Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Focus Factor

There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you have a fantastic picture, only to realize that the focus was all wrong!  But a good clean image that is sharp and crisp has a Wow factor about it.

There are several things that cause images to be out of focus.  In my learning and experimentation, I've developed a list of the clarity offenders.

  • Motion blur - probably the most obvious.  If your subject isn't still when the shutter fires, blur is almost inevitable.  Those shooting with camera in Manual mode will have to deal with this and compensate.

  • Bad focal point - Basically, your camera has points in which it centers focus.  Often these can be seen through your view finder.  If you're allowing your camera to pick the focal point then you may find that it focuses on something other than what you were shooting.  If your child is peeking from behind a tree, you may find that you have more clarity on the tree bark than your baby's eyes.  That's because the tree is closer, and your camera focuses on the closest point.

  • Camera Shake - If you don't hold that camera still when it fires, you'll have poor focus.
And there are definite ways to combat these.  Simple really. 
Motion Blur - If you're shooting in Manual mode (which I love) then speed up your shutter speed and raise your aperture.  A quicker shutter speed with a smaller aperture will freeze motion much better.  Is that greek!?  If you shoot manual, you know what I mean.  For those who are not, I encourage you to dig into your camera.  You spent some hard earned cash so that thing could preserve your family memories.  Learning how to use it at it's fullest potential is a FANTASTIC idea.  But until then - if your subject is moving, BE CAREFUL that you're not moving with it.  Bad bad outcome most of the time. 

Bad Focal Point - As mentioned before, your camera won't always pick the best focal point for you.  I love setting my focal points.  Generally, I set a side focal point, and then toggle between that and the center spot.  The wonderful thing about these is that when I half press my shutter I can see the highlighted focal point.  I just make sure that point is directly on the iris of my subjects eye.  (As much as possible).  My focussing woes were destroyed when I learned this.  With this, I can make sure that the clearest spot in my image is exactly what I'm trying to capture.
Camera Shake - you could always use a tripod, but let's face it, that's not always practical.  I can't imagine running behind a busy four year old with a tripod and my camera! 

Here are some great tips for sharp focus images -

  1. Use two hands - don't be lazy.  Both hands sturdy on the camera.

  2. Hold your breath - a quick inhale - hold while you fire - and then exhale.  Trust me, it makes a huge difference.

  3. Hip out - That's right, cock that hip to the side.  You actually have better balance when you place the majority of your weight on one foot and use the other to balance.  Strange but true.

  4. Keep those elbows in - tighten up your elbows to your sides and you'll immediately feel how much more in control you are.

  5. Shoot fast - make sure your shutter speed setting is faster than your lens length.  For example, I use an 85mm lens so I try to keep my shutter speed at 1/100 or higher.

  6. Smaller Aperture - That would be a higher f stop.

  7. Choose your focal point and center the eye of your subject over it.
If that doesn't work, understand that better equipment makes for better pictures.  It's true.  There's a reason why professional photographers are important, and that's because they invest thousands of dollars into equipment that guaruntees the highest quality images. 

So pop that hip out, hold your breath, and fire.  You'll immediately see an improvement on your focus.

No comments:

Blog Designed by Rita of CoffeeShop