Tips When You're Having Trouble Focusing

Photography - 101 Sharp Images And Focusing Techniques
15 minutes
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So let's talk about 15 possible troubleshooting ideas when you're having problems with focusing, because you know, we don't want you to panic. So we'll go down the list. My first one, the one that's always coming for me, there's a little switch on the lens that lets you turn your focusing function on and off. And if you put it on manual focus, no matter how much you press on this, it's not going to autofocus therefore, manual focus. That's usually my first clue. I oops, and I forget it's actually extremely common and happens me all the time too.

You guys have probably seen me do if you haven't, you will see me do it in the workshop where especially when I'm shooting landscapes, I'll get my focus and I'll switch to manual focus because it's the easiest and quickest way for me to just lock the focus it won't change after that. And then I forget and then when I go to shoot other things, it's not it's not focusing and that's again The first thing I always check is my autofocus actually turn on the lens itself. If not, it's actually mechanically disabled when you're on manual so it'll only manual focus. Okay, so the second tip that I bring up if you're having issues focusing is to check the advanced focusing options. This happens all the time to me when I loan my camera to someone else, not to me, not to you because you don't learn your camera.

So what you can do is you can actually go into the cameras menu. Now in this rebel, we can go into the custom settings and we go ahead and get their custom functions, we can actually choose, for example, what the shutter button does, what the focus button does, and so forth. So sometimes like when I loan it to, well, the most common culprit that you know is Matt, every time I give it to Matt, he gives it back to me and my shutter is disabled for focusing. So when I go to press the shutter, it'll capture the image, but it won't focus, he always turns on the back focusing button. So he leaves the focus only on the back button and disables it from here. So the way that you do that is you can go to the menu, custom functions, and you can control what the shutter and a lock button is going to do basically.

Alright, so your camera, or just keep it simple and don't let the camera or tell him to return it to the way right when he barks that won't happen. So just keep in mind that you can change the functionality of these buttons on most DSLRs We can kind of customize to whatever your preferences are. The other common one is maybe you're just standing too close to your subject. Each of these lenses have a minimum focusing distance. For example, with this one, I believe it is. Holy cow.

I don't know if I can read that. Which one, seven feet, two feet, two feet, two feet are not two meters, 72 meters, seven feet. Okay, so clearly, you're way too close. So no matter how much I press here, it's not going to work. I actually have to step seven feet back in order for this to even work. Let's see if I don't want to take a picture.

I just follow my face really close right? But then he'd look really wide if I actually got it. Okay, tip number four is to check the viewfinder diopter now what is that exactly? Okay, let me bring up my Nikon here. The viewfinder diopter is this little dial right next to the viewfinder Okay, you can actually turn it. Now.

The the way that you know that you're having issues with the viewfinder. diopter is because when you look through the viewfinder, it looks blurry. But of course, when you take a shot, it looks totally sharp, it looks fine. It's just the viewfinder. So what you do is you just use that diopter. And you just turn it until basically your screen is, is sharp.

Now there are, of course, technical ways of dialing in incorrectly. But generally I just do it visually because it works totally fine visually, right. So really what it is, is if you've got a problem with your eyes, maybe you're nearsighted or farsighted. And this is how you're going to be able to see better. Now tip number five is about low light. And when you're shooting in low light, no matter what you're going to have a hard time focusing.

So your best bet is to go ahead and select your center focus point as your tool when you're focusing. So let's see, for example on here, I've got all these different options, look kind of moves and I can pick with my finger, but if I pick my center one as the one that I'm going to tell my camera to use, as I'm trying to focus, it's the most accurate and it's the strongest one Yeah, it's a great tip in low light. Okay, tip number six is another low light wine and it's using your focus assist light. So if I'm in really low light situations My flash will pop up, it'll start flickering right before I click the button. And what that's doing is it's giving my camera assistance with light so that I could see or actually the camera could see. Yeah, and it'll get your focus.

Some models higher and models don't actually have that right. So you have to use a hotshoe flash, right? And then that that'll do the little flickering for you. Yeah, the hotshoe ones like a 580 X will have the an infrared auto focus assist beam. Now this is one area where I kind of like that Nikon's a little more forward thinking on the Nikon, they actually have an autofocus beam that's built in right into the camera on most their models. So it's really helpful.

That way, you know, you don't need to have that hotshoe flash where you don't even have the flash come up when you need that autofocus assist. Now, tip number seven, looking for areas of contrast, still eat low light or not. That's probably one of the things that you should do anyway. So if you were shooting let's say I was wearing an entirely white outfit. It's a little bit hard to get your focus sometimes if he's in bright light, but if you were so awesome Right. We're moving forward from that.

