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15 Tips For When You’re Having Trouble Focusing Your Camera

Having camera focusing troubles? Most of the time we are too “in the zone” or in a haste to figure out exactly how to solve camera focusing issues on the spot. Don’t panic, we’ve got 15 possible trouble shooting ideas for when you’re having focusing problems with your camera and lenses.

1. Have you Switched back to Auto Focus?

The most obvious, and often overlooked tip is switching back from manual to autofocus. The small switch on your lens let’s you toggle between the two but often it’s easy to forget to switch back to autofocus.

On some Nikon cameras, however, there might be an AF / MF switch on both your lens AND your camera body!

2. Customize Advanced Focusing Options

Check the advanced focusing options by going into your custom settings and assigning roles for certain buttons. Most DSLR’s allow you to change so you can kind-of customize to whatever your preferences may be.

camera-focusing

3. Minimum focusing distance

Be cautious of how close you are to your subject. All lenses dictate a specific ‘minimum focusing distance’ that tells you exactly how close in proximity you can be to your subject. You will find that this issue will occur when you are too close, prompting you to take a couple of steps back and re-focus.

4. Check Your Viewfinder Diopter

Check your viewfinder diopter when you are having trouble seeing clearly through your viewfinder. It is common to suspect that your lens has focus issues when dealing with this problem, however, the diopter is usually the culprit. Fine-tune the dial to represent a clear image in your viewfinder. If you’ve got a problem with your eyes, maybe you’re near or far sighted, this may cause you to alter the viewfinder diopter.

5. Utilize Center Focus Point

When shooting in low light, your camera will have a hard time focusing, so your best bet is to select your center focus point as your tool. It’s the most accurate and strongest option amongst the cross-type AF points.

6. Focus Assist Light

Another tip for low light photography is to utilize your focus assist light. It gives the camera aid in low-light situations to gauge where exactly to aim focus. Some higher-end camera models don’t actually have this feature so keep that in mind when shopping around or when using your camera.

wedding-photography

7.Look For Areas of High Contrast

Whether you are shooting low light or not, looking for areas with high contrast will help you gain accurate focus. Cameras have the ability to track focus for higher contrasted areas in an image.

8. Avoid Using AI Servo Mode

Avoid using Servo modes in low light due to high levels of inaccuracy and unreliability. In Servo modes we are allowing the camera to track focus and when paired with low-light situations, there will be fewer areas of high contrast making it difficult to lock focus. Find your point of focus instead of letting the camera determine that point of focus for you.

how-to-use-manual-focus

9.Block Out Flare-Throughs

Although flares provide a great artistic element, they provide certain struggles for your camera to gauge. In addition to reducing contrast, your camera is constantly battling between focusing between the darkest and brightest points of the image. Try using a hand to block out the light or a lens hood, and lock your focus.

shallow-depth-of-field

10. Lock In Your Focus

Lock in your focus whenever possible. Although this may not be the most viable option for active shoots, in still situations it will give you the best ability to gain accurate focus. If you’ve got our camera on a tripod and know exactly where the focus is going to be, and your subject remains still, you might as well lock your focus to take away the risk of missing aim with autofocus. If you don’t prefer to manually toggle the focus options, you designate one of your buttons to trigger the ‘autofocus lock’.

11. Pre-focus with your shutter button

Pre-focus by holding the shutter half way down to lock focus and then fire away. This is option available for customization like we mentioned in Tip 2. Remember that when you let go of the shutter completely, and then you press it back down, it refocuses.

12. Focus Peaking

This is generally a new feature, most commonly found in Sony cameras. In live view, in real time, it shows you exactly which item is in focus. It essentially works as a moving highlight alert, tracking the focal plane you’re on.

focusing-issues-for-canon

13.When Subjects are on a Similar Plane – Switch to MF

Switch to manual focus when your subjects are on a similar plane, especially when you choose to shoot at a shallow depth of field. This helps maintain accuracy in a situation where your AF will likely be indecisive as to which area to focus on. Again, for most action driven scenes this won’t be your best bet, but for still posing scenarios it’s a quick solution your camera’s indecisiveness.

14.Use Live View when using MF

We’ve given you certain situations when manual focus will yield better results, however, it’s pertinent to understand that you should be using live-view in conjunction with manual focusing to achieve an accurate reading focus. Zoom in on your subject’s to lock your critical focus point.

15. Touch Screen Focus Points

Newer camera models have the option to use touch screen focusing when using live view. This feature can only be used in conjunction with AF mode. Similar to how we lock focus on our mobile devices, you simply select a point of focus on the LCD screen and the camera locks focus for this point.

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Comments [2]

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  1. Will Condon

    I noticed that you’ve made reference to “the beep” but didn’t elaborate on it at all (or place it in your top 15 tips)  I assume your speaking of the camera beep when focus has been achieved…….is this something that you use/trust/recommend? Thanks so much for all the help as always! Great article! 

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  2. Paul Wynn

    Beautiful images and sound advice, thank you. I do find that autofocus can easily get knocked to manual when changing lenses, happens alot to me with the 70-200mm.
    Using the Auto Focus only mode on a speedlight is a fantastic assist to help the camera focus, I use this technique alot with LED lighting.

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