Thursday, May 7, 2009

In Focus - when to use manual focus


I'm guessing many of you SLR users don't often use the manual focus on your camera. Most of the time the trusty auto focus mode will do the job just fine. However, there are a few instances where manual focus may produce a sharper image than auto focus. (PS just in case - to manually focus your SLR most cameras have a button or switch that allows you to in essence toggle between manual and auto focus. To manually focus you turn a ring on the lens. Check your camera manual to find the toggle button or switch - email/comment if you have specific questions about how to manually focus).

Here are 5 instances where manual focus may work better:

portraits - the key to a great portrait is for the eyes to be in sharp focus. Oftentimes, I find that when using auto focus when photographing portraits, I get something other than the eyes in focus. Using manual focus, you have more control to ensure the eyes are actually in focus.

low light - your camera's auto focus may have a difficult time determining what to focus on in low light situations. One sign your auto focus is struggling? If it zooms in and out without focusing on anything. Switch to manual focus in low light to get the photo.

macro work - remember this post on close up filters? You will definitely need to use manual focus for shots this close up, due to the very shallow depth of field in macro photography.

shooting through glass/fences/wire - it's easy for your camera's auto focus to become confused when you are shooting through something like a chain link fence. Manual focus allows you to control what subject the camera will focus on.

action photography - if your attempting to focus on a quickly moving object, like a race car, it is difficult for auto focus to adjust to the subject of your photo. Using manual focus allows you to prefocus on a place where the moving object will pass to get a focused shot. (your timing will need to be precise...)

Don't be afraid to use manual focus - it takes some practice to learn to use it quickly and to adjust it as your subject moves around. Go on - give it a try!