First camera crash course: simple solutions for mastering your new DSLR

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 5: How to focus and stay sharp

When using a wide aperture (such as f/3.5), and therefore capturing a shallow depth of field, your depth of focus is also reduced. This means only a small plane in your frame will be sharp; anything in front of and behind your point of focus will blurred.

With this in mind, you need to be extra vigilant with focusing when using a wide aperture as, if you're off target, you'll end up with out-of-focus subjects.

A good example is when shooting motorsports; be careful to focus on the front end of the vehicle (or the rider) as that's what you want in focus to draw people in.

If your focusing isn't accurate, you can end up with a shot where the back of the vehicle is sharp, but the front of the car or head of the rider is out of focus.

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 5 How to focus and stay sharp

Soft focus

  • Using a long 300mm telephoto lens has resulted in camera shake
  • Using One Shot AF means the focusing on the motorbike racer isn't accurate either!

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 5 stay focused on your subject

Focused on subject

  • Upping the ISO has increased the shutter speed to ensure a sharp result
  • Use AI Servo AF to help you track and focus on fast-moving targets
  • Using the AF points in the top corners can help your compositions, by placing subjects in your frame according to the 'rule of thirds'


Best camera focus techniques: 10 surefire ways to get sharp photos
Getting sharp images: every photo technique you need to know starting out
How to focus your camera for any subject or scene: free photography cheat sheet
Manual Focus: what you need to know to get sharp images

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 6: Choosing your AF points

Your new DSLR is set with Auto AF Point Selection on as default. This is fine if you want to focus on whatever's closest to you in your frame, but it becomes a problem when you want to take control and focus on something deeper in the scene for a more creative result. Switch to Manual AF Selection and choose your own AF points.

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 6 Choosing your AF points

  • The wide aperture of f/4 means the rope in the foreground is out-of-focus and less distracting, but still adds depth and context to this photograph
  • Selecting a single AF point makes it easier to frame a shot so that it obeys the 'rule of thirds' to ensure a great composition (see over the page)
  • By manually selecting your AF point, you can choose where in your frame you focus


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