Our Photography Courses Blog

Focusing tips – How to focus on absolutely anything!

Some subjects just don’t like to be focused on – perhaps they are delicate, like a cobweb, or fast moving like Yummy the cockerpoo here, or an awkward no-contrast shape like a balloon.  What can you do?  Our focusing tips are here to help.

focus photography tips

Focusing tips – Yummy in full flight on our dog photography course in Bristol.

The thing to understand is that the camera doesn’t know what the subject is. It just makes thinks sharp at a distance from the camera. You can see that the dog is in focus, but also the ground that is the same distance away from the lens as the dog.

Old lenses or modern professional lenses tend to have a distance marked on them that tells you where the camera is focused. This is really useful in reminding you that the camera doesn’t really care about subjects!

So here’s a few focusing tips:

1. Pre-focus – Focus on something the same distance away as the subject, half press and move over onto the subject. You’ll need to be in One Shot or AF-S for this to work. We’ve taken loads of pictures this way – including bees in flight etc. You can even put the camera into manual focus once you’ve focused to stop it re-focusing while you wait for the composition to sort itself out. This probably the most useful of our focusing tips – we do this all the time!

focused on the beehive, then moved back a few inches.

Focusing tips – focused on the beehive, then moved back a few inches.

2. Move the focus point off-centre – you can set the focus point to any one of the camera’s focus points – this enables you to compose with subjects off-centre, but also to focus on a point on the floor as something moves towards you.

3. Use continuous focusing – fast moving subjects moving towards or away from you change distance so fast that the camera can end up out of focus – using Servo (Canon) or AF-C (everyone else) allows the camera to re-focus. Can be used in conjunction with 2 – to keep the subject off-centre. This is what cameras often do in Sports Mode – and you need to be very careful where the camera is picking in the focus spot to avoid missing the subject. We’re not big fans of this technique around here – you never really know where the camera is focused at any one time.  It’s good for planes, skiing or zip wires where you know where the camera is going to go.


Of course, all these techniques are not done in auto – in the auto modes the camera tends to focus on the closest thing – not what you want all the time.  If you need more help why not come on a photography course, or try our Photography Mentoring Service for personal feedback.





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