First Camera Crash Course Lesson 7: How to get your subjects sharp
Focus on background
- When using manual AF point selection, be careful that your DSLR doesn’t focus on the background by mistake
- Your DSLR’s autofocus will ‘hunt’ around, trying to focus on objects in the foreground and background, when you half-press the shutter button
Focus on subject
- Timing is everything when focusing on fast-moving subjects!
- Use Continuous Drive mode to keep up with the action. Be ready to press the shutter button before, during and after the subject flies through your frame
- You can also pre-focus on the spot your subject will hit (the post in our shot) then switch to Manual Focus (MF on your lens) to lock the focus
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First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: Avoid the common composition mistakes
The best way to approach how you compose your shots is to think about what you’re trying to communicate to people about the scene or subject you’re shooting.
Don’t just take a ‘record’ of whatever’s in front of you, think about what’s the most interesting part of the scene to focus on, zooming in or out if necessary.
A classic compositional mistake, when taking portraits, is to try and get the whole scene and the person in shot. The result is a terrible ‘tourist’ photo that leaves the person too small and insignificant in the frame.
Better to take a wide shot of the scene, and then a tighter shot focusing on your subject. Also use depth of field to convey what’s important to show – or a shallow depth of field to blur parts of the scene, such as the background behind subjects, to keep the focus on them.
- With the subject plonked in the centre of the frame and with no clear focal point, the eye is left to wander around the frame
- Although a wide aperture of f/4 was used, the background objects are still too much in focus, and are off-putting
- A longer focal length of 200mm decreases the angle of view, so there are fewer distractions in the surrounding scene
- Longer focal lengths also further decrease DoF to completely blur backgrounds, making your subject stand out
- Placing your subject off-centre creates an artistic balance to the shot
Vertical / portrait format
- Place the horizon either a third of the way up or a third of the way down the frame for a dynamic composition
- Use leading lines (whether natural or man-made) to draw the eye in and towards your focal point – the mountains in this shot
Horizontal / landscape format
- Remember to create a relationship between foreground elements and focal points further away on the horizon
- Getting down low will help prevent too much empty middle ground spoiling your shot
Shoot in Live View and use the grid display so you can quickly apply the ‘rule of thirds’ over your scene or subject to improve your compositions.
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