Yes, believe it or not there are techniques for getting good focus and I'm going to look at these here today! This should be read alongside Nailing Focus: Part 1 - Focus Modes to help you get a full understanding of what I am talking about in them both! OK, so here are the different ways you will be able to focus with your DSLR......
FULL AUTO FOCUS
In this mode, the camera will pick the focus point for you. It will pick focus for the closest subject, or closest part of a subject, which may very likely not be the one you want. Once you get a bit more proficient with your camera I suggest you don't use this mode anymore - again, we are striving to control the camera ourselves and not let it choose for us as it doesn't always know best (you do!) Basically, this is a bit of a click and hope method, which means sometimes it will get it spot on (those times everything is on the same focal plane) and others horribly wrong, so I only use this when I'm passing my camera to my husband.
MANUALLY SELECT AUTO FOCUS POINTS
With this method, you can choose the focus point rather than letting your camera choose it for you. In my model I have nine focus points (see first image below) - you may have more or less. To select a focus point on my Canon Rebel
I have to press the button on the front of my camera (circled in red below in the second picture) and then move my front wheel around to pick one of these points. (You will have to check your camera manual to see where it is on your make and model) You can manually toggle to any of these focus points to get one that suits your composition. In the case of a portrait shot, you should use one that falls over their leading eye. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep toggling these points with a fast moving toddler, in which case you can use the central one and use focus-recompose.....
This is where you depress the shutter halfway to activate focus (using the central focus point) then, keeping your finger on the shutter, move the camera to the composition that you want. Once you are happy, you depress the shutter fully.This is probably the simplest method after AUTO MODE, and I use it all the time, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. The first is that if your subject moves between the time you half depressed the shutter and then took the shot, you are likely to have an out of focus or "soft" image (depending on how much they moved) The second is if you are using a very narrow depth of field (small F stop) the slight movement of you moving the camera to change your composition can be enough to throw off focus. (In this situation it might be better to manually toggle your focal points)
BACK BUTTON FOCUS
This is one you may or may not have heard of before. Simply put, all this means is that you assign another button on your camera to activate focus (this is usually the * on the back of the Canons, again check your particular model) rather than the shutter button. So, instead of pushing the shutter halfway down to focus, you push the * button, and it locks focus. Now, you may be wondering why you would do such a thing. The first reason would be if you are shooting a stationary subject (when the distance between the camera and the subject is constant), you can simply lock in the focus by pushing the back button, and shoot away with different compositions without having to re-focus each time. BBF also works very well when used with Al Servo on moving subject - you can just hold the back button down and use the shutter to take your shots. As long as the back button is held down, it will keep tracking the subject and focusing on it. Some people hate BBF and others love it, so it is definitely a personal preference thing - I've only just recently started using so I'm still getting used to it but I'm definitely in the "love" camp!
FULLY MANUAL FOCUS
I nearly never included this one as I am not entirely sure if you would ever want to use this in child photography - but you also have the option to manually focus on your subject by moving your dial on the front of your lens (after you have changed it from AF to MF) The only time I can ever imagine wanting to use this would be if I deliberately wanted to unfocus the whole of the scene slightly (perhaps to give it an "out of this world" feel) but that's it. And I've never felt the need to do that yet either.
Using these focusing techniques with the different modes mentioned in the previous post, should start to help you get sharper pictures more consistently. Hopefully everyone will find something new here regardless of the stage they are at - if you are currently using Full Auto Focus, then don't move straight onto back button focusing - maybe just start off by manually changing your focal point (the center one to begin with) and take it from there! There is actually a LOT of information here and if I'm honest, the first few times I read about this subject (particularly BBF) there was definitely a lot of head scratching going on! (still is sometimes) So, if anyone would like clarification on any of these then ask away and hopefully I'll be able to help.
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