DSLR Camera Focusing Tips for Beginners - Digital Photography School

DSLR Camera Focusing Tips for Beginners

New to DSLR photography and want a good basic lesson in focusing? This video by Phil Steele gives a good introduction to five different focusing techniques.

Also check out Phil’s quality training at:

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Darren

    Very well presented video. Clear and concise. I particularly like the view through the camera as he talked. It should be done more often.

  • http://sunflowerandspruce.wordpress.com Sara

    This was a fantastic video! So helpful. I also appreciated the camera view of what we’d see to help make things a little more understandable with the demo. Thanks!

  • Jennifer

    One of the most helpful tutorials for me! thanks! The explanation of contrast in the camera finding focus explains so much. Makes so much sense, yet I never thought of it..

  • Jim

    Great Video..Thanks.

  • Abe

    Back button focusing would be much easier than the Manual focus part.

  • Deborah

    I’m speechless. He just taught me three things about my camera I never knew!!

  • Gregory

    Thanks a lot Darren, very helpful!

    May I add that in a situation like the sports car photography, one could also use the Af-on button mode for focusing, that allows to focus using the thumb and when released, the focus is locked. This could be helpful if you need to readjust, without having to go on and out manual mode.

    Thanks again for the great tips!

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Eik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    I really enjoy watching Phil’s videos, they are well put together and often have one or two new gems of information.

    Sometimes manual focus works best especially in low light conditions such as this shot from inside The Vatican of St Peters Chair! The camera is just too clever for its own good on Auto!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/saint-peters-chair/

  • kyle

    I learned more in those 9 mins than reading or watching other videos for twice that long. Great hands on examples and very easy to understand!

  • http://www.livingdisney.com Elizabeth

    Great info. I love all of the articles here! Now I have to sit here for a few more hours until I can go to Disney World and try these out!

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/08/photographs-of-week-820-826-2012.html

  • http://www.1107photography.wordpress.com 1107photography

    I am an lifelong serious amateur and this video taught me a new technique I had not tried with the live view mode. Fantastic!

    I still do not know how to overcome dim light focus situations though… when it is dark, or near dark. Anyone with solutions to the inability for the camera to hunt and find a focus point? I shoot with a 7D and this situation always stymies me.

  • Maxien fisher

    Thank you so much for this. I have just given myself a promotion from a point and shoot (fuji HS10) to the Canon 60D so the fact you were using Canon helped too. I have been asked to take action shots for a friend at her show jumping practises so this has taught me a lot in how to get that perfect shot without relying on auto focus. Thanks

  • http://photodoto.com George Bailey

    Great video, though I must agree with Abe – using a back AF button can be very helpful for recomposing.
    I often choose to totally disable “autofocus start” function of the shutter release button. Instead I leave it to the back AF button (cameras like 5D have a separate button for it, cheaper models let you use the “*” button for this – just see the C.Fn. menus”, so, I press it to get the focus, and then just recompose as much as I want, until I (or the model) change position.

  • http://3riverscreative.com Pittsburgh Photographer

    While it seems good focus is a rather obvious need for good images, all too often people tend to miss this part. Great video and perfect for those just starting out.

  • http://patriciaknightphotography.com Patricia Knight

    Great video. lately though I am finding that my images are not in focus even when using Auto Focus. Any suggestions besides manually focusing everything?

  • http://digital-photography-school.com Rolf

    Simply great, fantastic. I learned features that are not in my owners manual or any of the many book I have read. Thanks very much Darren.

  • http://www.imagesbyceci.smugmug.com Ceci Snow

    Brilliant video and very helpful. There’s a lot of very helpful information / reminders in these 9 minutes for both the beginner and the more experienced photographer.

  • jackie

    i’m with 1107Photography. i was saying to myself ‘oh, he’s a pro and i already know this’ until the live view focus tip – how awesome! i, too, would love to know of some tips for dimly lit situations.
    great vid, thanks for posting, darren!

  • eosDave

    Patricia, what camera are you using? If you are focusing through the viewfinder you need to make sure that the focus point or points you can see in the viewfinder are pointed at a surface or surfaces with features. They need some contrast to work with. Depending on the camera and the particular focus point, some work better with horizontal lines while others work with vertical lines. Try pointing the camera at a blank wall or a blue sky. The AF system will hunt because there is nothing to focus on. Then switch to a patterned surface and experiment with the individual focus points.
    I have a Canon Eos 550d (T2i). It’s One shot AF mode is nearly useless whereas the AI Focus and AI Servo modes work fairly nicely (not quite as good as Live View manual focusing). The focus system changes in Live View mode because the processor in the camera analyzes the image to maximize the contrast in the focus area by adjusting the lens. Keep experimenting since the only cost is a little bit of time. Good luck!

