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Changing Your Focal Point
Manual Mode

What is a focal point?

Focal point in photography is the point your camera uses to make the sharpest part of your photo. When you look through your view finder you will see a red dot or red square. This is your focal point. You may see one or multiple focal points when looking through your view finder.

It is ideal to have one focal point which means you need to choose the correct focus mode.

What focus mode to use for Nikon?

Single Point AF (AF-S) [RECOMMENDED]

This setting allows you to place a single focal point anywhere in the frame you want in focus.

Continuous (AF-C)

This mode is best for moving subjects like sports and wildlife as the camera tries to predict where the subject will be when you push your shutter button. Plus if the shutter is pushed half way down the camera will continue focus and refocus on the subject as it moves. You must follow the subject with the focal point in order for this to work.

AF-A the camera switches between AF-S and AF-C depending on if it thinks your subject is moving or stationary.

Dynamic Area AF

This setting allows you to choose how many focal points you want – 9, 11, 21, 39 or 51 depending on which camera you have. You set the single focal point on a certain area of your frame and then other focal points add as a backup to get what you want in focus.

Auto Area AF

This setting allows the camera to decide what is in focus.

What focus mode to use for Canon?

One shot AF [RECOMMENDED]

This settings allows you to place a single focal point anywhere in the frame you want in focus

Al Servo

This mode is best for moving subjects like sports and wildlife as the camera tries to predict where the subject will be when you push your shutter button. Plus if the shutter is pushed half way down the camera will continue focus and refocus on the subject as it moves. You must follow the subject with the focal point in order for this to work.

Al Focus AF

The camera switches between Al Servo and One shot AF depending on if it thinks your subject is moving or stationary.

AF Point Expansion

This settings allows you to set the single focal point on a certain area of your frame and then other focal points add as a backup to get what you want in focus.

Automatic AF Point Selection

This setting allows the camera to decide what is in focus.

Where to put your focal point?

Being able to choose your focal point allows you to tell the camera where to focus. When shooting on Single Point AF (Nikon) and One Shot AF (Canon) you will move your focal point around to your subject.

When shooting people you want to make sure that your focal point is on your subject’s eye. We are naturally drawn to a person or animals eye when we look at an image so you need to make sure that is the sharpest part of the photo.

Read more: 7 Tips to Take Sharp Photo

It is extremely important to change your focal point in photography because this allows you to choose what is in focus and not your camera. You will need to go into your main menu to change the setting.

How To Videos:
Nikon d90

Nikon d3000

Canon Rebel

The key to changing your focal point is being able to put your “square” or “dot” on your subject’s eye. It is important that when taking a photo the eye is the sharpest part of the image. Remember when I talked about aperture and how depending on what it is set at, the focus slowly lessens as you move away from your focal point.

Read more: How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Download this FREE manual mode cheat sheet!

Remember – focal point on the eye!!
Here is an example of where the focus fell on something other than the eye. Notice how it takes away from the picture.

Focus fell on my shoulder/shirt:
ISO 100, f2.8, ss 1/200

When you are shooting more than one person, you should choose one of the subject’s eyes to focus on. Make sure your aperture is at a high enough number that both subjects are in focus. If your subjects aren’t close together you are going to need to bump up your aperture even more.

Read more: 6 Reasons Why You Have Blurry Photos

In the picture below, I focused on Kate’s eye closest to Emma. The problem with this picture is my aperture was at f1.8 (rookie mistake) This was taken about 2 weeks after I started to shoot on manual. Please excuse the scrape on Kate’s face and the food on Emma’s. Ha ha, this is my life folks!

ISO 100, f1.8, 1/320

Close up of the eyes so you can see how they are not in focus.

Read more: 5 Ways to Create Catchlights

Here is what you should do. My focal point was on the child in the middle and my aperture is at f4.0 to make sure all 3 kiddos are in focus.
ISO 100, f4.0, ss 1/320

Read more: 7 Tips to Take a Sharp Photo

I love to take a photo where the person is blurry but an object is not so you don’t need to focus on the eye. Of course, not all my pictures are like this but it is nice to focus on the details. Here are a few examples to when I focused on the details and not the person. Sometimes these pictures tell a better story than if you had the subject in focus. Take a look at my aperture (f-stop) in these as well, since that plays a big roll in what is in focus as well. I typically like to shoot wide open when I’m capturing a specific detail.

Toys:
ISO 100, f1.8, ss 1/100

Toes:
ISO 100, f2.0, ss 1/80

Eyelashes:
ISO 100, f1.8, ss 1/200

Flower:
ISO 100, f2.2, ss 1/4000

Birthday:
ISO 300, f2.8, ss 1/320

Now it is your turn!! Go out this week and take your photos in manual mode and change your focal point. Take some of your subject with it on their eye and some focused on an object. Have fun!! I can’t wait to see your pictures on Friday when you link up for the picture share!!

Read more:
10 Incredibly Easy Tips to Take Silhouette Photos
How to use Kelvin for White Balance
5 Tips for Freezing Motion in Photographs
5 Reasons to Shoot in Manual Mode

Free Lightroom Presets

changing your focal point
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