An essential element that you need to remember when taking a photo is where it is in focus. A photo can be exposed well, but if it is not in focus you might miss the subject of your image. In this movie, author Levi Sim discusses the importance of checking to see if you have critical focus when taking a simple portrait.
- [Instructor] Using shallow depth of field to help direct your viewer's eye to the most important things in the photograph is really fun, but if it's off, if your focus is in the wrong place, it looks terrible. If I focus on Christie, but her shoulder is in focus and not her eyes or if her ear is in focus and not her eyes, that just ruins the whole picture. So, lemme show you how we can control the focus in our camera to make sure that the most important things are in focus. This is the kind of default setting for focus on most cameras.
If you press your shutter button to focus, it'll kind of focus on something and maybe it's the right subject and maybe you'll see several little areas of focus points lighting up. That's not good enough. We need to be able to control the focus and tell it exactly what to focus on. So you need to switch to one single area focus. On my camera, it's called one area. And yours is probably something similar to that. You'll need to look at your manual to find out exactly how to change it for your camera.
Or find another lesson in the library about your camera and it'll show you how to change the focus modes. So, this is called the auto focus mode. The other important auto focus feature on your camera that you need to use is called AFS. And that means Auto Focus Single. Or, if you're using a Canon camera, it's probably One Shot. That means that when you press the focus button down it'll hold the focus wherever you put it and if you move the camera it won't change focus.
So, I could focus on Christie's eye right now, and then if I move the camera, it's actually still focused on her eye as long as I hold the shutter button halfway down. So, that's AFS or One Shot. And that's going to allow me to use the focus points in my camera to focus on Christie or my subject, and then recompose so that the picture looks good. The focus points don't always fall on the part of the picture that you need to be in focus when your composition looks good.
If you're using a DSLR, you'll also find that your center focus point is the most accurate. It's the brightest part of the lens. Your lens, the center of it has more light coming through it than the edges. It's also the most accurate focus point in your camera. Not all the focus points are created the same way. They focus using color and contrast. And so if there's a line with a difference in color, for instance, if I look at Christie, she's got dark eyelashes against her lighter skin, that's something my camera can probably focus on.
Or maybe if she smiles with a big toothy grin for a second, that makes it really easy for my camera to focus on as well. If I try to focus on Christie's tan skin in front of a tan wall and I put the focus point on her forehead it may not be able to focus. It'll hunt back and forth and just go in and out of focus several times. And that's so frustrating. Any time that's happening, I switch to the center focus point and it's both a more capable software tool and hardware tool in the camera, and it's the brightest part of the lens so I'll be able to get focus using that center focus point.
And then, because we're on AFS or One Shot, we can just hold the shutter button down and recompose the picture to how we want it to look and still get the right stuff in focus. Another thing to remember about your camera is that it doesn't focus on faces. It doesn't focus on trees or buses or rocks or children running around. It focuses at six feet and it focuses at 20 feet or it focuses at two feet away. It's all about distance.
So, anything that's two feet away when I focus two feet away, will be in focus. If there's another person standing next to Christie and their face is right next to hers, they may both be in focus. But if the other person's face is behind, it'll be out of focus, because it's a different distance away. So in the automatic mode on your camera, the standard that it came with, when we use the multi-area focus and it's showing us multiple green squares of focus, it's saying that those things are all in the same distance from the camera.
Not necessarily that it's focusing specifically on the right spot. That's why it's so important that we control that focus dot, the focus area that we're using, and put it in the right place. Which is almost always the eye closest to the camera. If Christie's right cheek is toward me, I wanna focus on her right eye. If her left cheek is facing closer to the camera we'll focus on her left eye. That's almost always the right idea. Having said that, my camera can focus on faces.
I don't mean to be totally contradictory, but I've got this face/eye detection in my camera. And yours may have it also. And as, Christie turn your head just a little bit this way and that way. It senses which eye is closest to the camera and automatically focuses there. And then when I press the shutter button, it locks the focus in that spot. This can be a great tool. And I use it all the time if I'm using my camera on a tripod and making a portrait. Because it'll automatically focus even as I redirect my subject and turn her face left and right.
It'll keep focus in the right place. Your camera may have this in it also, but it has limitations. You need to practice with it, so that you're aware of when it's gonna work really well. Right now, Christie's sitting on a white background there's no other faces in the picture. It's really easy for the camera to detect her face. If she is smaller in the frame, if she's farther away from me or if I'm using a wide angle lens, it becomes more difficult for the camera to find her face and it may not work.
So, while your camera may have the face detection, you need to practice with it. You need to know which person it's going to focus on if you've got multiple people in a picture, and you need to be able to use it when it's a good tool and know its limitations so that it doesn't hold you back. Auto focus makes it so easy to get a great expression, capture moments and instances that would be fleeting if I was trying to adjust focus manually. And I really love using it.
If you'll just learn how to use the AFS or one-shot and then control the focus area so it focuses exactly where you want it to you'll have a great time using auto focus and it'll help you direct your viewers attention to the right place when they're viewing your photographs.
- Finding a good spot to make a portrait
- Making great light for a portrait in practically any situation
- What camera settings to use for portraits
- What accessories make portraiture better
- How to talk to help people feel comfortable in a portrait