As a part of XDrive’s Photography Learning sessions every week we are learning about a new aspect of photography here. This week I have decided that we will talk about focusing. But then you might ask, why focusing topic again? We already had sessions on sharpness and then close-up topics, didn’t we cover focusing here? Yes, we covered, but I felt its a good idea to spend one more week on this subject. Focusing is the most important aspect of photography, one has to be very clear to know which focus mode to use and the techniques to be followed without any doubts. Based on interactions with all participants so far in my earlier sessions, I felt its better to spend little bit more time on focusing.
So we are going to check on what makes a correctly focused shot and how to achieve it. Also, we will discuss why our focusing fails?
First of all, I am not going to draw complex lens diagrams and formulas here. But look at the following images.
You should be able to see a visual band where things look sharp and rest of the regions blurred. This band is called depth of field. Everything within this region remains acceptably sharp. Yes, I said acceptably sharp. Check the below sets and the corresponding captions.
This DOF is altered by changing your aperture value. A Wider aperture will present a shorter or shallow DOF which we use it for portraits and close-ups whereas a longer DOF we use it for landscapes and other shootings where we want almost everything to be sharp, by setting the narrower aperture.
Even though I said, within the DOF things are sharp, in strict terms, it’s not true, things are razor sharp only where you have focused, and the sharpness gradually reduces. So our focus point is of greater importance as for as the final output is concerned. If you check two pictures below, you can see whole story changes just by altering the focus point.
So, the big question is, where are we supposed to focus? Well, there are no hard and fast rules, but it all depends on your story. But remember, where your picture is sharpest, user’s eyes go there first. If that area does not have anything interesting, then your image is not of much interest. Our eyes automatically trace the sharp areas of a picture first.
One of the critical components in focusing is to understand is about “focus plane.” Focus plane is the imaginary plane in front of your camera where things are sharpest based on the focus you have done.
For correctly designed lenses this focus plane would be a straight line (left e.g.), whereas cheaper lenses might have curved focus planes(right e.g.). Wide angle lenses exhibit more curves whereas the telephoto lens might show straighter focus plane. Macro lenses generally have straighter focus plane. So it’s very essential to understand that you position the camera parallel to the subject. This is very important whenever you are shooting with shallow DOF. Assume that you have chosen f 2.8 and shooting bunch of people standing in line, make sure the people’s line is parallel to the lens(sensor), if not someone will be out of focus.
Many times we use a technique called “focus lock(spot focus), where you focus first and then recompile and shoot the picture, this may not result in sharpest focus specifically when you are dealing shallow DOF and situations where you are shooting the macro. Macro situations always will have very shallow DOF even if you are using narrow apertures. Curved focus planes are the primary cause of corner softness in most of the cheaper lenses.
Always take advantage of the focus plane, make sure your subject is in line with your focus plane.
If your photography needs sharpest focusing then better to go for a manual focus. With manual focus, your composition remains intact as it is not necessary to focus & recompose. But on the other hand, when dealing with insects or other fast moving sport action shots, you still might have to use the auto-focus. Choose continuous focus modes in these situations as the camera will keep focusing as the subject moves. But you have to make sure your subject is in focus area defined by your camera focus modes. I generally use centre focus and don’t rely on those fancy focus modes. But by shooting on centre focus, I have to sacrifice your composition as most of the times you are focusing at the centre. But then I do the crop as per the need to bring back my composition.
Check the above two images. I put the camera on the flat surface to shoot, with the shutter speed of 1/2 sec, it was at the seashore and there were lot of sea breeze, this resulted in tiny camera to micro vibrate. Check the crop on the right you will be able to see the camera shake. So be aware of this problem especially doing slower shutter speed shots.
Hope this section was able to focus on focus. Make sure to check out my earlier sessions here. Have a question? Post it below.
- Post atleast one or two pictures, keeping today’s topic of “Focus” in mind. Apply all the things we learnt in the previous sessions. (New or old photos accepted!)
- Let me know type of camera(mobile, DSLR, point and shoot)
- Try to put EXIF data (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) so that I can comment better unless you shot the picture on the mobile phone.
- Add a tag ‘XDrivePhoto’
- Add a ping back to this post. (Basically, copy the URL of this post, and paste to your post. (Anywhere)
- Title the post as “XDrive Photo Lesson – 9 – Focus”
Your ping-backs may not appear immediately as I have to enable them later. I will check your post, and I will comment on your post itself. I will post selected contribution links to this post later so that others can also see and learn from them. (Please note there is no time limit for your contributions, you can post them anytime, I will respond to them as you contribute. You can also make more than one contributions to the same topic)
Although these lessons are geared towards newbies, expert photographers also welcomed heartily. I need to learn too! There are no teachers here everyone is learning.
Cheers and Happy clicking!