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Beginners Guide to Photography No.5

Updated on October 25, 2017
Dave Proctor profile image

Dave is a experienced professional photographer, now semi-retired and living the high life in sunny Spain

Having given you a practical guide to exposure, I now want to move onto

Focus

Hopefully every one of you will notice that the photograph above is hopelessly out of focus.

There are two main ways of achieving correct focus.

The first is manually. If you have a Digital SLR or a bridge camera, you will notice that the front moving ring on the lens moves round.

If you look through your viewfinder and move this front ring you will see the image changing. Swing the wheel until the image is in focus and clear and hey presto you have manually set the focus.

The second ring from the front will be the zoom.

However, we normally will use Auto focus, so change the switch to AF.

Now on the back of your camera or in the menu, you will see an option that says AF

Select this and you will see a number of options, how they are exactly termed will depend on your make of camera.

But normally they will be termed:

  1. 'One Shot' or 'Single-servo'
  2. 'AI Servo' or 'Continuous Servo AF'
  3. 'AI Focus'
  4. Manual

If you look through your viewfinder and half press the shutter release, you will see a small red square or light. This is your focus point (more about this in a while).

1. 'One Shot' - In this mode, when you half press the shutter with the focus point on your subject, the camera will focus in on that point. Provided you keep your finger on the button the camera will not re-focus, so that you can re-compose the shot and then fully press the shutter to take the picture.


I find this mode particularly good for taking pictures of sports such as trampolining where the subject stays the same distance away from you
I find this mode particularly good for taking pictures of sports such as trampolining where the subject stays the same distance away from you

2. 'AI Servo'- In this mode. You again half press with the focus point on the subject, but in this mode the camera will track the subject, if the subject starts moving either towards or away from you. Now providing you keep the focus point on the subject then the subject will stay in focus, however, be aware that this is a very sensitive system and if you stray off of the subject, even momentarily, the focus will not stay on the subject

This mode is particularly useful when you are taking sports photographs or when children start running around

This girl was running across the mat towards me, to execute her leap. I tracked her using AI Servo mode then took the shot as she leapt.
This girl was running across the mat towards me, to execute her leap. I tracked her using AI Servo mode then took the shot as she leapt.

3. 'AI Focus'- This is advertised as 'hybrid' and useful for subjects that 'might' move -In all honesty, it is a waste of time, I do not find it works satisfactorily and really adds nothing.


4. 'Manual'- We have already covered

Focus Point

Now when you look through your viewfinder you will probably see a pattern of dots or squares something like this:

These squares are where you can place your focus point.

On the rear of your camera or within the menu you will see a button that comprises a cross of dots within a square.

If you press this, whilst looking through your viewfinder the current square will light up. By either scrolling or if your camera has a little joy-stick by toggling this, you can move the focus point around the screen. Alternatively,

The advantage of this is that you can avoid shooting through, say if you were taking a photograph of two subjects together, like this one:

Here I adjusted the focus point and focused on the right hand girl.
Here I adjusted the focus point and focused on the right hand girl.
In this photo, I focused on the fence, in One shot mode, then just waited for the horse and rider to reach the right position.
In this photo, I focused on the fence, in One shot mode, then just waited for the horse and rider to reach the right position.

One further point about focusing is where to focus.

If you are taking a portrait, it is important to get the eyes in focus, so set your focal point so that it is on the eye.

In a landscape, that has a specific subject matter (e.g. a castle) focus onto the subject matter.

In more open landscapes, the rule is to focus on the landscape about a third of the way into the photograph. This will give you the maximum depth of field of what is in focus.

Here I focused roughly on where I have put the green spot
Here I focused roughly on where I have put the green spot

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