Photography Basics #5 : Autofocus Tips and Techniques

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INTRODUCTION
MASTER THE AUTOMATIC

Welcome to this short guide, where we will run through a few autofocus tips and techniques. This is where you will learn some kick-ass kung fu to taking some of those very sharp photos. Don’t worry, techniques do not necessarily mean technical, so here are just some “best practices” to remember while you shoot.

 

CONFESSION
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE

Quick, hide your wallets!

There are affiliate links and advertisements on this page! Whenever you buy things from the evil links that I recommend, I will make a commission.

Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!

 

 

GENERAL TIPS FOR STABILITY

How do we get a good shot without blur? By simply holding the camera right… which most beginners get it wrong. Here are a few general tips you want to remember.

  • If your camera is heavy, try to keep it close to your body.
  • Rest your arm against your body instead of holding it mid-air. This will add to the stability.
  • Lean against something stable if you can – a wall, chair or railing.
  • You can open your feet a bit wider to create a stable base.
  • Holding your breath while shooting handheld will add to the stability too.
  • If you cannot deploy a tripod at certain locations, use the railing, chair or even rubbish bin as a temporary support.

 

FOCUS AND RECOMPOSE

Ever find yourself in the situation where the autofocus does not work? Here’s what to do when AF refuses to work properly – Use the center AF point. This is because the center point is usually the “best” and most sensitive. Simply frame your subject in the middle of the frame, autofocus on, readjust the frame, then take the shot.

 

 

USE THE BACK BUTTON FOCUS

Normally, cameras have “by default”, set the auto-focus to trigger by half-pressing the shutter button. While that is not wrong, the better way will be to use a dedicated back button to activate AF. Why so? Because it prevents you from accidentally taking a shot while half-pressing, and it also makes focus-and-recompose easier.

The true advantage comes when you are shooting fast moving subjects in the continuous focus mode. You can easily track and lock the focus with the back button, while taking photos with the shutter button. In the half-press scenario, it will be clumsy to do so with only one button.

 

SHARP. TACK SHARP.

Landscape photography lovers, this is for you to get very sharp photos, or what we call “tack sharp”. You are going to need a tripod and remote shutter release. [Selens] offer decent and affordable tripods, or go for the good old reliable [Manfrotto]. As for the shutter release, it does not matter if it is wired or wireless, as long as you get hands off the camera. [Nikon] [Canon] [Sony]

  • Start with a sufficiently small aperture like f/8.
  • If you are using a DSLR, set your camera to the “mirror up” mode.
  • Mount the camera to the tripod, use a wireless release.
  • Frame and auto-focus 1/3 into the scene.
  • Switch to the live view, zoom into the foreground and background to check the sharpness. Manually adjust the focus if required.
  • If you cannot get everything sharp with f/8, use a smaller aperture.
  • When you are comfortable with the sharpness, take the photo.

 

CLOSING
WHAT NEXT?

That’s it for this short tutorial, and I hope you have found it to be useful. Autofocus is good, but it is not perfect. Which is why you need to master all of these not-so-secret moves. It may take a bit of time, but you will eventually tame the autofocus beast.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, and happy shooting!

 

Previous Lesson: Auto Focus Next Lesson: Metering


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