Kamloops professional photography tips by Kelly Funk: Lesson 3-focus (part 1)

There are so many variables and different techniques when it comes to focus, so writing an instructional article on the topic roughly equates to teaching someone how to drive.   Huh? you say.  Well, for example the type of subject matter we’re shooting may have a few alternatives in itself.  Multiply that by unlimited subject matter and what we’re left with can be confusing at best..

In this segment of focus, I’ll be talking about the static subject and what the best way to approach this scenario is.  Most people love working with flowers so let’s start here.  Let’s assume that you’ve set up your tripod  (because if you’re shooting flowers without one, shame on you!) 😮  Now, you’ve composed the shot the way you want, have a proper aperture and shutter speed (look to my first lessons) but you find focusing a pain because when you depress the shutter half way down all the cursors on the focusing screen are blinking red and the camera is beeping at you, but you just don’t know what’s being focused on.  Now, you can’t fool me on this one because half my students start with this problem, so I know this is happening to at least some of you!!  With static subjects, my first recommendation is to go into your camera’s manual and find out how to go to ‘single point focusing’.  Your camera, depending on the model will have several points when you look through the viewfinder.  These are movable and are priceless when it comes to static subjects.  Here is an example of what you see through your viewfinder:

So, instead of depressing the shutter half-way to focus on the nearest flower, holding it, and then moving the camera to compose again before firing, use the points to start.  Now, after you’ve composed, move your focus cursor to exactly where you want the focus to be and fire when ready.  I use this method in almost every scenario I face, no matter if I’m shooting static or fast action.

Now, for landscapes the same technique can apply.  A question I get a lot is where do I focus when I want everything sharp.  Looking back to lesson 1 on aperture, first we need a large numbered aperture, let’s say 14.  When we get our exposure and composition right we need to focus on something approx. 1/3 of the way into the shot.

Referring to the image on the right I would want to set my focus point for somewhere close to the photographer’s knees (this is me actually, using my second cam body and a tripod on timer)  By focusing 1/3 of way in and using a large numbered aperture, I know everything will be in focus! 

In the next installment I’ll talk about other focusing scenarios and how to approach them.  In the meantime get used to moving your focusing cursor and I think you’ll be excited to give this a go…

Have a good one,

Kelly

For more examples of my work go here  If you have any questions regarding this lesson send an email, I’ll be happy to respond.

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~ by Kelly Funk Photography on April 26, 2011.

2 Responses to “Kamloops professional photography tips by Kelly Funk: Lesson 3-focus (part 1)”

  1. […] I keep getting asked how I get my images to look as ”crisp” and “sharp” as they appear to be. First, I point them to my workshops page and ask them to consider professional instruction. After all, that is exactly how I started several years back. Then, I let them know that proper focus is the most critical element of crisp, sharp imagery. I know, duh right. But, without proper focus right at image capture, your image is dead in the water. Period. So start by having a good read of your camera manual and get to know its capabilities with respect to focus (focus points, auto vs manual modes, etc). My good friend and Discover BC Photo Tours co-founder Kelly Funk has done a great two-part tutorial on the topic of focus, so I will simply recommend you have a look here. […]

  2. Thanks for the article Kelly. Could you go into a more detail about cross type focus points vs regular, and how focus points detect patterns? Also could you please discuss why choosing the highest aperture does not give you the sharpest image.

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