Friday, April 1, 2011

Focusing Issues:: a tutorial for amateur photographers. :) {90}

One of the main aspects of photography is nailing the correct focus. Recently a friend asked me for advice about focusing because she just upgraded from the canon rebel kit lens to the 50mm 1.4, and it's taking her some getting used to to nail the focus and create the right amount of DOF.

The 5 main things that can affect focus are:

1) Focus point. I rarely use manual focus, but I ALWAYS use my center focus point on AF. My camera {the Canon 5D mark II} has 9 focus points, but actually, the center sensor is the only one that is a cross type sensor, making it more accurate, especially in low light situations. The other outside focus points are very weak, so using the center one to focus is the best way to get pictures that are in focus. If you're not sure how to choose your focal points, read up in your camera manual to figure it out.

This is what it looks like when I take a photo. 

2) Focus Mode. Make sure you're in the right focus mode within your camera. Rather than explaining the difference between these AF modes, I found an article that already describes them for me. You can read more about it here. Basically, I usually stick with the one shot mode for the clearest pictures. Though the other modes are also good in other circumstances. The best overall mode for me shooting weddings and portraits is one shot.

3) Aperture & Depth of Field.  Depth of field is the distance in front of and behind the subject that appears to be in focus. Anything that is not in the depth of field will be blurry and out of focus. There are 3 things that will affect your DOF. 1) Camera Aperture - smaller the number = less in focus. 2) Lens focal length - Smaller focal lengths (like 16mm) create less DOF than 50mm or 100mm, for example. 3) Distance away from your subject. - The closer you are to your subjects, the more DOF you're creating (the window of DOF is smaller when you're closer to them, it gets larger if you back away.)

Basically, to figure out how these things all work together you just have to practice. There is no secret formula for perfect DOF, you just have to remember how they all work together when you're out shooting. If you're not sure where to start, just be aware of your aperture. If you're shooting a single person, you can experiment more with your aperture in the range of 1.8-3.2, but if it's a group of people I wouldn't take it below 3.2.

Here's a great illustration of aperture that my friend Molly Nickles made:

4) Shutter Speed - I personally have found that the best images happen between 1/100-1/400.... and I rarely go any faster or slower than that. (ok, maybe the occasional 1/80-1/60 if it's an IS lens and the subject isn't moving) If your shutter speed is too slow, your subject moves or your hand moves, it will be blurry.

5) Light - It took me a while to figure this one out, but light and lighting can affect your focus. If you're using off camera flashes, you're counting on that light to make your pictures sharp. If the light is too diffused it will make your pictures softer also.

If you're experiencing issues with your images being out of focus ask these questions.
  • Am I using the center focus point?
  • Am I in the right focus mode?
  • Does my aperture allow my subject(s) to be in focus? 
  • Am I focusing on the right part of the subject? (focus on their eyes)
  • Am I using the right lens for my subjects?
  • Is my shutter speed too slow?
Good luck! Any other specific focusing questions, email me: 

{This post simply contains my own thoughts, ideas, and insights. Each photographer is different, and everyone goes about photography differently. This blog's content is copyright of Memory Montage Photography. Please do not copy or republish this text without written permission to do so. If you would like to share this post, please include a link directly to our blog's URL. Thank you!} 
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    1 comment:

    1. YAY!!!! Thank you SO much for doing this. It explains everything PERFECTLY. You definitely have a teaching heart. You are amazing! :)


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