Week 9: Focus, woman!

So, we’ve spent weeks getting to grips with what all those pesky buttons do and, finally, this week we looked at that all-important aspect of photography: how to make sure your photos aren’t a hideous, blurry mess.

As someone who is pretty much blind as a bat without glasses, this is easier said than done and it is vital that I check regularly that the camera’s eyepiece is actually in sync with my ever-decreasing eye-sight. (What is unfortunate is that the live viewfinder doesn’t sync to the same settings; so quite often a shot that is in focus looks out of focus to me when I view it back and vice versa.)

There are various options for focusing your shot and which one (or more) that you choose is really is down to personal preference, but here’s some rushed information about the whole shebang as it is nearly time for class.

DON’T use the focal red-dot “diamond” as your way of selecting a focal point. That setting basically hands the deal over to your camera to decide, which, like handing your soul over to the devil, is not a good idea. Instead, use a central or selected individual focal viewpoint.

DO USE FOCUS LOCK: set the camera on central focus (so the central red focal dot is lit up); compose the shot so that the focal point of your choice is centre-shot – so line it up with the red dot like a sniper would; depress the shutter button halfway to lock the exposure on the focal point; keeping the shutter button pressed halfway, recompose the shot so that the focal point is where you want it in the shot; take the shot. Remember to look for the green dot in the bottom right of your eyepiece display: solid = in focus., whereas flashing means try again. (And if autofocus can’t cope and you know you are far enough away from your subject to be able to focus correctly, use manual and double check for the solid green light. (The green dot is a Godsend for ocularly-challenged folk like me as it is often the only way I can be anywhere near sure that a manually-focused shot is on-point. )

This works most of the time but I have found that if a shot has a big contrast between light and shade I need to select the auto focal point rather than always relying on the central one.

Alternatively, if you want to lock focus so that it remains the same for a number of shots – helpful if you are doing multiple shots of still-life items, product shots for example – focus on auto then switch to manual focus to lock the camera in place at the set focal point. That way you can take your finger off the button – just don’t nudge the manual focal ring.


  • ONE SHOT – portaits; stationary subjects
  • AI FOCUS – camera chooses the focal point. Avoid.
  • AI SERVO – focus stays put or changes if subject moves. Essentially, your selected focal point should follow movement. Lock focus first on focal point and then pan camera if needs be.

Basically, turn the focal ring until everything looks fine and dandy. Look for the green dot if you are in any doubt that you have managed to get things in focus. It will go solid when focus is achieved. I had to use manual focus at night recently as the autofocus couldn’t cope with the light levels. I couldn’t see well enough to tell if the shot was in focus, but the green dot saved the day.

Finally got my act together and got the extra bits of essential kit I needed. Haven’t had a chance to use the ND filter, but did have a go with the polarised one. Tried shooting fish in a river – not literally, obvs – and was hugely disappointed with the shots. Was just about to send it packing back to Amazon when it was pointed out to me that the filter was also variable and I needed to turn it round to get the desired effect. So I did. And, low and behold, it worked; so here is a before and after shot of a car to prove it.


This week’s practice was to work on selective focus. The easiest way to do that is to use a shallow depth of field as it illustrates it well.  (Depth of field is determined by aperture/focal length/distance to subject. DTS links directly to focusing point.) Which is why I took an awful lot of shots of flowers and some posts in the river.




Also found out what that little “star” button is for. When shooting on automatic settings, you can press the star button to lock the exposure to a point of your choosing: useful when shooting daytime landscapes, etc. Basically, pick the subject point you want to use as your exposure benchmark, focus on it, press the star button to lock the exposure and then recompose your shot.

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