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When working as a new photographer, it can be overwhelming to master each element of excellent photography. There’s a lot to remember! So take it one step at a time, and start with honing your focus.
Focus can make or break your image. And you can’t really save a blurry photo with Photoshop. This does not just pertain to the entire photo necessarily, but the point of focus is important and it usually helps to pinpoint your subject. If the focus is off, your vision for the image could be ruined. We don’t want that for you! So we’re sharing 7 techniques you can use to improve focus in your photography. They are separated into camera operations and photographer techniques.
- Use Manual Focus and Liveview
- Single Shot vs. Continuous Auto Focus
- Single Point Auto Focus
- Auto Focus with the Back Button
- Steady your Stance
- Focus Stacking
- Adjusting Sharpness in Post-Processing
Manual Focus and Liveview
Most of us probably already know about these two features that your camera offers, but to those who do not…
Manual focus is a switch on your lens of a DSLR camera that allows you as the photographer to take charge of the photo’s sharpness. It usually involves rotating a piece of the lens in a similar way that you would zoom. Manual focus is important in situations where autofocus refuses to settle on the part of the subject that you want crystal clear or if it continues to change up on you. Usually these situations arise in landscape and macro photography, but depending on the background and the subject, could be possible in any type of professional photography.
Liveview is a feature that compliments manual focus well. Instead of having to use the viewfinder, this feature displays the scene that you are shooting on the full screen of your camera. Using manual focus allows you to see the picture better and allows you to capture it more precisely. Consult with your camera’s manual if you’re not familiar with Liveview.
Single Shot vs. Continuous AF
These two features are offered in your camera’s menu window. They are the two different options for autofocus and are both useful in various situations.
Single Shot AF involves holding down the shutter button halfway until the autofocus locks in. Most photographers are familiar with this already, since it is universal for all cameras nowadays, but if you’re a hobbyist or blogger picking up your camera for the first time, this is all new! However, when you’re in Single Shot mode, the focus will remain on the same subject until you press the shutter button all the way down. This feature is useful for portraits, landscape, and still life photography. Basically any time the subject of your photos is stationary.
Continuous AF is activated the same way as Single Shot, but if you change your camera settings to Continuous AF the autofocus will constantly change. This is incredibly useful in action photography such as sporting events.
Single Point AF
Another aspect of focus is single point focus. This can be utilized in manual or autofocus mode, but it requires the photographer to pinpoint exactly where the focus is in the photo. On DSLR cameras it displays 9 points in the frame that you can choose as your focal point, the camera will automatically place all of its energy on focusing on a single point, allowing the photographer to set up more interesting shots. Single Point focus also helps to improve the clarity of your photos because it draws attention to your subject. When taking portraits, a good point of reference for a Single Point focus is the eyes. If the eyes are in sharp focus, then the rest of the photo comes to life.
Bonus Tip: If your subject is not along one of the single point options, you can still single point focus on it. Just scroll one point (usually the center point is the most accurate) over your subject and get it in focus. Then, if you are in Single Shot focus, you can hold the shutter button down halfway and recompose your shot with your subject (even though it is not directly along one of the points) still in sharp focus.
Back Button AF
On some cameras there is a button for autofocus on the backside of the camera (labeled AF). This makes life easier when you are trying to photograph a moving subject but are waiting for the lighting and exposure settings to be just right. It also prevents accidental shots by pressing the shutter button only halfway down. Tech Radar has other camera techniques that are similar to this in their article.
Bonus Tip: If you find that the shutter is creating a blur in your photos when you press it, and you do not have a back AF button, either set the self timer and let the camera take the shot, or you can purchase a rubber shutter button cover for a few dollars that keeps that extra shake from bothering the shot, or a shutter remote control that averages around $20.
Steady Your Stance
As a professional photographer, your stance can make or break your work. If your camera is uneasy, or your feet are off balance, it could easily lead to a blurry photo. It’s important, if you want clear photos, to improve your stance.
Keep your camera close to your torso, if you are holding it out in front of you with your arms outstretched, there is a lot less stability. In fact, any slight movement could ruin your picture. Instead, keep your arms bent close to your chest with your feet out wider than your hips. This creates almost a tripod effect with your body, stabilizing the camera. Other useful tips are to use an actual tripod, or another form of camera stabilization.
Focus stacking is a technique used for photo editing, and it is where you take a series of photos with the same subject. Let’s say you’re shooting a flower. Each shot should have a different piece of the flower in focus. Then, you can combine all of these photos together into one photo using Photoshop Photo Merge or another merging photo editing software. This is an easy way to get a crystal clear shot without having to worry about getting every point in focus with a single shot.
Sharpness adjusting in post-processing tip
When you are editing a photo in Photoshop or Lightroom, there are options to adjust the sharpness or clarity. These are wonderful functions, but they do not always produce the best results. If you’re not familiar with Photoshop or are trying to streamline your photo editing workflow, opt for a Photoshop Action, like our FREE Photoshop Action for Sharpen and Resize for Web & Facebook. This is a great way to produce high quality photos while saving time sitting at your desk editing photos.