Learn photography: configure the focus

Sharpness is one of the essential concepts to master in photography. To do this, you must have full control over the focus area of ​​your shot, regardless of where it occupies in your frame. Whether you plan to use your camera in manual mode or automatic mode, the first lesson you need to learn in photography is how to set the focus so you have absolute control over it.

Focus modes

Although some cameras have more options, there are three commonly accepted focus modes.

Manual focus

Here is an option you can select from your device or lens. To change modes, choose AF (autofocus) or MF (manual focus) mode. On digital cameras, manual focus is used on specific occasions. If you select this mode, configuring the focus is completely up to you.

Be sure to prioritize focusing on the element of the scene that you want to give more prominence to, then rotate the lens focus ring until that element comes into sharp focus. This will then be the time to trigger. When looking through the viewfinder, make sure you have adjusted it for your diopters beforehand. A split screen for focusing can bring you more precision.

Single autofocus (AF-S, one shot)

This is the recommended mode by default. When you press the shutter button halfway, the camera will automatically select the correct focus and lock it until you release the photo. This allows you to focus on a specific area and change the frame slightly without losing the original focus, this is called cropping. Cropping will be of great use to you to enjoy a better composition on your images.

Continuous autofocus (AF-C, Servo)

It also does autofocus but when you press the shutter button halfway, the focus is still working. This mode is only recommended for action and motion photography.

Focus areas

This option, found in the camera menu, is the one that determines where focus will be given priority.

Central area

This is a highly recommended option since this way you will always know that your marker is the exact center of the photo. When you want to move the subject in focus to another area of ​​the frame, you won’t need to lock the focus (by pressing the shutter button halfway in single autofocus mode).

Customizable area

This mode lets you choose the focus area from those offered by your camera, so you won’t need to crop. Selecting the point for each photo is a much slower process than the previous mode, but it can be very useful when you place your camera on a tripod.


With this mode, it is the camera which chooses which element it will give priority to focusing, even if it means selecting several zones at the same time. This system has the big disadvantage of removing all decision-making power over your image. The camera will default to whatever is closest to you and takes up the most of the scene. Getting out of this mode is a first step to becoming a real photographer.

Where to focus?

In portraits and wildlife photography, always focus on the eyes because a sharp eye is what will attract the most attention. On other types of shots, if you don’t have a clear priority, try to focus on the frame closest to the camera. The opposite effect, if it is not sought, can prove to be of little advantage. Go for more now.

All lenses have a minimum focusing distance of between 20 and 30 centimeters on standard zooms, so don’t be surprised if your optics aren’t in focus even though you’ve moved within a few centimeters of the item to photograph. For close-ups and to capture small objects and minute details, you will need to use a macro lens.