DSLR Camera Focusing Tips for Beginners

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.

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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+.

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


  • 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!


  • 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


    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!


  • 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.