Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Focus Your Camera Part One

I talked yesterday about focusing on your subject's eyes when photographing people, so today I want to make sure everyone knows how to dictate where your camera/lens focuses.  (I'll be describing how the Nikon D40 works, but what I say will apply to all current Nikon cameras using the same terms and options.  Other camera brands will undoubtedly have the same features, but possibly with different names.)

Camera Set Up
The first step is making sure your camera is set up correctly to allow you to control the focus.  Here are the steps needed to accomplish this on the D40:

  1. Your camera will make all the focusing decisions in AUTO mode, so first put your camera in program mode by winding the dial on top to "P".
  2. Change the "AF-area mode" to "Single area." Do this by pushing the "MENU" button on the back, navigate to the "Custom Settings Menu" (the pencil), then select "03 AF-area mode," and make sure "Single area" is highlighted.
  3. Start with the "Focus mode" in "Single-servo AF."  Follow the steps above, but select "02 Focus Mode," and choose "Single-servo AF."
Once you have set your camera to these settings, it will focus on one of the three sets of brackets that you see when you peer through the view finder.  As you look through the view finder, you can select which set of brackets is active using the directional pad that encircles the OK button on the back of your camera.  When you push the directional pad, one of the brackets will momentarily light up in red to indicate you have selected that one.
Controlling the Focus
When composing your picture, line up the selected brackets with what you want in focus.  If you want to be able to change the composition (which might take your object of focus out of the brackets,) but still stay focused on the same point, just push your shutter release button half way down and hold it there - this will lock the focus.  Then recompose and push the shutter release the rest of the way down to capture the image.
This may sound complicated, but you will get the hang of it quickly.  Once you understand this, you will probably leave your camera set this way 90% of the time (we'll talk soon about the other 10%), so don't worry about remembering all the menu options.  Just set it and be done with it.  If you have any trouble, or if your camera doesn't have the same menu options contact me or leave a comment.

Read How to Focus Your Camera Part Two next