How to use the autofocus feature on your camera

I have a really good camera and it takes great pictures.

Making great images is another thing entirely. There are rules.

One of the most important rules is that you have to know how to use the autofocus. Otherwise that delete the photo button will be your new best friend when you edit your images.

So let’s get out our manual (the most important piece of camera equipment we own), and turn to focusing. I’ll give you the rules, but every camera is different, so look up the section on how to focus using your camera. Otherwise, your camera that takes excellent images…yes…even that one …may focus on the wrong thing when you shoot.

Start by being careful to aim the focusing frame (the small bracket or rectangle in the center of the viewfinder) at your main subject. Once you have it on the subjects, press the shutter release button HALF WAY down. This will tell the camera what you are focusing on. Most cameras have a green light at the bottom of the viewfinder frame, or emit a beep (check your manual) to tell you the camera is focused. Wait for that signal before pressing the shutter all the way down to complete the exposure.

So far so good. That’s the easy one, two, three of how to focus.

Here’s the problem. The focusing frame is in the center of the viewfinder, so if you aren’t careful to be sure the frame is on your subject, the camera may focus somewhere else.

As always, it is easier to understand the concept with pictures.

(above) I wanted to capture an image of this horse’s head, but my focusing frame was pointed at the horse trailer behind the horse.

(above) Now I’m paying attention, and I make sure the focusing frame is on the horse. I push the button half-way down, wait for the beep that tells me it is properly focused, and expose the image.

Remember that every lens has a minimum focusing distance so it won’t focus if you are too close to your subject. To keep from being too close, you need to carry a small tape measure in your pocket that you can whip out to measure the distance from your subject. Attach one end of the tape to the subject, and walk backwards focusing on that subject until it is in sharp focus. Voila! Now you know the minimum focusing distance for that lens!

Or…pull out your trusty manual and look up the minimum focusing distance for your lens. SLR lenses will have this distance printed on the barrel of the lens.

Now that’s easy!

Good shooting!