Girls’ Fun Night Out! (A Lesson on Focus!)

Don’t you just love a girls’ night out where we can focus on having fun….time away from the laundry, the dishes and the cooking?  Just like a girls’ night is necessary to keep us sane, so is focus when it comes to our photos.



Blurry pictures are ugly

Focus.  Without this you generally miss the quality shot and will have to start over so you must learn how to do this. It is mandatory. You don’t want blurry photos. Much of your whole photography experience and success will revolve around this one skill so it is critical that you get this point. I hate to see really wonderful storytelling photos that caught the moment but missed the focus….they are, I hate to say, ugly pictures. Your kids are too beautiful to have ugly pictures of them! This focus rule is VERY important and non negotiable as, unlike other exposure building blocks, it can’t be fixed later. We can fix a lot of things after the shot in post editing, but this is like trying to scrape off the burnt part of the grilled cheese sandwich when it is really black…you can try to pass it off but you can still taste the burnt flavor when you try to eat it. Do you know what I mean? Your kids look at you and say ‘Mom, it is burnt’ and you say ‘No it isn’t sweetie, just eat it.” You just have to start over when this happens. So let’s get it right the first time out of the camera.

If you have always had burnt toast you may not know the difference. This is another crazy thing about this step. You may not even know that you have been taking blurry photos until you study the difference between blurry and really sharp examples. You have to train your eye to know what to look for, this will open a whole new level of photography skill for you.

This is blurry:


This is not.


This is blurry:


this is not


this is blurry and there is not enough light in his eyes


this is not blurry and the light is on his face:


The other thing that is working against you, is the really mean trick your camera screen plays on you. That screen is so tiny that it LOOKS like your photos are wonderful until you load them on the computer …then the reality hits and you realize that they are not good at all. Once you understand what makes a sharp image you will begin to trust your head and not that little screen.

This image looked pretty good on the screen, it was about this size, but it is the blurry first one above, just smaller


AF Point Selection: Manual Selection. In order to get perfect focus you want to set your camera so that you determine what to focus on. It is called Manual Selection. What this means is that you, not the camera, gets to decide what needs to be in focus (I bet you didn’t know you could do that). If you don’t set this to a ‘single point’ you will see all the little red dots in the viewfinder that are dancing around trying to decide what the heck to focus on. I bet you know exactly what I am taking about.

At a recent gymnastics meet I showed a Dad this button on his camera and I thought he was going to kiss my feet right then and there…he did a bow to me! I taught him something in 5 minutes that changed the immediate quality of his photos forever! He had been so frustrated as he told me that sometime his daughter was in focus on the balance beam and sometime she was out of focus but the background was in perfect focus. Now he finally knows how to be in charge of that function! Do you want those dancing little red dots to decide what to focus on or do you want to decide? Just the fact that they are dancing all around tells you that they are not sure. Trust me, you want to decide what is in focus, you spent a lot of money on your camera and you want final decision. Look in your manual and find where and how you change the AF Point Selection on your camera and move it to Manual Selection and choose the center focus point for now. Only one red dot should show up in the very center of your viewfinder. Over time you can learn how to toggle between all the dots but for now select the single point center focus. Note that this will only matter if you move off the ‘green box’ and are on your M button!

Great job! You figured out what you are going to shoot, how to get enough light, and how to get the focus point to stay still and give you the focus power. Now go eat some chocolate with your Photo Friend and pat yourself on the back! You are half way there!!

Final note:

When you give your camera to someone to take a picture, be sure to tell them to aim with the little red dot in the center. I failed to tell my husband this and this is the shot he got of me and my fun Photo Friend Nick Kelsh! He was here for a visit and Chris got a wonderful sharp shot of the desk behind us, that is where the little red dot was! He should have put it on one of our faces  instead!



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