Why should you learn how to use manual focus (MF or M), especially with all the amazing advances in autofocus (AF or A) technology? Well, there’ll be times when all the AF points in the world won’t help you get sharp shots. Often, activating MF is the only way of beating the dreaded blur.
Macro photographers often use manual focus to dictate their focus point. So do low-light shooters and photographers working in tricky situations, such as shooting through glass, or perhaps focusing on a distant horizon on a misty morning, when autofocus may struggle to get a lock. Sports photographers benefit from pre-focusing in manual focus, especially if they can predict exactly where the action is going to take place.
So don’t ignore the little AF/MF (or A/M) switch on your lens barrel, and remember that when the focusing gets tough, using manual focus might just get you going.
How to use manual focus
Step 1: Flick the switch
Locate the AF/MF switch and move it from AF (autofocus) to MF (manual focus). The switch might be in different locations depending on the camera system and lens you’re using, but typically, it will be somewhere on the lens barrel.
Step 2: Do the twist
To manually focus a lens, you simply twist the focus ring. You’ll be able to see when the image is sharp through the viewfinder. You might have to twist the focus ring back and forth, moving through and beyond your chosen point of focus until you see that focus is spot on.
Step 3:: Get some help
Different shooting situations will call for different focusing techniques. In really low light – when you’re shooting at night, for example – try using the distance numbers on the lens to judge your subject’s distance from the lens. Most lenses will have this feature.
Step 4: Review your shots
To double-check that your shots are pin-sharp, use your D-SLR’s LCD screen for a close look. All you need to do is zoom in and navigate to the specific area you focused on. This way you should get a good idea of whether your image is sharp. If it’s not, just refocus and shoot again.