Focusing tips – Get out of the Auto Area mode
The focus areas on your camera are the ones that light up in the viewfinder or LCD screen when you half press the shutter. But do several squares light up as in the the above shot of my kitchen, or just the one? If the former, this tip is for you!
One of the biggest steps you can take in getting tack sharp photos is to start using single point auto focus to decide for yourself what should be in focus and to nail the shot. Looking at the above image, you can see that the focus squares are on the kitchen chair, the flowers on the table, and the flowers at the back. So which of those is going to be in sharp focus. Well who knows? Well actually it's usually the nearest object or the most prominent, but can you be sure?
Using the auto area or grid grid focus system is a bit like throwing a handful of darts and hoping one of them hits the bullseye, even more so when shooting using a shallow depth of field.
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When new photographers first start out, they tend to let the camera decide how to take the shot, but they soon discover that letting some anonymous engineer in Japan make decisions is probably not the best way to go (ok, the engineer may not come from Japan, but you get my meaning!). Quite often, the default setting on new cameras is Auto Area / Grid focusing and the camera uses multiple points to decide where to focus. To be honest, more often than not, the camera focuses on the correct subject, because the subject is nearest to the camera and/or prominent in the frame and the camera can easily find a contrasting element to focus on. So using this simple method is fine in many cases, but if you want to ensure focusing accuracy, especially when using shallower depths of fields, you should switch to single point / single-area focus.
This is how the viewfinder / LCD screen will then look, you can then simply half-press the shutter with the focus area on your subject to lock the focus. Usually just taking your camera out of the full-auto mode will switch the focusing to single area, but if not, you'll find a focusing menu option for it. Just consult your manual.