How to Select Autofocus Points


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Using autofocus on your camera is a no-brainer. It's what most of us do, unless we're in a very specific type of situation where we need to focus in on something in particular. And even then, we tend to lean toward autofocus because of its exacting measurements. Believe it or not, when a camera focuses on something, it's doing a better job of distinguishing the contrast in pixels than we'll ever be able to. So it's worth it to learn how to use autofocus to the best of our ability, which is what I hope to convey here.

In today's post, I'll walk through a common scenario of first using camera chosen autofocus points and then using manually chosen autofocus points. Using the camera chosen points is super easy. Using the manually chosen ones is just as easy, but will require an extra step or two.

Using Camera Selected Autofocus

1. Choose Your Mode: For this exercise, I'll choose Program mode with work within. I'll actually be writing an entire post on what exactly Program mode is in the future, but for now, just set your camera to P if that's what you have or the Program mode equivalent.

2. Compose Your Image: At this point, go ahead and set your camera up. a tripod is preferred so you can use both hands. In the field and after you know what to do, you can skip the tripod, but for now, use one. Point your camera toward a multi-object scene where the objects are of varying distances. Then, push your camera's shutter button down half way to focus.

3. Notice Your Focus Point: As you're looking through your camera's viewfinder, notice which boxes are either illuminated or are larger than the others. These boxes will be what your camera has chosen to focus on. Typically, your camera will focus on the foremost object, but not always. What your camera has focused on may or may not be what you would like it to focus on.

4. Take Your Photo: Go ahead and push the shutter button all the way down to capture your image.

Using Manually Selected Autofocus

1. Follow Previous Steps: To use the manual mode of autofocus in your camera, please follow the previous three steps. Basically, you want to set up your shot, focus, and then notice your focus point.

2. Move Your Focus Point: After focusing on your scene, you can choose to override the camera's chosen focus point and choose your own. Camera's vary with how to do this, so I'll explain how I do it on my Canon T7i. After I focus on my scene, I'll press the small button that's situated in the upper right hand corner of the rear of my camera. It's the one with the small magnifying glass with the + symbol inside of it. When I press that button and continue to look through the viewfinder, I'll notice a whole bunch of red boxes appear in the glass. Those are the optional focus points. If I roll the dial that's on the top of the camera back and forth or use the four arrow keys on the back of the camera, I can choose my own red box location, essentially telling the camera which part of the scene I'd like it to focus on.

Another option is to press the Q button on the rear of the camera while in viewfinder mode and then touch the Manual Select: Zone AF button. When I do that, I can use the four arrow buttons on the rear of the camera to change the AF zone manually. Either options is good, but the first is faster.

3. Take Your Shot: Once the focus is set, go ahead and press the shutter button down all the way. On my T7i, after the photo has been taken, the red focus point boxes will remain as I review the photos. Those boxes won't appear in the downloaded images. Where those boxes reside, the objects in the image should be sharper than everywhere else.

As you can see, letting your camera choose your autofocus point is easy. And almost just as easy is choosing your own autofocus point. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Also, if you have anything to add, please do so below.