Get the right focus in your pictures

Get the right focus in your pictures

Focusing right may seem easy, but there are a number of factors to consider to succeed in taking a good picture. When photographing, you can either use autofocus, which means that the camera sets the focus in the image or focus manually, that is, you set the focus in the image yourself on what you want to focus on. Autofocus is usually preferred as it is both fast and helps you take pictures with good sharpness. Nevertheless, there may be times when you would rather use manual focus. An example of this is if the camera has difficulty understanding what in the image is your subject and instead focuses on something else and if it is difficult for the camera to interpret the contour in the image. Ie if it is very bright or if it is very dark, the camera has difficulty finding the focus itself and then needs you to help it.

Liten tjej i skogen
Shutterspeed 1/160 sec. aperture F.2.8 ISO 320, focused on the eye with autofocus. Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark IV och Canon EF 70-200mm f.2.8 L IS USM

Quick guide to correct focus

When I shoot, I always choose where in the picture I want the focus to be. You see a small square box in the cameras viewfinder where your focus is. Test and learn how to move your autofocus point. Important to know is that autofocus is shortened AF, which is also explained in the post about important concepts and terms in photographing .

A basic rule is to always focus on what you want to emphasize in the photograph and where you want the viewer to first look and then let the composition of the image automatically guide the eye further. I have put together some examples below of how I usually do to give you a deeper understanding of where in the image you should focus.

Focus right every time

If you are going to photograph portraits, I recommend focusing on the eye closest to the camera. If the person is far away you can focus on the head instead. If you photograph a group picture, always focus on the person nearest the camera (the front row) if you have several rows of people behind, then the focus will fall off in a nice way and everyone will be in focus if you have used a large number F stop ie. a small aperture. This is because the camera gives more focus behind its focus point than it has infront of the focus point, so if you focus on row three in the group image you risk that the people in front row is blurry.

I say that you should always focus on the first row while I know that many photo schools (school photographer companies) teach you to focus on the second row in a group picture if you have f.8 or more, so yes it works too. But I'm a little nit-picky because I want super sharpness in my pictures so I want to focus on the first row.

In interior and landscape photography, you can think that the focus should be one-third into the image and use between F8-11 in aperture to make alot of the image look sharp. The focus in product photography is largely based on how the products are positioned and what you want the viewer to see first.

When photographing motorsport, I always have the car in focus while when shooting golf it depends on what kind of image I am looking for. Most often I focus either on the player's head but sometimes their shoulder nearest me or their back. For more tips on what to think when shooting motion pictures, read this previous blog post.

Just go out and test its the best way to learn and definitely don’t give up if you get a number of blurry images. Experienced photographers also sometimes take involuntarily blurred images.

If you have any questions, just get in touch! :)

/ Helen

Bild på fåglar i fågelhus
Shutterspeed 1/12500 sec. aperture f. 2.8 ISO 320 manuellt för-fokuserat på fågelholken. Med Canon 5D Mark IV and EF 100mm f. 2.8 Macro USM

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Företagsfotograf Helen Shippey

About me

My name is Helen and I love to create and happily share what I create with my cameras / drones.

Join me on my photography assignments.

You can call me Shippey, my friends does!


Has; Apprentice Letter in Photography