Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

How To Ensure Your Focus Is Precise

Mark Elliott shows you how to choose a focussing method that enables you to focus precisely.

| General Photography
Article by Mark Elliott. Mark Elliott is a Cumbria based portrait and commercial photographer. He also runs Better Photos Photography Training -

Even though cameras are improving every day, leaving your camera's focussing system to multi-point auto focus may not always give you the results you want.

How To Ensure Your Focus Is Precise: Portrait
For portraits, focus on the eyes and make sure they're sharp. Image by Peter Bargh.

Why does this happen?

Because the multiple focus points lock onto the nearest, high contrast thing that they 'see', and this high contrast area might not be where you want to place your focus.

Typical examples are photos of people, where the nose is in sharp focus but the eyes, the most important feature in any portrait, aren’t as sharp as they should be; or landscape photos where the one part of the scene is sharp but other important parts of the scene are out of focus.

In the above examples: the nose is closer to the camera than the person's eyes, so the focus locks onto the nose. In the landscape photo, the auto-focus might have locked onto a nearby tree branch or fence instead of further into the scene.

So how do you avoid auto-focussing problems?

For most modern digital cameras, there are three options:
  1. Set your focussing mode to manual and focus by hand, while looking through the viewfinder. (OK if you have good eyesight but this method can be slow).
  2. Disable the multiple auto-focus points and set a single (moveable) focus point. (Quick and accurate).
  3. Use Live View mode and focus manually while viewing the LCD.

Setting single point focus

Changing to a single focus point is an option that's available on most cameras, including the Samsung NX200 which also features an all-new autofocus algorithm that delivers accurate, instantaneous autofocus without a separate sensor module. However, if you want more control over what the camera is focusing on the NX200, like other cameras, also has Single AF, Continuous AF and Manual Focus options available.

Changing to a single focus point is easy to do, just check your camera's manual for instructions on how it works for your specific model.

How to use single point focus

  1. You'll see the single, fixed focus point illuminated in your view finder when you half press your shutter button.
  2. Make sure that this single point is directly over the most important part of your image (e.g. a person's eyes or other important part of the scene or subject).
  3. Half press your shutter button to lock focus on the targeted spot.
  4. Then, press the shutter fully to take the shot.
Many cameras also allow you to move this focus point to different parts of your view-finder (not just the centre position), to allow you to lock onto different parts of the scene or subject. This very useful if you are using a tripod and want to keep your camera in a fixed position. I prefer this option and use it when I am hand-holding my camera for portraits etc.

Using Live View Mode

  1. Switch from auto focus to manual focus.
  2. Turn on Live View.
  3. Zoom into the important parts of the scene/subject using the magnification 5x or 10x button.
  4. Check your LCD panel and manually focus to bring the important areas into sharp focus.
  5. Zoom out and fully press your shutter button to take the shot.
  6. This can be a very precise but takes time and is not practical when hand holding your camera. Using Live View mode also drains your battery quickly, so carry a spare if you intend to use this method.
Remember, don’t play Russian roulette with your focus point; choose a focussing method that enables you to focus precisely.

Article by Mark Elliott. Mark Elliott is a Cumbria based portrait and commercial photographer. He also runs Better Photos Photography Training -

How To Ensure Your Focus Is Precise:
MPB Start Shopping

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB. It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.


Other articles you might find interesting...

16 Awesome Autumn Photography Projects You Must Try
5 Essential Photo Tutorials To Get You Ready For The Autumn Season
John Duder Interviews Photographer Emma Duder
10 Top Lighting Tutorials That Explore Light In All Its Forms
5 Easy Ways To Prevent Camera Shake
8 Top Photography Tutorials To Help Improve Composition
John Duder Wants You To 'Choose Carefully'
How To Make Sure Your Subject Is The Main Point Of Interest

There are no comments here! Be the first!


You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.