Do You Want Guaranteed Perfect Focus In Every Photo? Learn To Use Selective Focus
Focus and exposure are the two most important elements in photography. Exposure is discussed a lot, but with technological advances, and the creation of auto focus mode, many people have gone to trusting the camera to do the focusing for you. Nine times out of ten, it is OK for you to do this, but if you would like to achieve accurate results 100% of the time, you need to learn how to use the selective focus mechanism on your camera by toggling your focus points on the back of your camera.
Have you ever wondered how to achieve those amazingly beautiful tack-sharp eyes that professional photographers achieve? Of course Photoshop actions like the Eye Doctor, can help – but nothing gets sharp eyes better than proper focus in camera.
The photo below is straight out of camera…
Or, has this ever happened…
When you meant for this to happen?
There is a way to GUARANTEE the results that you would like to achieve 100% of the time. You can choose the point at which your camera will focus. This technique, called selective focus, is on all SLR cameras (and a lot of point and shoots too) and allows you to separate focus and exposure. This way you have to take the time to think about each step individually, and you can more accurately achieve both exposure and focus. Back Button-AF may seem like a very obvious technique that all photographers should be using… but I have had plenty of conversations with professional photographers that do not use this option on their camera. Using selective focus is especially helpful when you are shooting with a wide open aperture with the end result being a very narrow depth of field. If your camera chooses to focus on the beautiful, but distracting, trees in the background, instead of your subject, your subject will end up out of focus, like in the examples above. If you have always left it up to your camera to choose your focus point, just grab your camera’s manual, or find it online, and find out how to use this option on your camera. Make sure that your lens is in AF mode, as this option will only work when your camera is auto focusing.
Once you learn how to use this function on your particular camera, the next thing that you need to know is where your focus should fall. It takes a bit of practice to toggle with each shot to the focus point that you want on your photo, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. When choosing your focal point in portraits, you should choose the eyes on a close up or head shot, or the head on a 3/4 or full length body shot. When taking a picture of a large group of people, you will need to be sure that your aperture opening is larger, meaning that the opening in your lens is smaller. This will allow your camera to keep a greater depth in focus. You will then need to choose a focus point at an equal distance to the majority of the people in your photo and fire away.
Maybe it’s just me, and I’m too much of a control freak when it comes to my camera, but I personally can’t trust a machine to choose the point at which it would like to focus. Some photographers feel as though they don’t want to break out of the mold from which they have been shooting to learn something new. It will take some practice, and will feel a bit uncomfortable to photographers that really don’t even have to think to shoot in manual anymore, but I promise you that it is worth the work. For the first year that I was portfolio building in my business, I allowed my camera to choose my focal point, and in doing so, I missed a lot of shots that could have been fantastic. So, educate yourself on how this option works on your camera and play a little. You’ll be amazed what you can come up with.
ETA: There will be a more in depth article to come regarding a more custom option called back button focus.
For other great information about Aperture and Depth of Field check out the following articles…
Haleigh Rohner is a photographer in Gilbert, Arizona. She specializes in families, seniors and children. She also enjoys mentoring beginning photographers and teaching them the ropes on how to establish their own photography business. Check out more of her work on her site or Facebook Page.
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