17 Use the right autofocus mode
Autofocus works well on modern cameras, but for the most reliable results you need to choose the autofocus mode to suit the type of subject that you are shooting. For static subjects, choose One Shot mode on Canon or Single (AF-S) on Nikon. For moving subjects, try AI Servo for Canon and Continuous (AF-C) for Nikon (find out more about how to choose the best AF mode for your camera).
18 Use ‘back-button’ focusing
Normally, your camera will focus when you half-press the shutter release button. When you are tracking fast-moving subjects it can be difficult to time this with pressing the button fully to take a shot. In these situations, you’ll find it easier to set up your camera to allow you to use another button to activate the focus. This is normally set through the Custom Functions menu, and allows you to set the AE-Lock button on the back of the camera to activate the autofocus, rather than the shutter release button.
19 Get to grips with autofocus points
One of the best ways to get the most from your camera’s autofocus system is to take control of the AF points. To do this, select the Manual or Single Point AF mode on your camera, then use the controls to select the AF point that corresponds with your main subject, or the area you want to be in focus – as in the image above.
On models such as the Nikon D7000, EOS 7D and above you can also select a group of points, as well as individual ones, which is great for shooting fast-moving subjects such as motorsports. In these situations you know approximately where the main subject will be positioned in the frame, but using a group rather than an individual point allows you extra flexibility when the subject is moving.
20 Master manual focus (Live View)
When shooting macro subjects or in low light, manual focus will give you more accurate and reliable results than relying on autofocus. Rather than just using the viewfinder to check that you’ve got the focus spot-on, switch to Live View and zoom into the image to make sure you’re focused properly.
For more on manual focusing, see our in-depth guide Manual Focus: what you need to know to get sharp images.