Tuesday, July 16, 2013

manual focus explored

Since I got my 28-135mm lens, I've talked about manual focus a fair amount. This is largely because I've been fascinated with taking photos like the set that I shared last month. I've gotten a lot of mixed feedback about these type of blurred photos, and I thought that it would be worth discussing manual focus beyond this aspect of it.

Do you see the AF/MF switch on the side of the lens? Some SLR lenses have the option of shooting with either auto or manual focus. When you have this option, it is definitely worth challenging yourself to experiment with it sometimes. However, it's worth mentioning that there are times when it is not an ideal option, such as:
  • Portraits, especially babies, children, and pets who are not going to hold still while you manually adjust every shot
  • Sports photography and other types of action photography that don't allow for a long focusing process
  • Long exposures and certain advanced techniques such as time lapse photography
With that being said, there are still a lot of opportunities where you have ample time to adjust a shot, and it's worth getting that extra degree of control. Here are a few of the things that I've been doing with manual focus lately that don't result in a completely blurred shot.

 If you do a lot of macro photography, you have most likely encountered settings where you have trouble getting the camera to focus on a particular area. I would have worked really hard in auto focus to get the focus away from the camera and the hand. Instead I could choose to get the focus on the polar bear with manual.

During a recent shoot, I experimented with putting the bricks in focus and the background graffiti in focus. I prefer one result over the other, but the point is that it was interesting to experiment with both options.

Do you remember the Botanical Gardens set? Sometimes you can use manual focus to achieve a certain effect, such as making a flower shot look more like a painting than a photo.

When there are multiple potential focus points in a single area, sometimes auto focus really struggles, especially for macro shots. I chose to make this shot fairly clear all the way through, but I could have blurred either the lock or the bars.

Auto focus would have done a good job with the bokeh for this shot, but manual focus can sometimes dial it up a little bit.

Sometimes I don't want to blur a photo beyond recognition with large bokeh but instead just want a little blurring, which is what I did with manual focus for this shot.

Do you have any thoughts about shooting with manual focus? Please share them in the comments!


  1. My new camera has manual focus, but haven't played with it very much. I want to, and will do so at the beach this next week! We'll see what I can come up with. Thanks for the instruction!

  2. I like those much better than when it's all blurry and my eyes have nothing to focus on. The polar bear one is cool and so are the graffiti ones! Great job Rose! I think I have manual focus on my camera but I'm not to that point yet of trying to figure it out.

  3. I love the brick shots, because you can tell the difference of the two. I bet it's so much fun playing with your camera!!!
    I like the blurred look for some photos. Your shot of the flowers are really great.

  4. I like the one where the bricks are in focus with graffiti blurred.
    I've been trying to get a shot of people moving with only slight blurring. Hopefully I will get a chance when I see my niece in a few weeks!

  5. Before I even read the caption under the flower shot, I was thinking of how it looked as if it were a painting rather than a photo. Nice effect.

    I'm not quite brave enough to use the focus. I'm still stuck on automatic and scenery settings. Maybe someday...

  6. Great information - thanks for sharing the details.

  7. Your photography is amazing, Rose!! You are so talented...I'm still figuring out the basics adjustments on my camera.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my brownies :)


  8. You're really coming a long way with your photography. And you're doing wonderful with your manual lens! The polar bear shot is so great!

  9. this is all so interesting! You are passing along so much information. Thanks! My camera is close to being a point and shoot, except it does let me use a macro setting and other simple options... {:-D

  10. Thanks for the great information! I am such an amateur when it comes to photos.


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