  • http://patriciaknightphotography.com Patricia Knight

    Thank you for the reply eosdave. I have a Canon Ti1. My camera used to focus well. At first I thought it was my eyes (i’ve worn glasses for years.) I usually use the viewfinder and move my focus points where I need them. But my pictures still are not sharp. Even when using prime lens. Its really frustrating.

  • Mike Van Arkel

    Good tips. Thanks. I’ve got a Rickenbacker just like that.

  • Graham

    Excellent!

  • Michelle

    Excellent video and so easily explained. Thank you Phil

  • JacksonG

    Great job Phil. I shoot with a Sony a390, a Lumix LX5 and a Canon Powershot and still consider myself a rank amateur. You made this very easy to understand. I’m sure a lot of us think we know more than we do. The KISS theory is still true, Keep It Simple Stupid.

  • Brianna Cultice

    I really appreciated this video.. I had to go to his site to check out more. Very helpful!

  • http://shotbytrevor.com Trevor Yannayon

    Another great video by Phil. I recently purchased his portrait course and it is incredible what I have learned in a short period of time. The videos make it much easier to understand than just reading about it.

  • ImaniBJones

    This is very helpful. I’ve always wondered if using Manual Focus on action shots/movement shots caused the quality of the photo to deplete. I have to try this but this was so helpful. Thanks!

  • Phil Street

    Great tutorial. The best tip for me was setting the focus for fast moving objects using auto and manual focus.

    Thanks Phil and Darren

  • John

    Thanks for this video, even though I’ve been photographing for many years I’m still learning, and this video was very helpful.

    Thanks again

  • http://Www.Finecooking.com/profile/airbus1middle Gayle

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across
    this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out much.
    I am hoping to provide one thing again and aid others such as you helped me.

  • afirmin

    Who cares about the photography….
    The man has a Rickenbacker bass guitar!!!!!!

  • Barry E Warren

    I thought if you have a top of the line camera, You would buy a top of the line guitar to…….

  • Barry E Warren

    Nice tips on focusing, Thanks…..

  • Greg

    Back button focus :)

Some older comments

  • Gayle

    August 26, 2013 07:16 pm

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across
    this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out much.
    I am hoping to provide one thing again and aid others such as you helped me.

  • John

    April 27, 2013 02:25 am

    Thanks for this video, even though I've been photographing for many years I'm still learning, and this video was very helpful.

    Thanks again

  • Phil Street

    March 29, 2013 02:08 pm

    Great tutorial. The best tip for me was setting the focus for fast moving objects using auto and manual focus.

    Thanks Phil and Darren

  • ImaniBJones

    January 23, 2013 06:26 pm

    This is very helpful. I've always wondered if using Manual Focus on action shots/movement shots caused the quality of the photo to deplete. I have to try this but this was so helpful. Thanks!

  • Trevor Yannayon

    September 15, 2012 01:52 pm

    Another great video by Phil. I recently purchased his portrait course and it is incredible what I have learned in a short period of time. The videos make it much easier to understand than just reading about it.

  • Brianna Cultice

    September 14, 2012 08:12 am

    I really appreciated this video.. I had to go to his site to check out more. Very helpful!

  • JacksonG

    September 4, 2012 07:20 am

    Great job Phil. I shoot with a Sony a390, a Lumix LX5 and a Canon Powershot and still consider myself a rank amateur. You made this very easy to understand. I'm sure a lot of us think we know more than we do. The KISS theory is still true, Keep It Simple Stupid.

  • Michelle

    September 1, 2012 06:37 pm

    Excellent video and so easily explained. Thank you Phil

  • Graham

    August 31, 2012 03:27 pm

    Excellent!

  • Mike Van Arkel

    August 31, 2012 03:05 pm

    Good tips. Thanks. I've got a Rickenbacker just like that.

  • Patricia Knight

    August 31, 2012 09:12 am

    Thank you for the reply eosdave. I have a Canon Ti1. My camera used to focus well. At first I thought it was my eyes (i've worn glasses for years.) I usually use the viewfinder and move my focus points where I need them. But my pictures still are not sharp. Even when using prime lens. Its really frustrating.

