In this guide we will look at methods to improve your use of focus. You may have noticed some of your pictures look blurred or out of focus when you review them. Normally, you will want your pictures to be “in focus”, that is to have sharp, crisp edges and lots of detail.
There are two main causes of blurred pictures that we will look at. The first is when your camera does not focus correctly, or focuses on the wrong subject.
Each time you half press the shutter button, one or more red squares appear through the viewfinder and the lens might rotate slightly, this is your lens focussing.
You can see in this picture the camera has chosen to focus on the object in front of the intended subject resulting in the faces being out of focus. Controlling the AF point could have prevented this happening.
The red square (or “AF points”) indicate the areas in your picture that your camera has chosen to focus on. It is possible that the areas outside these red squares will be out of focus (due to Depth of Field see What is Depth of Field) so it is important the camera focuses on the right subject – the one that you choose. In all of the Basic Zone modes (Green Square, Scene Modes, Creative Auto) that were mentioned briefly in Guide 2 (Getting to know your camera) the camera makes the decision what to focus on. This may be a different subject to the one you intended. This will result in your picture not being focussed correctly on your chosen subject.
To avoid the camera focussing on the wrong subject - turn the mode dial to one of the “Creative Shooting Modes”. If you are unfamiliar with these settings start with “P” (Program). Using this mode the camera is still doing most of the work but you have a little more control over its settings.
There is one more thing that you should do before we can proceed, set your ISO to Auto. To do this press the ISO button on the top of your camera and use the top dial until you have selected “Auto”. Great, now your camera is set up and you are ready to learn a little more about focussing your camera.
When you look through the viewfinder at your subject and half press the shutter button, you will see the red AF square in the centre. You can now change its position and use it to focus the camera. Press the AF point selection button (1) and use the Cross keys (2) to move the red square around the viewfinder. Select the position closest to your subject, half press the shutter to focus and fully press the shutter to take the picture. (see Ways to focus)
In auto mode the camera would have focussed on the foreground trees. Taking control of the AF allowed the photographer to focus on the building. (see Focus modes)
As discussed in Guide 1 – Composition – you can add interest to your pictures by moving the subject away from the centre of the picture. Using this focus method you can instruct the camera to focus a point towards the edge of your picture, great for interesting compositions.
One final point, your camera needs light to focus. If your camera is struggling to focus on your subject, move into some light to allow the camera to see your subject better and use the centre point to focus. We will be covering issues with low light photography in a later guide.
Using the centre point AF allowed the camera to focus on the people, despite the low light.
Blurred pictures may also occur when the subject (or the photographer) moves suddenly whilst taking a picture. In Auto mode the camera sets a suitable shutter speed based on the conditions and shooting subject. If the shutter speed isn’t fast enough and the subject or camera moves, the camera will capture the movement resulting in a blurred streaking effect in the picture. (see What is Shutter speed?)
In the shot above the camera has captured movement blur due to using a too slow shutter speed.
This shot used a very high shutter speed of over 1/1000 of a second to freeze the stones mid-air.
You can see this for yourself. Set “P”, on the Shooting Mode dial and half press the shutter. Rotate the main dial and check the display in the viewfinder. The left hand number is your shutter speed, set it to around 10. You have just set shutter speed of 1/10 second. This sounds fast but in camera terms it’s actually quite slow. Now take a photo whilst moving the camera. Set a faster/slower shutter speed, try again and see the difference this makes.
Hopefully you have seen that just a little knowledge about how your camera operates can be a huge benefit to the pictures you take. A good idea is to try out these techniques on dedicated photo outings and switch back to safer modes of operation for critical events until you are comfortable with taking control of your camera.
Depth of Field (DOF) refers to the distance between the nearest and furthest objects in a picture of acceptable sharpness. DOF is determined by the aperture used in taking the picture, the larger the aperture the shorter the DOF and greater the background blur.
“One shot” AF refers to normal operating mode, half press the shutter and the camera locks to the selected AF point. Selecting “AI Servo” AF continually refocuses as long as the shutter is half pressed. Useful for subjects that are moving. AI Focus switches between the other two modes, depending on whether the subject moves.
Refers to the time that your camera remains opens to collect enough light to take a picture. Speeds are stated as a figure of 1/ the number shown. So if your camera shows a shutter speed of 10 it is actually 1/10s. A shutter speed of 10 seconds is shown as 10”.
Don’t forget to share some of your best sharp and creative images with other EOS camera owners on the Facebook page. Try taking a shot where the main subject that is in focus is not in the centre. Then upload with #MyNewCanon #CanonFocus, and check back later to see what people are saying.