One of the most common questions I get when I speak with people about their fancy DSLR cameras is this: How do I get it to focus on what I want?
Many people get frustrated when their camera seems to ‘choose’ what it wants to focus on instead of what they want it to focus on.
The answer is very simple (once you know what to do of course!) It involves learning about a few things:
1. AF (autofocus) Point Selection
2. Focus Lock
If you are having problems getting your camera to focus on what you what it is more than likely set on the auto selection setting. Get out your camera manual and look up AF Point Selection. If you are a beginner I suggest simply changing you settings to manual selection then selecting the center dot or point. Note: you will have to get off the green box to do this so set it on the M setting or other creative setting.
This is what it may look like on your screen/viewfinder:
When all of these dots are lit up red on my camera it means that I am in auto point selection mode and the camera is going to jump around and decide what to focus on. When just one dot is lit up it means that my camera is set to manual point selection and whatever is behind that lit up dot will be in focus. In the beginning, it is easier to just use the center dot and aim with that. Your camera will focus on whatever you put that dot on whether it is in the front of back of the scene.
Let’s say that you have two objects in you frame. One is in the foreground and the other is in the background. Let’s say you want the closer one or one in the front to be in focus … you simply compose the shot so the ‘dot’ in your viewfinder is on the center of the object you want to be in focus like this photo below
Now lets say that you want the subject in the back to be in focus:
You place the ‘dot’ over that one instead. If you use all the AF points (auto)and let your camera decide, then you have no control over what will be in focus, the camera won’t be able to read your mind and sometime it will pick the subject you want but generally it is random or it tries to pick whatever has the best light. If you just have one subject and nothing else in the shot then chances are that it will pick the right one! But if you have more than one thing in the viewfinder it will get confused.
Focus Lock: If you have it set on the center point but the subject you want in focus is not in the center of your shot then simply aim on the subject you want in focus, hold the shutter down half way then recompose or move your camera to get the composition you want. The focus will lock on the first subject. When you get really good you can quickly adjust those dots and not have to do the focus lock, but for now it is easier to hold the shutter down half way and move the camera or simply crop the photo after you shoot it.
With my sports photography – if I use all the AF points, then the camera may focus on a player in the foreground or background, rather than the player I want. If I have it set to manual and choose the dot then the only times I miss is when another player jumps in front of my subject or if the AF point I selected slips off the subject which can easily happen with a fast moving athlete! But generally when I have the center point selected I am able to follow my subject and get them in focus.
I will cover more on this in the future but for now…. go find your camera instruction book and figure out how to change the AF Point Selection setting to manual! Remember: you are smarter than your camera!!! Don’t get discouraged and keep practicing!!
Most of these photos were shot with my 50 mm lens, 1/160 ss, F stop 4.0 ISO 500
Thank you Karl and Sara for the wonderful cake pops!