Should you really bother learning how to use your manual focus? Isn’t the automatic one just as good? The truth is that there are times that the manual focus is going to offer you more benefits. You just won’t get the sharp shots if you let the camera do all the work itself. However, you need to know how to use your manual focus setting on your SLR camera.
Here are 10 tips to get the perfect shot the first time.
Practise, Practise and More Practise
It will take time to get used to the manual focus setting, especially if you are used to the autofocus. Spend some time practising with the setting on shots that don’t really bother you. Try it in good light at first, with a stationary object, like a piece of fruit. Once you master that, move onto low light with that stationary object.
Eventually, you will be able to move onto people and animals; anything that moves really. Animals and young children are often the hardest because they don’t understand that they need to stop and pose for you to take a sharp photo.
When you are having fun with your camera, make a habit out of using the manual focus on a regular basis. This will help you understand more about the settings and find the best tip that works for you. It will also help you get better at judging distances, working quickly and getting the best clarity in your photographs.
Decide Where the Focus Needs to Be
If you use the autofocus all the time, you will find that the focus is always on the eyes. This is the sharpest part of the photo and makes them stand out. This isn’t always what you want. You may want something in the background to stand out or maybe you want an object to one side to stand out and the rest look slightly blurred.
With the manual focus, you need to decide where that focus will be. This takes some practise, as you work out how to use the function. Avoid trying to change the autofocus to help that you get it right. That will take longer and just be harder in general.
Measuring the Distance from the Object
When you measure the distance between the object and the camera, you offer yourself the benefit of making the manual focusing easier. You can simply set the focus to that distance and the shot will be sharp and perfect. There are two options when it comes to measuring the distance. You either have a piece of string or you learn to estimate well.
However, there are two conditions for this method: you need a tripod and a stationary object. It is not going to work if you have something moving around, whether it is an animal, a car or even a waterfall.
Use Your Focusing Screen
How do you know if you really are in focus? It is difficult to tell with the naked eye and there is always an element of human error. You may think that the sharpness is perfect, until you take the image and realise that something within it was slightly off. The moment may be lost forever now.
You need to see the before and after shot. This is where a focusing screen is useful, where you get a split image. When the image is in focus, the split images will line up. There is little human error involved. The downside is trying to find a focusing screen. There are a few available but you may find that they are out of your budget. If you can get one, it’s worth investing and keeping hold of it for as long as possible!
Focusing Before the Shot
When it comes to professional photography shots, such as wedding shots or images of cake decorations etc., you will likely know the distance. This will allow you to prepare for the focusing manually. You can use an object to stand in the place, whether it is a fellow photographer, a model or a stationary object, so you can set the focus before you call the subjects to you.
This works for the posed shots and is excellent if you work in a photography studio. However, this isn’t going to be worthwhile if you are on the move and don’t have the ability to plan much before taking the shots.
This pre-focus tip will work if you are trying to take action shots. This could be during a car race, a cycle race or runners. You just need to know the point that they will pass through, so you can use an object to get it all set up and ready to go. Once you have that, you will find it really easy to get that perfect shot to share with your friends, or even sell online!
Fine Tune With Your Manual Focus
You don’t have to do all the hard work yourself. It is possible to start off by letting the SLR camera do it for you. Set the autofocus and let it get to the best sharpness possible. After that, you can click the switch to the manual focus and make it perfect.
This can be used with other options for setting the focus. If you have a focusing screen, you can use it when it comes to the fine tuning manually. It still takes practise to get this perfect, but it is much easier and less time consuming than trying to do it all yourself.
Use the Distance Numbers on the Camera to Help You
There is nothing wrong with getting some extra help when it comes to using the manual setting. This is beneficial when in low light, or when you have extremely difficult camera shots to take. By using the numbers, you can judge the distance much better and make sure you don’t spend too long trying to adjust the lens.
This could even be used in conjunction with the pre-setting. If you know that your camera is in focus as a set distance and set it for that, you can then make sure you are that distance away from the object. There is no need to actually refocus when you do come to taking the shot. Of course, the light can play a part in the clarity, so it can take trial and error and practise to make sure the shots in the different light levels workout for you.
Zoom In to Check Your Shots
Don’t be afraid to check the details of your photos. This is the best way to make sure your camera was exactly in focus on the areas that you wanted. Zoom in as much as you can and check each pixel if you need to; although this can be off-putting without a lot of practise and skill. When it comes to a face, zoom in onto one specific part, such as the lips if you wanted them in focus, and make sure they are clear.
If something isn’t clear when zoomed in, it is a sign that the focus wasn’t right. You will need to go back, refocus and try again. Do this between each shot to avoid disappointment when you get to the end of it.
Start Off With a Larger Shot
It is much harder to get the focus right on a bigger shot. There is less chance of getting it wrong and is a great way to practise. Once you do get a hang of that, you will need to narrow the focus more. Do this on a gradual basis and you will soon find that the specific, one-item shots are a piece of cake. You also need to try it on different types of environments. Remember that variety will make you an excellent photographer and someone that all your friends want to hire.
Keep One Hand on the Focusing Ring
Keep your left hand on the focusing ring at all times. This will make it easier to make small adjustments as you go along. Your right hand should be ready to take the shot as soon as it is perfectly in focus. You don’t want to make quick and big movements with the focusing ring, unless you really are completely out of focus. Just the slightest turn could make that person, object or animal the perfect sharpness for the shot.
Only turn the ring with your thumb and index finger. There is no need to use the other fingers. This will allow your left hand to support the front of the camera and keep the shot steady. If you are constantly moving your whole hand, the camera will move and then you will lose the advantage over the shot.
When you are taking photos, it is time to switch to the manual focusing. You will get much better pictures than if you rely on the autofocus. This is exceptionally brilliant for when you want to focus on objects far away or when there is something else in the way, like a fence or window. However, it takes time to learn how to set the manual focus. With some practise and following the tips above, you will get the perfect shots and become the go-to person when photographs are needed.