tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Elements of Focus

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Elements of Focus

April 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Elements of Focus
Good morning and welcome to the 7th blog on 'You're Smarter Than Your Camera'. This month is going to be fun!  We're going to get down into the details of focus and just what options many cameras have to control this very important setting.  In the previous two months, we covered aperture and shutter speed, maybe these were new terms to you or maybe you just improved your understanding of them.  This month is slightly different in that I'm sure you all know what focus is and you would certainly be forgiven for thinking that it is black or white - either in focus or out - that is true to an extent.  Correct focus can mean the difference between a photo to keep and one to throw away.  It is an attribute of an image that it is very difficult to change during post processing's worth spending a little time getting it right as you take your images.  But you may be surprised to hear that there are a lot of different 'focus' settings all supporting the photographer in this area along.  Read on....

There are focus techniques that are more complicated to master, such as 'back button' focus and fun techniques such as 'racking the lens' and I will cover these in the forthcoming blogs, but for this week I'm going to concentrate on outlining the options  available on many cameras so that you can get started with a deeper understanding.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the focus topic,

Lets not get too smart and make a start with autofocus!  Below is my camera set in auto focus mode.  There is a setting on most cameras and in addition, there may be settings on the lens.
The images below show just a few of the options my Nikon has for the auto focus area.  Basically, the section within the image (looking through the viewfinder) that the camera will consider when focusing on a subject.
The options above from left to right and top to bottom are - 

- Single-point AF - this is the first image of the camera 
- 9-point dynamic-area AF - uses 9 points to assist the camera where to focus
- 21-point dynamica-area AF - uses 21 points
- 39-point dynamic-area AF - uses the 39 points and us shown in the last camera image

Now lets look at how that might look with a subject in front of the camera.  Below are drawings of 3 of the auto focus area options above.
Single-point AF
9-point dynamic-area AF
39-point dynamic-area AF
Autofocus Mode
The autofocus mode is another setting on the camera that allows the photographer to choose auto focus for stationary subjects or moving ones and sometimes a third option is where the camera makes the decision if the subject is moving or not.
On the Nikon camera this is noted as AF-S for stationary - this means that the focus will be locked, once the shutter-release button is pressed halfway.  AF-C setting indicates to the camera that the photographer is trying to shoot moving subjects and thus the focus isn't locked when the shutter-release is pressed, but the camera engages, predictive focus to predict the final distance to the subject and makes a decision on the focus as necessary.
My camera above is on the AF-A setting, you can see the letters just below the autofocus area mode option. This is the setting which allows the camera to decide if the subject is stationary or moving.  Personally, I prefer to let the camera know, so there is no confusion.  Next week we will come onto focus and recomposition techniques for shooting and things can get very messy if the camera is in the wrong setting :-)
Manual Focus

Manual focus is achieved by setting the camera and the lens to manual focus as shown in the image below.  The focus is then set using the ring on the lens. There are times when you absolutely want to choose manual focus over auto, but to me they are very specific and I will cover them in a future blog.
Your Challenge

In the last blog in March, we dived into the manual setting for the camera where we made our own decisions on aperture and shutter speed.  This is something you can do whether the focus is on manual or automatic.  Lets stick with autofocus for now.  

Have a go trying to find all of the autofocus options on your camera and pick a subject to shoot.  Change the autofocus area settings and see how the image changes.

I would love to hear stories of you finding some creative options that I haven't mentioned here.
Next Time

At first glance, it seems to me like this blog covered a lot of techniques and even if you picked one per week to have a go at, you would be workimg hard.  Do what you can..and my next blog won't be until April so you have some time to try things out and get to understand shutter speed a little more.  

Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy your photography :-)
As always, do get in touch if you don’t understand anything or if you would just like to comment.
Thanks again,
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