How to focus on off-centre subjects with your camera

How to focus on off-centre subjects: focus lock

Trying to focus on off-centre subjects is one of the most common ways photographers get tripped up. The centre AF point is often used for focusing, as it’s typically the most sensitive. But many photographers use this in conjunction with a camera’s focus lock button in order to shoot off-centre subjects.

However, all SLRs have multiple focus points arranged around the middle of the frame, so you can switch between them and use the most convenient focus point for an off-centre composition. Both options are explained here.

Off-centre Focusing: Option One

 

How to focus on off-centre subjects: step 1

Step 1: Single shot
Press the button marked AF on your camera and rotate the main dial to select single-shot autofocus mode (this is indicated by One Shot on the top LCD display of a Canon EOS 5D Mark III). Set 
the camera’s focus point selection mode to single or spot AF. Now you’re free to select an AF point. Press the camera’s focus point selector button and look through the viewfinder. Next, turn the camera’s dial 
to cycle through the AF point options…

SEE MORE: How to use a single AF point for sharper focus (free cheat sheet)

How to focus on off-centre subjects: centre AF point

Step 2: Centre AF point
With the central AF point set, frame your shot in the viewfinder so the central point is lined up with the point in the picture you want to focus on – eyes in a portrait, for instance.

SEE MORE: Master your camera’s autofocus: which AF points to use and when to use them

How to focus on off-centre subjects: focus lock

Step 3: Focus lock
Half-press the shutter release button to lock the focus at that point. Keeping the button half-pressed, re-frame the shot and fully press the button to take the shot.

SEE MORE: 150 photography tips for planning, composing, focusing and exposing images

Off-centre Focusing: Option Two

How to focus on off-centre subjects: step 1

Step 1: Single shot
Press the button marked AF on your camera and rotate the main dial to select single-shot autofocus mode (this is indicated by One Shot on the top LCD display of a Canon EOS 5D Mark III). Set the camera’s focus point selection mode to single or spot AF. Now you’re free to select an AF point. Press the camera’s focus point selector button and look through the viewfinder. Next, turn the camera’s dial 
to cycle through the AF point options…

SEE MORE: Best camera focus techniques: 10 surefire ways to get sharp photos

How to focus on off-centre subjects: manual selection

Step 2: Off-centre AF point
Instead of using the central focus point and reframing your shot, you can select an off-centre focus point that corresponds with the part of the picture you want to be sharp.

How to focus on off-centre subjects: take the shot

Step 3: Take the shot
Press the camera’s focus point selector button and use the dial to select a specific AF point. You may have to alter position slightly to focus on a specific part of the picture.

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