Understand What is Focus, Automatic & Manual Focus and how to use them

Understand What is Focus, Automatic & Manual Focus and how to use them

Now we learn along this course the basics and history of cameras, also the whole exposure game and the exposure triangle, the next step is to get focus, so it is not about what is clear sharp or crisped in your image, but it’s also what’s out of focus and how does it fall out of focus.


When it comes to focusing there is two main things that affect your focus plane, or what is in focus and what is out of focus:

1. The F-Stop: 
we’ve already talked about, it is how much light coming in and how shallow the depth of field do you have.
2. The Lens:
A telephoto lens (long lens) will have less thing on focus, and that you”re really honing in on a single object and making that one thing be the focus of your image. On the other hand, you have a Wide-Angle lens and this typically means that more things will be in focus, you’re seeing a greater space and everything’s sort of there in front of you.

For me personally when it comes to photography I like to shooting things that are very grand like a mountain range, with a telephoto lens; typically, you shoot it with a wide angle lens, and you will be able to see everything, it’s really nice, it’s all in focus and it’s all there, but when you use a telephoto lens, and you stepped a little bit farther back, you’re able to see the details and have some things fall out of focus which gives you a great creative photo.

As you can see focus is kind of creative process, and really deciding what will be in focus, how falls out of focus is where you become a photographer and get to decide what your images will look like

Now after that, we’ve gone over focus and what it’s and some of the things that affect it, we are going to talk about autofocus and manual focus, the two ways that you can use to achieve a nice clean image.

A. How To Getting into focus using the auto-focus mode:

Autofocus is less your camera’s ability to sense what is in focus and upon pointing it at your subject it automatically finds that focus; Now there is a little bit work where you have to slightly hold down your shutter button, you will typically hear a beep which in some camera you can turn off/on, and it tells you that its found something to be in focus.

How and Where to switch between autofocus and Manual Focus:

MF AF focus setting lens

Depending on the camera’s there is many different ways that can be applied or used or even settings that you can choose how you want to use your autofocus. Typically, on most cameras, where you’ll find the autofocus or manual focus selection is on the lens, it will typically say AF and MF (based on the company that made the camera lens) you just select one between the two and just like that you are on automatic or manual focus, some cameras also have this selection on the camera itself because the use older style lenses, but typically today you find them on the lens.

Once you are in automatic focus, there’s a couple of factors that come into where it’s automatically going to focus, where do you tell it to focus or where does a camera assume you want things to be in focus; So the cameras like Cabon 5D mark, have 61 points across your frame that are constantly serve to search in figuring out is this thing that supposed to be focus, typically it will be whatever is closes to you compared to everything else which is farther away.

focus box and points

You are also able to go into the menu settings and select manually how many points of focus you want, or if you want the camera to focus just in a specific box, and when you take a photo, whatever is in that point or box is going to be in focus.

This camera technology is being advanced every single day. Certain cameras are faster certain cameras are slower, and it takes a higher end camera to get really fast and really sharp autofocusing capabilities.

While cameras as DSLR allows you to use whether the autofocus or manual focus, a lot of the times on point-and-shoot cameras or even smartphones the focusing capabilities becomes a little bit simplified. And it’s not to say that’s always the automatic focus, a lot of time it is but there are new technologies and face detection or being able to touch on the screen and select where you want things to be in focus.

There’s also semi-manual auto features that you can do on some point-and-shoots that are actually pretty fast. And the hardest thing is that the computer guessing what you want to be in focus, and at the end of manual focus is really where the creative eye comes into play and really honing in what you want to be in focus.

But as of now, DSLR cameras own a technology that is pretty incredible, what you can do with automatic focus is amazing, super quick, so if you are in sports games or you try to catch something on the fly, just put the proper auto setting, and you will get a very clean and focused images every single time.

B. How To Getting into focus using the manual mode:

Now, we will see manual focus, and this is really one of the great features of DSLR cameras, where you are able to choose what you want to be in focus.

 Switch the button in the lens to MF, and from there as you hold the shutter button down, nothing is going to happen, so you have to use the ring in the lens, and found out what is in focus and how far away it is.

camera lens reading of meters and feet

Most lenses will have a reading of meters and feet, so if your subject is 5 feet away from you, turn the ring in the lens to 5 feet and look in and well you know it’s in focus; This is something that takes a lot of time and sort of a real skill set that is not the easiest thing to learn.

One technique that I’ve adopted is a mixture between autofocus and manual focus, where I go and find my subject and see how far away it is, use the autofocus function, and from there I honing with the manual focus to really decide what I want to be in focus. Or sometimes I will just get distance reading of, like “that is that far away and that’s that far away” and from there I know where my safe zone is for focusing.

Some cameras allow you to do auto manual automatically so you don’t have to actually switch between the two, and you can go in, find your focus and then maybe you want to be a little bit closer or a little bit farther away.

It is highly recommended testing focusing on a telephoto lens (something larger than 50mm), because when you are in a wide angle it’s harder to tell what’s in focus because more or less everything looks semi in focus, but as you go to those longer focal lengths you will be able to really select out and pinpoint exact thing that you want to be in focus.

Another great way is to get really up close and personal with things and sort of role you're focusing over it and you can see the focus plane moving, and get some really cool shots that way.

Remember, auto is sort of mechanical, it’s the computer, it’s how fast is your camera at capturing it, while the manual is really just knowing how far away something is, measuring it out and then checking if it’s in focus. So keep practice and happy shooting.

C. Shooting a fast object:

shooting fast object prper setting

Now that we’ve seen about how to expose your image and how to get things in focus, we’re going to see about a couple of scenarios of how to put these really to use.

The first thing is shooting fast objects and what it takes to get them in focus but also exposed correctly; So typically when shooting fast objects, you really want to Use:

1. Very fast shutter speed: 

This allows you to capture the exact moment that object moved past you, so if the shutter is too slow, the object will move faster than your camera is able to process, and you will get a blurred image.

2. Slower F-Stop: 

Stop it down a little bit, maybe at f/8 or f/5.6 because what this gives you is as a wider depth of field and more of the chance to capture what you’re trying to take a picture of in focus.

3. Need more Light: 

One issue that does come up a lot of times in shooting fast objects is that first your shutter moving really fast, and you’ve decided to stop in your f-stop, meaning you need a lot more light, but if you think about it, most times you look at football game, basketball game, extreme sports outdoors, they always have a lot of light, they’re always illuminated very brightly, and this part is for the athletes, so they can see the ball and they can see what’s happening, but it also allows the photographers and for the film makers to get an image that you can see.

Light is always what needed to be in photography, so maybe you will need to make the shutter speed a little slower, and the f-stop a little bit more open, and the best thing you can do is practice, take a couple of test shots and see what you’re able to come away with.

In the next lesson, we will talking more about how to shooting in low light condition.
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"When you are guided by an experienced photographer, you will know that pursuing photography will be a delightful experience and a worthwhile adventure" - BenoThePhotographer 

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