  • eosDave

    August 31, 2012 08:02 am

    Patricia, what camera are you using? If you are focusing through the viewfinder you need to make sure that the focus point or points you can see in the viewfinder are pointed at a surface or surfaces with features. They need some contrast to work with. Depending on the camera and the particular focus point, some work better with horizontal lines while others work with vertical lines. Try pointing the camera at a blank wall or a blue sky. The AF system will hunt because there is nothing to focus on. Then switch to a patterned surface and experiment with the individual focus points.
    I have a Canon Eos 550d (T2i). It's One shot AF mode is nearly useless whereas the AI Focus and AI Servo modes work fairly nicely (not quite as good as Live View manual focusing). The focus system changes in Live View mode because the processor in the camera analyzes the image to maximize the contrast in the focus area by adjusting the lens. Keep experimenting since the only cost is a little bit of time. Good luck!

  • jackie

    August 31, 2012 07:23 am

    i'm with 1107Photography. i was saying to myself 'oh, he's a pro and i already know this' until the live view focus tip - how awesome! i, too, would love to know of some tips for dimly lit situations.
    great vid, thanks for posting, darren!

  • Ceci Snow

    August 31, 2012 04:30 am

    Brilliant video and very helpful. There's a lot of very helpful information / reminders in these 9 minutes for both the beginner and the more experienced photographer.

  • Rolf

    August 31, 2012 02:12 am

    Simply great, fantastic. I learned features that are not in my owners manual or any of the many book I have read. Thanks very much Darren.

  • Patricia Knight

    August 30, 2012 09:15 am

    Great video. lately though I am finding that my images are not in focus even when using Auto Focus. Any suggestions besides manually focusing everything?

  • Pittsburgh Photographer

    August 29, 2012 11:07 pm

    While it seems good focus is a rather obvious need for good images, all too often people tend to miss this part. Great video and perfect for those just starting out.

  • George Bailey

    August 28, 2012 12:06 am

    Great video, though I must agree with Abe - using a back AF button can be very helpful for recomposing.
    I often choose to totally disable "autofocus start" function of the shutter release button. Instead I leave it to the back AF button (cameras like 5D have a separate button for it, cheaper models let you use the "*" button for this - just see the C.Fn. menus", so, I press it to get the focus, and then just recompose as much as I want, until I (or the model) change position.

  • Maxien fisher

    August 26, 2012 07:33 am

    Thank you so much for this. I have just given myself a promotion from a point and shoot (fuji HS10) to the Canon 60D so the fact you were using Canon helped too. I have been asked to take action shots for a friend at her show jumping practises so this has taught me a lot in how to get that perfect shot without relying on auto focus. Thanks

  • 1107photography

    August 25, 2012 05:11 am

    I am an lifelong serious amateur and this video taught me a new technique I had not tried with the live view mode. Fantastic!

    I still do not know how to overcome dim light focus situations though... when it is dark, or near dark. Anyone with solutions to the inability for the camera to hunt and find a focus point? I shoot with a 7D and this situation always stymies me.

  • Elizabeth

    August 25, 2012 04:23 am

    Great info. I love all of the articles here! Now I have to sit here for a few more hours until I can go to Disney World and try these out!

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/08/photographs-of-week-820-826-2012.html

  • kyle

    August 25, 2012 12:35 am

    I learned more in those 9 mins than reading or watching other videos for twice that long. Great hands on examples and very easy to understand!

  • Eik Kerstenbeck

    August 25, 2012 12:30 am

    Hi

    I really enjoy watching Phil's videos, they are well put together and often have one or two new gems of information.

    Sometimes manual focus works best especially in low light conditions such as this shot from inside The Vatican of St Peters Chair! The camera is just too clever for its own good on Auto!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/saint-peters-chair/

  • Gregory

    August 24, 2012 05:18 pm

    Thanks a lot Darren, very helpful!

    May I add that in a situation like the sports car photography, one could also use the Af-on button mode for focusing, that allows to focus using the thumb and when released, the focus is locked. This could be helpful if you need to readjust, without having to go on and out manual mode.

    Thanks again for the great tips!

  • Deborah

    August 24, 2012 02:41 pm

    I'm speechless. He just taught me three things about my camera I never knew!!

  • Abe

    August 24, 2012 12:17 pm

    Back button focusing would be much easier than the Manual focus part.

  • Jim

    August 24, 2012 11:48 am

    Great Video..Thanks.

  • Jennifer

    August 24, 2012 09:20 am

    One of the most helpful tutorials for me! thanks! The explanation of contrast in the camera finding focus explains so much. Makes so much sense, yet I never thought of it..

  • Sara

    August 24, 2012 08:32 am

    This was a fantastic video! So helpful. I also appreciated the camera view of what we'd see to help make things a little more understandable with the demo. Thanks!

  • Darren

    August 24, 2012 07:15 am

    Very well presented video. Clear and concise. I particularly like the view through the camera as he talked. It should be done more often.

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