The world’s best photography tips (and how to break them)

The world's best photography tips (and how to break them)

Photography tips for focusing your camera


Photography Tips: Focus on the eyes in portraits

06 Focus on the eyes in portraits

The eyes truly are the window to the soul when it comes to portrait photography, and it’s absolutely vital that they’re pin-sharp; if they’re the slightest bit fuzzy, then the viewer won’t be able to connect with the subject, and your image will lack impact.

The tighter your framing, and the shallower your depth of field, the more critical the point of focus is. It’s best to manually select single AF points, and select a focus point that sits over an eye; using multiple AF points means the camera will focus on whatever’s closest, so you may end up with a pin-sharp nose instead!

Use one of the off-centre focus points (if your composition demands it), rather than using the central point and recomposing, because even the movement of swinging the camera a few degrees can be enough to change what’s in focus when you’re shooting with a shallow depth of field (with a wide aperture like f/4).

If you’re shooting at three-quarters to your subject, rather than taking a front-on portrait, make sure that the closest eye to the viewer is sharp.

Break the rules!
For full-length portraits, in which the eyes are less prominent, focusing on the head is fine!


Photography Tips: focus a third into the scene

07 Focus a third into the scene

When you’re shooting landscapes, you want as much of the scene as possible in focus, from ‘infinity’ (the point beyond which everything looks sharp) to the closest possible point to the camera.

Using a narrow aperture and a wide-angle lens increases your depth of field, meaning that a larger area in front of and behind your focus point is in focus. But this ratio isn’t spread evenly; it’s split one-third in front of your focus point and two-thirds behind it.

You can get bogged down calculating ‘hyperfocal distance’ to work out the optimum distance to focus on, but a more practical way is to focus on something about a third of the way up from the bottom of the frame (click to find out more about What is hyperfocal distance?)

Break the rules!
If you use Live View, you can zoom in to 10x and check very precisely what’s in focus in particular parts of the scene!


Photography Tips: narrow apertures for landscapes, shallow for subjects


08 Narrow for landscapes, shallow for subjects

The aperture you select determines how much of your scene will be in focus. Landscapes require as much of the scene to be in sharp focus as possible, so use a narrow aperture (but not too narrow – an optical anomaly called diffraction comes into play at small apertures; around f/16 is a good compromise).

Photography Tips: narrow apertures for landscapes, shallow for subjects


But when you have a subject you want your viewer to focus on, such as a portrait or action shot, then a wide aperture (f/2.8 to f/5.6) will lift them from their background so all the viewer’s attention is on them!

Break the rules!
Most lenses are at their optimum sharpness in the f/8-f/11 range, so if a completely sharp shot is the priority, shoot at mid-range apertures (learn more about how to find your lens’ sweet spot).


Photography Tips: use multiple AF points for movement

09 Multiple AF points for movement

If you’re shooting a moving subject, select multiple autofocus points (in conjunction with burst mode) so that your camera can track your subject as it moves through the scene.

If you’re shooting something static, then use to a single AF point and switch to single-shot AF mode.

Break the rules!
If you know the exact point your subject will move through, prefocus on it, switch to manual focus (so the camera won’t refocus) and wait for your subject to enter the frame.


What is the best AF mode: moving targets

10 Stick to singles-shot or continuous AF

Your camera will generally have three Autofocus modes. For instance, Canon DSLRs have One Shot, where the camera locks focus when you half-press the shutter button; AI Servo, where it continuously tracks moving subjects and refocuses on the nearest selected AF point; and AI Focus, which effectively starts off in One Shot mode and switches to AI Servo should it detect movement.

You might think this last hybrid mode is all you need, but it’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and isn’t as precise as One Shot, nor as fast as AI Servo. For static subjects, stick to single-shot AF; for moving subjects go with continuous AF.

Learn more about how to choose the best AF mode for your camera.

Break the rules!
When shooting unpredictable subjects that may move when you least expect them to, such as pets or children, AI Focus can be worth the trade-off.

PAGE 1: Photography tips on setting up your DSLR
PAGE 2: Photography tips on focusing your camera
PAGE 3: Photography tips on composition
PAGE 4: Photography tips on using light


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