So let's say his white shirt had stopped right at the neck. And that's an area of contrast, if you focused right there that would help your camera find focus a little better. And if I'm wearing all white, well, I should probably run because I don't know why. If you're wearing a veil, we would have a problem. But that's, that's exactly what we're talking about is Yeah, those areas of contrast, you can even see that like on her on her shirt right now, these lines and stripes against the white creates a lot of contrast. They're very easy for a camera to gain focus as opposed to like a solid suit.

Right? wear a suit. Like why why are you wearing a white shirt? I was just using Okay, let's look at the couch. The couch is entirely Monique. I'm just kidding.

Let's move on. Okay, okay. I'm gonna say this. Tip number eight is to avoid servo modes in low light. several modes are those modes that basically we're allowing the camera to track focus. Now those modes in general just during daylight are already kind of, well, sometimes they're inaccurate.

Okay? Now you add on top of that low light, you add on top of that basically low contrast, which is, it's basically the issue you run into in low light and low light, we're losing contrast. And that's why it's kind of so hard to focus. So I would avoid these types of servo motors, these automatic tracking modes in the camera, because they're going to be highly inaccurate and kind of unreliable in low light situations. So what that really means is, you need to find your point of focus, instead of letting the camera determine that point of focus for you. Yeah, and for example, like when we're shooting, say, a bride and groom coming down the aisle, generally, that's a very low light situation, I'm just kind of coming up with ideas of situations we've been in.

Rather than using an AF point and having it track like you can have that servo track on that single, like, let's say I set it to that top right AF and have a track all the way rather than doing that. I'm going to use single shot AF and I'm just going to keep shooting over and over and over to get a new focus every single time. Because what happens is as soon as that tracking, AF misses, it'll track back and then forward and it's a lot of time for it to go back forward and come back till you have focus. You could end up missing those moments or so let's say you're in a basketball court and you're trying to follow the shooter, it would be much easier for your camera to just for you to track the player across the room, rather than hoping that the camera will catch it for you.

Yeah, in a fully auto mode. Yeah, definitely avoid that. Okay, next tip number nine is to watch out for flares, flares, basically, well, they can be great artistic elements to have that really nice cool shot of a model or whatever you know, that sun coming in, it looks awesome. But in addition to kind of reducing contrast, creating that flare and bright Look, it also makes it very difficult for the camera to focus. One tip and trick that I like to do is when I am trying to shoot with a flare, what I'll do is I'll actually block the flare with my hand. So I'll basically get my focus and my composition.

I'll block the flare to get my focus and then a hold the shutter down halfway. Once they're on To remove my hands with a flare comes in. And then I actually take the shot that way I know that I've locked the correct focus. So just kind of look out for that. Now if you didn't want that flare, there's a couple things you should do using your lens hood for one to avoid that extra flare if that's not what you wanted. And really, what he means is, if the sun is coming in from behind pi right here, and I'm trying to shoot this way, that's like coming directly into my lens.

And that's what he's talking about the problem. So if I had a lens hood, or maybe if I were under an umbrella or some kind of shade, blocking it so that it's not entering the light or entering the lens directly. Sometimes, I mean, the hood is amazing for blocking light, generally if the sun's anywhere around here, but if the sun is directly behind your subject, there's no way that a hood is gonna do anything. Tip number 10 is locking the focus whenever possible. In some of our shoots, if we've got our camera on a tripod and we know exactly where the focus is going to be and it's not going to change, you might as well just lock it in that way doesn't move. Maybe Atlanta Gave shot or maybe even a room shot where you know, you know, you're just not gonna move at all.

You've got a couple of options. You can use your switch, which, yeah, and then the one that we forget to switch out, right? But you could use your switch to lock your focus in manual because you already got it you get your focus once automated and then you switch it so that it doesn't move. Or you could also use the you could set your buttons so that you've got one of these to be an autofocus lock. Yeah, generally, you said, I think it'll be one of these two. Yeah, I prefer to start one is there, right there.

There's a star on asterisk. So you've got two options. So again, you place it you focus in once you know where it's gonna be and it's not going to move your subject and your camera aren't going to move then you can just switch off to a manual focus, and it's kind of nice on my Nikon I have a button look it says al FL, a lock it you have like it's so intuitive, right? They labeled it nicely. I like that. Okay, all right.

