Focusing your camera has never been as easy as it is now that multi-zone focusing has taken much of the chance out of the process. But do we always get what we want, rather than what the camera thinks we want?
I like to play with focus and consequently the sharpness in the picture becomes very important, but no more so than the out of focus areas. Creatively your control of this juxtaposition is one of the most powerful tools you have, so how do you ensure that it is you who is in control?
First of all decide what you want. Do you want everything sharp or do you want to isolate a particular element within the image? Whichever it is, you will have more control if you set the camera to Aperture priority auto rather than Program. A or AV will allow you to choose the aperture. A small aperture will make the depth of field much deeper, but remember that it will requite a longer exposure too so be careful of camera shake.
If you want to get everything in focus choose a small aperture and make your focus point something in the middle of the distance range. That way the depth of field will be covering the background and the foreground. A wider aperture will require you to choose what to focus on, after that everything that is closer to you, or further away, will be out of focus. This is a rather simple description of the concept and other things, like the focal length of the lens, will affect it too. However, done well it is very effective.
When you know how much (and what) you want in focus you need to ensure that the camera knows too. There are a few ways to make sure this happens. Try using focus lock. This could be a button on the camera, but is more likely to be a half pressure on the shutter release. Aim the camera at what you want to be the focus point and half press the shutter button, then compose the picture so that it is framed the way you like it. On many cameras, the focus point itself can be chosen so use this facility to pick the most appropriate zone and then use focus lock.
Using focus is about making pictures rather than taking them: understanding what opportunities are open to you and exploiting them. Point and shoot if you need to, but if you can, take time to look, evaluate and chose the best way to make the picture you have in your head.
Article by Ben Boswell - www.benboswell.co.uk
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