How to take control of autofocus
01 Let the camera choose
The auto-area AF mode on our Nikon D-SLR copes perfectly well with this shot, because Sarah is more or less in the middle of the frame and there’s nothing in the foreground to confuse the autofocus system. But if we get lower down to shoot, it’s another story…
02 Problem foregrounds
Auto-area AF mode will automatically focus on objects nearest the camera, and here it’s picked out some blooms lower in the frame, leaving Sarah out of focus. That’s the problem with automatic focus point selection: it doesn’t always focus on what you want it to.
03 Single-shot mode
There are two steps you need to take to gain control of your autofocus. First, set your camera to single-shot AF mode. This means it focuses once when you half-press the shutter button, and stays focused on that point until you press it the rest of the way to take the picture.
04 Single-point AF
You now control when the camera focuses, and the next step is to take control of what it focuses on. For this you need to set it to single-point AF mode. The camera no longer chooses the AF point automatically. Instead, you’re forcing it to use the focus point you’ve selected.
05 Focus lock
There are two ways to use single-point AF mode. The quick way is to stick to the centre AF point, place your subject in the centre, half-press the shutter release to lock the focus, then reframe the shot and press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the picture.
06 Set your AF point
The other way is to compose your shot, then use the multi-selector on the back of the camera to position the focus point over the critical part. In this shot it’s our model’s eye – the most important thing in a portrait. This is the best method when you’re using a tripod.
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