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How to Use the Manual Focus on Your Camera

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

How to Use the Manual Focus on Your Camera

When doing photography, you can use either a manual or automatic focus. The automatic focus will set itself in accordance with what the camera thinks is ideal for the photo. But a manual focus, that is set by the photographer, will be necessary in unusual circumstances. 

The manual focus is adjusted by a ring with numbers that sits around your camera lens. This article will explain how to use it to your advantage. 

How to Manually Focus Your Camera

The first thing you will want to do is switch your camera to the manual focus mode. You will probably find a switch that’s labeled with AF/MF. MF is for manual focusing while AF is for automatic focusing. So start by switching to MF. 

Next find the focus ring which is near the middle of the lens barrel of a prime lens or the end of the lens barrel on a zoom lens. Start twisting the focus ring and you will see the focus change. 

Keep playing around until you have the right focus. 

This may sound easy so far, but it can be difficult to perceive focus through the viewfinder. To ensure focus is correct, you will want to:

  • Switch to the Live View function to see a preview of the live feed on the LCD. Then adjust the focus until you get it right. 

  • Narrow the aperture. This will give you a larger margin of error. For example, when your aperture is set at f/2, the focus has to be exactly right. At f/8, you can afford to be a little off. 

  • After taking an image, check it on the LCD. The live preview will help you determine if your shots are well focused. 

When Should You Use Manual Focus?

Manual focus should be used in circumstances where you can’t be sure if your camera will get focusing accuracy. Situations include:

  • Macro and Close Up Photography: When you shoot close at high magnifications, the camera will hunt for focus and may lock in at the wrong place. A manual focus will ensure the focus is set where you want it to be. 

  • Low Light Photography: In low light photography, your camera will hunt for focus, but it will never lock into it. Therefore, manual focusing is a must. However, it can even be hard for the photographer to find the right focus considering the lack of illumination. Using the Live View is recommended. 

  • Wide-Angle Photography: Wide-angle photography will show large subjects on a small scale. Since the subjects occupy a small area of the frame, it can be hard to control the autofocus and the camera may lock into the wrong area. 

  • Panorama Photography: Panorama photography involves stitching a set of photos together in postproduction. It demands consistency including focusing consistency. Manual focus will ensure that you are focusing at the exact same distance for each image. 

  • Low Contrast Photography: Autofocus relies on light and dark tones. Without contrast, the camera will hunt nonstop. So, if you are shooting a dark subject against a dark background, you may want to switch to manual. 

Manual focus can help you get great shots in challenging situations. Now that you know how to use it, you can get better photos all around. How will you be using it in your shots?

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