Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday's Photo Tip - Auto or Manual Focus

Friday's Photo Tip - Auto or Manual Focus

high school lacrosse game

Even though today's DSLR cameras use auto-focus lenses, have you ever switched it off to do the focusing yourself?

When I became interested in photography, there was no such thing as an auto focus lens.

When they first started making them I was skeptical, and I stayed with my manual ones.

In fact, the first AF lens I owned was when I purchased my DSLR.

And I have to say, I keep my camera set to the "manual" focusing mode even on this camera.

At first I thought it was going to be great, this auto focus feature.

But then I started in with my macro images, and the lens would never quite get the correct spot in focus that I wanted.

And many times, if the light was insufficient, or the object too close, then the lens would just keep hunting for the focal point, and pretty much driving me crazy.

Just about the only time that I use the AF is when I am shooting an action shot.

Taking the above image was just about impossible without the AF.

The boys moved way too fast for me to manually get them in clearly, but the AF lens would follow them around and keep them in focus at all times.

I am a real stickler for depth of field (DOF), and the AF lens has no idea what I want.

This is my main reason for using the manual mode - I want the control.

So, do you use the manual or the auto focus on your camera?


  1. Kathy, I use auto mode most of the time, but you are so right about being in control, sometimes the auto mode is not giving me what I want. Manual mode is my next step just because until now I always worried about my object Anna :) Excellent post, I love your tips, this is good stuff here.

  2. Im totally opposite of what you do. If I am sooting stuff that is stagnant or posed then I sometimes will use the autofocus in order to be fast enough to catch emotions (smiles) on like my kids.

    As for action, it is just way to fast for Auto focus. This being said when I have one of the faster cameras and lenses on the market. I use a greater depth of field when shooting action. I dont mean like f32 either because that would just be too slow. I mean like moving it up from 2.8 to 4 up to around 11 or so. This allows me to not have to worry about the focal plane being off just a bit. I manually focus on the area I know I will be shooting in and then Im ready to go.

    I have done it this way since I was in college getting my degree in Photography. Of course back then there wasnt any auto focus lenses. I have found though even in stagnant shots that the eye is always better than the lens when it comes to focus.


  3. Daisy's mom here:
    I always use auto-focus because I don't have enough hands! I use one hand to hold up treats or toys for Daisy and to try to get her to pose just so, and that leaves me only one hand free to point and click, and I usually only have a second or two to capture the image. I wish I could use manual mode, but maybe I am just not skilled enough!

  4. Thanks, Anna! I think I would use AF too if I was trying to capture the birds as good as you do. Glad you enjoy the tips!

  5. Hi Tim,

    That is a great tip regarding the action photos - setting a greater DOF and still using manual focus.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your helpful comment!

  6. Hi Daisy's Mom,

    I am glad that you commented on this topic. Your situation is one where the AF is a valuable thing.

    The expressions and poses that you capture are always right on, and manual focus would certainly miss the great shots you capture.

    And I must say - Daisy is a great model in all her finery - you must have a ball working with her. Keep up the good work!

  7. Sure, I love your blog. Your tips and tricks on photography are very informative and always very helpful to those of us wanting to take better pictures. Thanks for your generosity in sharing them!

    Love and Prayers,



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