Have you ever come home from a concert with beautiful shots of the people in front of you? I have. I could count the hairs on the head of the guy who sat directly in front of me, but the performers on stage were incredibly blurry. After a few rolls of this, I decided I had better figure out what I was doing wrong.
One way I tried to fix the problem was rather silly, now that I think back. I tried to raise my camera above the heads in front of me to eliminate the problem, but this was extremely awkward, and I couldn’t see through my viewfinder to properly frame my shot.
At times, the auto focus would focus on a prop instead of the intended subject. Add this to the wriggling child on my lap, and you can understand my frustration. I no longer had the people sitting in front of me in my shots, but I now had a whole new set of problems.
What I’ve learned is that there is a trick to auto focus that I didn’t know. The word ‘auto’ is a bit deceiving. You do have some control in regards to where the camera will focus.
On a typical auto-focusing camera, there is a sensor that shoots out a beam to the subject to determine where it should focus. This beam will generally shoot out to the center of the scene you have framed. The focus is activated by the photographer pressing the shutter button down half way.
Some cameras, like the Kodak Z740 digital, will also display brackets so you can see exactly where the camera is focusing. If your camera does not have this feature, assume it is focusing directly in the center of your frame.
Keep in mind that each camera is different. Read through your owners manual for the specifics for your particular make and model of camera. Some cameras may use a more sophisticated system to determine focus, while others may allow for two focus points.
While auto focus is a great feature for amateur photographers like me, it does have its disadvantages. The sharpness of your subject may never be what it could be with an expensive manual focus. Cameras are getting better every day though, and there is no reason you can’t take some amazing shots with your auto focus camera.
A huge disadvantage of auto focus is noticeable when you want to take off-centered shots. There may be instances when you want to take a picture in which the subject will be off to the side or, in other words, not centered in the frame.
An example of this would be if you were to come across a great background scene that you want to include it within the photo. If your subject stands directly in front of the scene, it loses some of its impact. In this case, you can frame your picture with your subject off to the left or right of the center of the frame.
So what can you do? Auto focus will always focus on the center of the frame. If your subject is off to the side, it will focus too far back and your subject will be a blur. There is a way to trick the auto focus to focus on your subject, and it’s rather easy!
Frame your shot exactly as you want to it. Then, move your camera so the subject is in the center of your frame. Press your shutter button down half way to focus on the subject. Next, while still holding the shutter halfway down, move the camera back to the original position and snap the picture. Your subject will still be in focus and you will have gotten the shot you wanted.
As with any camera feature, you should play around with your equipment to find out what it can do for you. Your owner’s manual is a great source of information if you take the time to read it.
By using your auto focus correctly, you will no longer be able to count the hairs on the person in front of you, but you will have a crystal clear shot of your intended subject. No more wasted film or lost memories!