Let's focus up! The quickest way to get focus in your images.

Coffee on and brewing:

Hello, my caffeinated snappers,

How are you all today? Can I ask you a question? Do you ever feel unfocused? I know I do, coffee helps but ultimately I feel like my mind is split over a bazillion different projects - the classic 'too many tabs open on a computer' syndrome.

Well sadly I can’t really help with that. But perhaps you also find your photos are unfocused? That I can help you with. There are many pieces that go into getting good focus in your images but today I want to focus on two - Aperture and AutoFocus modes. In the next blog I will focus on two other ways to achieve good focus. Also over on my instagram, for the next two weeks I will be posting lots of tips and tricks about getting sharp focus in your images. So make sure to check them out and you will be mastering focus in no time.

Coffee brewed and poured - let us dive in!


I covered aperture in more detail - here but for now I just want to focus one aspect of aperture, its ability to determine what is in focus in your frame.

This aspect of aperture is referred to as depth of field! Your Depth of Field refers to the distance of your camera to the furthest point in the frame that your camera can detect. By adjusting your aperture you can determine how much of this depth is in focus.

Depth of field = the distance from your camera to the furthest point detectable by your camera

So if you want more of your image in focus, you will need to increase your f/ number. Vice versa, if you want a more selective area in focus, you will need to reduce your f/. As such landscape photographers tend to default to f16 and higher while macro photographers will default to f/4 and less.

Depth of Field goes from front of camera all the way to the tree.

If I were standing in front of the dog my depth of field would be from the dog all the way back to the tree. By adjusting my aperture, I can choose to have all three in focus or just a small section of my depth of field.

Of course, once you have reduced the size of focus you will need to then choose which section within your frame is in focus. Do you want to focus on the dog, cat or tree? This nicely brings me on to auto focus modes.

Auto focus modes - Continuous, Single Shot, AI-Focus

These modes vary in name between models. I have included nikon and canon names for reference but for other brands you may need to consult your own camera manual. But like roses, the setting by any other name effectively does the same thing.

Single Shot AF is where you choose one point to focus on - often defaults to the middle point but you can change to anywhere in the frame. Then it will always focus on that point. SO if the focus is set for the middle of the frame, even if your subject is to the left or right.

Single Shot AF - fixed focal point

Continuous AF mode is where you set your focus on your subject in the same way as above, but if your subject were to move, the focus point will also move with it.

Continuous AF - Focus point tracks a moving subject

AI focus is a hybrid of the two single shot and continuous modes - where it will select which mode to use based on the subject it detects. Clever in theory but slow and inaccurate in my experience.

AI focus - Camera switches between single shot and continuous mode

Final sips of coffee …

There is no one magic trick to perfecting focus, but keeping your aperture and focus modes in mind will increase your hit rate of success no end. I would recommend setting up a shot with your pet, child and/or a bunch of flowers and trying out these modes at different apertures and get comfortable with both depth of field manipulation and with switching between single and continuous focus modes.