February 16, 2011

#7 - "Feel" your autofocus.

Your camera is alive.

It has personality. It has quirks. And like any lasting relationship, you’re going to have to get to know those quirks – and how to deal with them – to take a good photo every time out.

The number one quirk you’re going to need to get to know is your autofocus system. Your manual gives you all sorts of technical insight into how your autofocus works, but the manual isn’t much help when you’re at the birthday party and your autofocus keeps hunting for your subject. It’s in focus. It’s out of focus. Oh wait, it’s in focus aga…annnnnd she blew all the candles out

Unless it’s super bright out, your autofocus can be fussy. I ran into this one myself over the weekend while taking snaps of my seven-week-old. I was taking her picture with a pretty hefty DSLR and even that autofocus refused to play along.. Luckily, I learned how to caress and cajole my autofocus into doing what I want.

If your manual’s not going to be a lot of help, your best move is to turn on your camera and get to know the autofocus with these tips:

Try it in a bunch of different situations.
Low light. Bright light. Close up. Flash on. Flash off. Your autofocus will do something different in just about every situation. The better you know what it’s probably going to do in a given moment, the better chance you have to compensate.

Pay attention.
Don’t just try out the autofocus, make some mental notes. Does it have a tougher time with different colours? With skin tones? In fluorescent light? Keep a mental catalogue on this stuff – or better yet, write it down so you remember.

Get good in low light.
Your autofocus will give you the biggest fits in low light. This is your chance to use your flash – some of them pre-flash to light up the scene and lock in the focus. Or you could try this great trick. Just before you’re about to take the picture, have someone hold a cell phone screen near your subject. Make sure the screen is lit up and the camera will instantly focus on the screen. Move the cell phone and you’ve got your shot.

Pick the corner.
Autofocus looks for contrasts. When I couldn’t get my camera to play along on the weekend, I focused on the area where her head met a giant yellow chair. The autofocus could tell the difference between her skin and the chair’s fabric. Find the area of contrast between your subject and the background and you can get many an autofocus to do thy bidding.

Next up: taking a fantabulous family photo.

Time is running out to win a 4 Gig EyeFi card from Frame One. Post a question in the comments section below and you’re automatically entered. Contest closes Friday night!

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