Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning to Focus - Part 1

Tack sharp focus, Unsharp mask, out-of-focus, bokeh, Gaussian blur, motion blur, shallow focus, depth of field, soft focus. These are all terms used to define the quality of the sharpness of a picture. And they are all good keywords to have in the beginning of this post.

Photographers may artistically use the full range, from exact focus to completely blurred, often in a single picture. As you will see, there is quite a bit to think about and my intention is to explore and document the various techniques used to achieve that desired focus on a consistent basis. As always, this blog is primarily for my own education. And I hope you benefit as well.

In focus or out of focus, it's your choice.

I will start this multi-part journey simply. Folks show me their pictures and I enjoy looking at them. So many are unintentionally out of focus, often due to the simple misunderstanding of how modern cameras use auto focus.

Push the shutter release halfway down and hold it there before taking the picture. This activates the auto focus and auto exposure functions and allows the camera time to adjust to a generally good picture.

This seemed obvious to me, until I met someone that did not realize that this is how cameras work. There was instant and dramatic improvement in their pictures when I pointed this out. This instruction is probably on the first page of the first chapter of your camera manual, but many people do not realize its' importance. Many folks are used to Instamatic cameras with fixed lenses. That shutter release has only one function, to release the shutter. When they buy their first point and shoot camera, they assume it works in a similar manner.

There is more to this halfway shutter release that we will use in a variety of focusing techniques. It also performs other functions. If you are viewing a picture or have the menu up on the LCD screen, it resets the camera in preparation to take a picture. It turns on telemetry in the view finder or an information window so you can check a variety of settings. It is the most used function on digital cameras and crucial for getting the most out of auto focus.

More to come...

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