Beginner photography tip: Why choosing your own focus point is so important.

I shared this #photographytip last week in my beginner photography group and thought someone out there may find it useful as well. Come and join the group here if you like:

Beginner tip: Why choosing your own focus point is so important.

On all cameras, DSLR and point and shoot (even most phones) you can tell the camera where you want the focus to be in the image. If you think about a wide open area like a beach with a person on it, you would generally want to get the person in focus or to be the main focus. You don’t want a completely out of focus person and all the background lovely and crisp (ok you might, but intentionally is different to accidentally). If you have your camera set to “auto focus” then it will just pick a spot in the image that it thinks is the spot you want in focus. It can be very hit and miss.

Check out this example that I just tried on my own DSLR. The first two images I told the camera where I wanted to focus. In the first one I intentionally wanted to focus on the feet. The second I wanted the face to be in focus. In the last two image I set the focus to auto and let the camera decide. First it chose the feet and then it chose the arm/shoulder/shirt. How would it know where I wanted to focus if I didn’t tell it? It doesn’t, it just guesses and it puts a lot of our images out of focus or focus where we don’t want it. You could take a photo of the same thing a few times and depending on where your camera is positioned, it might choose a different focus spot 10 different times. I think when the camera is on auto-focus, it will generally try to choose an area to focus on that is in the middle(-ish) of the frame and a high contrast area.

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How do we stop this from happening?

We need to change the focus mode from automatic to a manual setting. You can either choose the centre focus point and use the focus and recompose method or choose a different focus point that will target a specific area in the image. To find out how to change the focus point for your particular camera just google “set focus point your camera model”.

See image 5 here where the middle focus point is chosen. The red box is where the camera will focus. To simply focus, point the red box (focus point) where you want the focus to be and press the shutter. For portraits, the best place to focus is on the eyes and more specifically, they eye closest to the camera. This is great if you want your subject in the middle of the frame. If you want to put them a bit off centre and show your skills with the rule of thirds, you will need to focus and recompose. To do this, you focus on their eye by HALF PRESSING the shutter button, then move your frame slightly to where you want to recompose, then continue to completely press the shutter button.

focus points

This video shows the focus and recompose method:

Alternatively, you could choose one of the outer focus points where your subject is in the image/frame.

This video shows an example of a point and shoot camera and how to choose a spot within the frame to focus on.