3 Tips for Nailing Focus During Your Photoshoots

Focusing is one of the most crucial elements of a photoshoot as it can either make or break your shots. When shooting, you need to think about camera shake or fast-moving objects, and then if you’re shooting film it becomes even more tricky. With these 3 tips for nailing focus during your photoshoots, you can produce images with great sharpness.

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Lack of image sharpness can be frustrating, especially when you can’t redo the moment. From understanding your camera’s focus, changing the settings, and using accessories, these tips can help you manage the focus during photoshoots and create perfectly sharp pictures.

Understand Your Camera’s Focusing Modes 

As the saying goes, “A man is only as good as his tools.” In photography, how well you know your camera affects how you manage the focus and ensure your images are sharp and clear.

While most cameras now come with an autofocus system, this feature doesn’t work well all the time. Hence, it’s essential that you understand the various focusing modes to ensure you pick the right one during a photoshoot.

  • Single point autofocus: Use single-point AF to gain full control over what portion of the frame is in focus. The camera will try to get as much of the picture in focus as possible, making it an ideal focus option when the subject is off-center. I use single point autofocus then turn to manual focus for little tweaks with my Contax 645 film camera.
  • Manual focus: You can use the live view mode for stationary subjects and pre-focusing for moving subjects. This also allows you to zoom in on details before taking the shot. 
  • Continuous focus: When stressed about family photos because children constantly run, the continuous focus can help you keep up with such fast-moving subjects. 
  • Back button focus: This enables you to handle focus and shoot at the same time. In effect, you can track focus on subjects even as they move away from you. While this can take a bit of time to get used to, using the back button focus can be a game changer. This is the method I use on my digital and 35mm film cameras.
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Watch the Exposure Triangle

While you may want to add some motion blur as a creative effect, most of your shots need to have excellent sharpness. Setting the right aperture, shutter speed, and ISO can also influence focus. 

  • Increase shutter speed to eliminate blur (that can also look like an out of focus image). 
  • The slowest shutter speed is equal to or greater than the focal length. For instance, use a shutter speed of at least 1/100 if you’re shooting with a 100mm lens. 
  • You have to decrease shutter speed when choosing smaller apertures, prompting the possibility of camera shake.
  • My favorite aperture to shoot at inside and get really good focus, even with my Contax, is f4. 
  • Consider increasing the ISO to get well-exposed photos (and if you’re shooting film remember you’d have to pushe the whole roll of film if you plan on using a higher ISO).

Work on Physical Stability

The employment of photographers is growing by 4.49%, which means you have more people to compete with in terms of producing sharp, quality images.

Even when you know how to work on the different shooting methods and camera settings, you can still end up with blurry photos because you are causing camera shake. Try these tips to improve your physical stability and focus during photoshoots. 

  • Placing the camera on a tripod is one of the best ways to avoid camera shake. Make sure to use a sturdy tripod or add weights to prevent it from moving. 
  • Focus on your grip. If you need to shoot handheld, use both of your hands to keep the camera steady. 
  • Widen your stance to gain better balance and control. You can also keep your elbows tucked in to bring the camera closer to the body.
  • If you don’t have a tripod, support your body using a wall or a stationary subject (and hold your breath!)
  • Avoid extending the tripod’s neck if you’re shooting in a windy condition.
  • Set the timer for long exposures. 
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Getting the right focus depends on a number of interacting factors. Start by combining your knowledge of camera settings and focusing modes. You can also work on improving physical stability so that you can nail the focus in every kind of photoshoot!

-Words by Jen Landry, Guest Blogger.



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