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Your camera has an Autofocus feature, and for most of your shots it will provide faster, more accurate focus than you'll ever achieve using manual focus. However, Autofocus is not completely foolproof. You still have to use it properly to get good results, and you can learn everything you need to know about how to get good results with Autofocus in my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course. Using an autofocus camera like the D800 is very simple, but you do have to use Autofocus correctly, and the correct way to use Autofocus is that I frame my shot and than I press the Shutter button down halfway.
As I start to press it down, there is a little point where it wants to stop. That's the halfway point. It hasn't taken a picture yet, but there's a definable solid spot in there. When I get to the halfway point, the camera auto focuses. You might here the lens whirring around as it look for focus. And once it's got focus, it shows this dot on the left-hand side of my viewfinder. When it does that, that's indicating that it has found focus, it's locked it in, and now I can press the shutter button the rest of the way, and it takes a picture. A lot of times I'll have students come in and complain that, well, their camera is too slow.
I press the Shutter button down and I miss the shot because it takes it a while before it takes the picture. Well, that's very often because they're simply pressing the button down the whole way. I'm going to throw this out of focus. And if I just mash it down the whole way, there was a delay there before it took the picture, because it had to focus, it had to meter, it had to calculate white balance, and it had to do all these things. So by prefocusing--by going to this halfway point--the camera has a moment to kind of pull itself together. So once it's shown me that lock, and once it knows that it's ready to go, when I press the button the rest of the way, the picture is taken pretty much instantly.
Now, just to the left and right of that focus light in the viewfinder, you might see some little arrows flashing. These arrows are simply indicating which direction the camera thinks it's out of focus in. So as it's focusing inward, it might show one arrow; as it's focusing outward, it might show another. And these will flash on and off very quickly. If the camera cannot achieve focus, then it will blink both arrows at you, and that's an indication that it simply couldn't lock focus. There are a number of different reasons why that might happen, and we're going to look at those in another move and show you some strategies for working around them.
This just has to be a reflexive thing that you do when you're shooting. You never mash the button down all the way. You're always half-pressing the button to go through that pre-focusing step, and that's something that if you're not used to, you may need to practice. If you're coming from an all-manual camera, it's a different way of working, but this really has to become second nature for you to be able to use autofocus effectively.
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