Okay, next, what I want to bring up is to use the focus button to pre focus when possible. So this is Tip Number 11. Now this situation is like, well, let's say we're shooting a couple, okay? And we want to basically capture this really nice, intimate and candid moment with them, we've posed them everything's in the right place, we have, well, we have basically got the right composition, and so forth, what I might do is pre focus. So I'm just going to basically, I could do it several different ways. Generally, when I pre focus, I just hold the shutter down halfway, so I'm just going to basically get my focus on them, hold the shutter down halfway till I get my beat.

And then I'm going to cue the action. We do this a lot through the DVD where we're going to cue the action after we have pre focused and all I'm going to do is basically just spam the trigger at that point and just keep shooting over and over. Now if you know you want to pause remember that when you let go the shutter all the way and then you press it back down it refocuses right. So if we want it to just stay regardless of if we are lifting up and coming back down on the on the shutter release or We do need to lock it via one of those techniques, either the AF lock or actually switching over to manual. But pre focusing is awesome because you can just shoot, capture the moment. And this is when everything is set up, you're ready to go.

And that way you don't need to worry about focus at all. Now one note about that, when you pre focus, you're hoping that they don't move from that exactly. Yes, they have to be stationary. And that's the only time you would ever like yeah, pre focusing during a sports game. Not so good. Not so weird.

But if you pre focus and I was right here, and all I did was this, then you still get everything. Don't judge. Tip number 12 is about focus peaking. It's a new thing for some of these cameras. In fact, this Sony right here has it in live view in real time. It can show you exactly which item is in focus.

Yeah, it's kind of cool. It's like this moving highlight layer sort of that just moves in tracks whatever focal plane you're on. It makes it amazing. For manual focusing, actually, I love it. It's awesome. Also awesome for video too.

That's so cool. Okay, tip number 13 Tip number 13 switch to manual focusing when your subjects on a similar plane and here's what I mean subjects on a similar plane for example, if my lovely co host here, Michelle were wearing her wedding dress and she had this little Have you guys seen those? Like they're kind of the more vintage bales right? The vintage trailer kind of over the face, just small little bales like that. Yeah, that netting is very, very difficult for your camera to really know what you're trying to do. Like if you're trying to basically focus on her eyes and you have that netting in front, your cameras only going to catch the netting.

So in that kind of situation again, I flipped to manual and I just shoot manually with this kind of a shot and she does her dancy fingers, which is would be really weird if she was wearing a wedding dress but but if she weren't, I could use my manual focus just to focus on her eyes. And it's actually very easy to tell where that focus is when I'm shooting close like that because I have kind of a lot of reference points between the net between your eyes between your hair and everything. So in certain situations like When your subjects are on very similar planes, and they're the F is gonna freak out. Well, that's when you really need to just switch over to manual focus. Yeah, I think it has something to do with it's so fine. It doesn't know exactly where to look.

Yeah, it's fine. And it's it's right in front of where I mean things. It's right on and it is actually right on because it's catching the net. It's just your face. Yeah. Tip number 14 is making use of live view plus what I just talked about manual focusing.

So here's what we do. I'm going to put my lens on manual, I'm going to turn on my live view function, hold on. And with that, just using my eyes to look at the LCD, I can see what I want to focus on. We actually do this a lot to throughout the course. And we'll zoom in on different areas to make sure that we have the critical focus, live view. And manual focus is an amazing tool.

You combine that with focus peaking and you got focusing machine. Okay, so tip number 15 is that newer cameras do have the option to use touch screen. Focusing when you're using live view now Michelle really wants to show you every detail. So first I have to switch back to autofocus over here, click on my live view and the way we do on our phones, you just pick the spot you want to focus on. And there it goes. It's an awesome function especially if you imagine if you're hand holding, let's say DSLR footage, like you're trying to shoot record video of the kids or whatever you're doing, rather than using your focus ring.

If you're uncomfortable doing manual focus, that touchscreen is amazing just to kind of move around as people are moving in frame. It's also great on a tripod, it's just very handy dandy or on the ground or especially with the Arctic you like the I like for the southern articulating selfie. Yeah, yeah. That's on me that's articulating screen was designed for actually the articulating screen is amazing when you're on the ground like she mentioned, you meet, bring this screen up and if you have touchscreen focus, you don't have to do anything. You can just zoom in, you can make sure it's focused over the air you want. It's a really handy dandy tool.

Alright, so that's it for our 15 tips when it comes to Focusing, ready to head on. I am so ready. We'll see you guys on the next one.

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