Lens Focusing Exercises

EmeraldHike

Active Member
  • #1
There's a lot to know about focusing in regards to photography. There's what to focus on, how to best use your manual and autofocus features, and how to select your focus points on your specific camera. Each of these things takes understanding and practice. While it's easy enough to read something in a book or on the internet and think you've got a grasp of it, it's another thing entirely to head out into the field to put it into practice. That's what this post is about - getting you out into the field with specific goals in mind.

I've got three photography exercises for you today. I suppose you can call them challenges. For each of these, I want you to pick up your camera and favorite lens and start snapping away at things. Each of the challenges below will ask something different of you. Each requires a different type of focus because of a different style of photography. I'll list each exercise below with a sample image to give you an idea of what I'm looking for.

Portraits - People, Animals, & Things

When taking photos of people and animals, you'll rarely keep your subject dead center of your frame. That would look far too much like a yearbook photo. I suppose centered shots are customary in some instances, such as wedding photos and the like, but for stylish modern photography, it's becoming popular to set your subject off to one side and capture the image of him, her, or it. Take a look at the dog in the picture below.

cute-dog.jpg

What do you notice about this photo? To me, I can see that the dog is in focus while the rest of the scene isn't. To do this, the photographer set an appropriate aperture and then set the correct focus. It would have been detrimental to the shot to set a small aperture and stand farther away from the subject so much more of the scene was sharp. In instances like these, you want to isolate your subject. Notice how the dog is in focus, but the foreground and background aren't? The way we as humans look at things is that we tend to ignore what's blurry and really give our attention to what sharp.

There are three goals for this challenge. First, pick a subject and set it off to one side. That's the artistic and creative part. The thing is, while that subject is off to the side, you'll need to set your autofocus focus points to target the subject as opposed to targeting the center of the frame. That's going to require some skill. The third part of the challenge is to set your aperture properly as to add some blur to the foreground and the background of your scene.

If you need any help with these things, please let me know down below and I'd be happy to offer the information you need.

Real Estate, Forests, & Landscapes

What do these three things have in common? Well, when photographing any of them, you'll want to capture cool angles and keep as much in focus as possible. Take a look at the next sample photo.

decorated-room.jpg

When photographing real estate, the last thing you want to do is lose detail to a large aperture and a shallow depth of field. People want to see as much as they can, so what you focus on and how much of the scene is sharp is critically important. For times like this, it's best to use a tripod and manual focus. If your camera is equipped with a focus zoom, go ahead and use it. Be sure to maintain a good distance away (to deepen your depth of field), use a wide angle lens, and focus on something about one third of the scene away from you. When focusing, use your rear LCD screen to make sure your focus point is as clear as can be. Again, your goal is to capture as much as possible to inform the viewer. Angles are cool too though, so don't skimp on that.

Sports & Action

This is by far the most difficult challenge of the bunch. Before I even say anything, I want you to take a look at the last photo I have for you.

runner.jpg

How in the world do you focus on a subject that's moving towards you? Typically, we can set the focus on an object and take our time to capture that object. When someone or something is moving though forward and backward, we need to take a different approach.

If you have a subject that's either moving toward or away from you, you'll need to set your camera's autofocus to continuous. You'll also need to set your point selection to automatic. Basically, you're letting your camera do all the work for you. The challenge here is to find a situation where you'll be able to test out your camera's skills. It's also to have you figure out your camera's settings. These are very straightforward, but if you need some help, again, don't hesitate to ask down below.

If you master the autofocus challenge, feel free to move on to manual focus. This will really test you. It'll help you predict where your subject will be and it'll give you an opportunity to focus track, which can be a lot of fun. If you can't find a foot race or a sports game, find a nice spot on a sidewalk and practice on cars that are driving towards and away from you. There's no shortage of subjects you can use.

By the way, a quick tip is to keep a medium sized aperture here, such as F/8 to keep your depth of field away from the shallow side. Hopefully you'll be far enough away from your subject to maintain a deep depth of field, but you'll need to keep an eye on that. You'll never get a crisp shot of something that's moving if your depth of field is too shallow.

When finished with these challenges, please post your images down below so we can all take a look at them and give you the praise you deserve.
 
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