal with Depth of Field and how to control how much of your picture is in focus. In order to do that most successfully, you also need to do what is recommended in this blog.

And what is recommended is this: instead of allowing your camera to attempt to focus on a variety of elements in the scene, YOU control what it is focusing on. To do that, all that is needed is to set your camera so that ONLY ONE OF THE FOCUS POINTS IS ACTIVE. The only active one should be the one in the very center of the viewfinder. Your owner’s manual will tell you how to change this on your camera. It is a simple modification, and can always be changed back if needed. But once you get used to this, and see how much more focus accuracy it provides, you will never want to go back.

Here is the basic working method. Aim the center focus point in the viewfinder at the primary subject or the main area of a scene that you want to be in focus. Then press the shutter button down halfway so that the camera will focus on what you have aimed at, continue to hold the shutter button down halfway and recompose so that the shot is framed however you want it to be. By keeping the shutter button depressed halfway, focus will not change when you recompose. Once the shot is lined up to your satisfaction, press the shutter button down completely to take the picture.

If you use back button focus rather than using the shutter button to focus, which I highly recommend and is a topic for another blog in the future, your focusing procedure will be simpler. Place the center focus point on the subject as above, press the back focus button and release it, then recompose and click the shutter.

In today’s photo, the center focus point was aimed at the grass stem on the left. Once I had focused on that, I then recomposed to place the sun in the lower left of the frame, and then clicked the shutter.

The benefit of using just the one focusing point in the center of the viewfinder is that it makes focusing faster, easier, and more foolproof. And it keeps you in control of your camera, which is the best way to guarantee great photographs.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/6.3.  ISO 400. Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 30D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The control center of your life is your attitude.”  --anonymous

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