The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Focusing in Photography

Focus can make or break an image, so you can escape exposure, Or the composition of your image may not be what you want it to be; Even the lighting or timing can be inappropriate.
However, it may still be possible to get a stunning shot if you master Focus. But if the focus is out, there is nothing to do but press the delete button.
That is why in this guide to Focus in Photography, we’ll discuss how to get the most out of focus point in photography. From learning how to focus in-camera using both manual focus and autofocus and its modes, to applying it in real life.

At the end of reading this article, you will have so much information about focus that you will eventually learn how to master it on your own!

The important techniques to understand in photography, especially when you are starting out in focusing.

What is focus in photography?

The Camera lense is just like your eyes. You can only see clearly when you focus on it.

For example, if you put your finger in front of your eyes and focus on it, you will notice that what is behind it is blurry (meaning outside the focus area). Perhaps you can recognize other things in the environment around your finger, from the “corner of your eye”.
Note: however that anything in front of or behind your finger looks somewhat fuzzy. You will see a scene like this:

Now move your eyes to one of these objects in the background and try to look at it, your focus will shift from the finger to that object. In this case your finger is what will appear blurry. This is simply the focus.

A Camera lense works the same way.

For example, you were walking in the city streets, suddenly your attention was raised by a gray fur, of course you will want to take the picture for this cat only, and make the background blurry because it is not interesting, how will you tell the camera that you want a picture where this cat will appear only clear? Meaning a picture of a cat, not the iron fence in front of it, nor the trees behind it, only the cat.

focus point in photography

You will tell the camera this by setting the focus to this cat! But the background blur comes through adjusting the aperture, meaning when you set the focus, you tell the camera your main subject in the image, then set the aperture to a small number such as f / 1.8 if you want a narrow depth of field, that is, everything is blurry except for your subject, or you adjust it. At a large number like f / 16 if you want deep depth of field, meaning all elements of a picture are sharp or clear.

But wait! How about landscape photos that don’t have a main topic to focus on? This is what we will answer in the following paragraphs.

Now that you know what the focus is in photography, it is time to know the types of focuses in the camera (manual and automatic focuses). We will get to know how the different focus modes work, and which ones are best suited for different types of situations.

Manual Focus

In the early days of photography, focus was only manual. Auto focus is a relatively new invention in the history of photography that first appeared on the market in 1977.

When using manual focus, you are on your own, able to achieve correct focus in order to capture a perfectly sharp subject.

manual focus is generally suitable for shooting still objects. Or if your camera has trouble focusing, such as in dark conditions, manual focus it lets you bypass any issues, and it works best if you are able to use a tripod. In the picture below, I wanted to focus on my hand using the automatic focus, but due to the low-light conditions, the camera had difficulty focusing. So I used the manual focus, rotated the ring in the lens until I saw my hand clear, and then took the photo.

Sony a6300 f / 1.8 1 / 100s ISO100

Landscape, studio, and macro are types that manual focus also works.

While autofocus systems use a motor in the camera or in the lens, to focus on your subject. So, just point the camera at your subject, press a button, and it will focus on that subject of your choice.

Most photographers use automatic function more than manual function. The main reason is simply comfort; It’s easier than focusing manually. Autofocus also tends to be faster, and in many cases it is also more accurate (such as tracking focus on a moving subject). This is why sports and wildlife photographers tend to rely so much on auto focus.

Although most photographers use autofocus more than manual focus, it is a good idea to get to know both.

How to use manual focus

Modern cameras are designed so that you can use the automatic accurate focus of the image in most conditions. However, there are many situations where you will find yourself forced to focus manually on the subject you want to portray.

If you are trying to improve your photography skills and the quality and sharpness of your photos, consider learning how to focus your photos manually.

Although using manual focus may seem intimidating, it is really much simpler than most novice photographers think.

First, you need to switch the lens from auto focus to manual focus. It does this either by moving the switch on the side of the lens from AF to MF or from A to M depending on the lens. You may find this button or you can access it through the menu.

Next, bring the camera into your eyes and frame the shot. Half press the shutter button to start focusing.

Then rotate the lens’ focus ring, to bring the subject into sharp focus.

But beware! The focus ring is not the same as the zoom ring.

The zoom ring is located near the camera body, and the focus ring is at the end of the lens. As shown in the picture below.

Once you focus on the subject, press the Shoot button well to take the photo.

Use manual focus with the help of the camera

Camera makers know how difficult it can be to use manual focus, so many of them equip their cameras with features to help.

On a Nikon camera, when you rotate the focus ring to focus on your subject, view the lower left corner of the LCD or camera lense. When your image is in focus, a circle will appear in that place, and when it is not, you will see arrows there indicating which direction to adjust.

On a Canon camera, the focus point in photography is illuminated when proper focus is achieved. The focus confirmation light will also be on.


Most digital cameras are equipped with several different focus modes for several situations. Where you will find an auto focus mode suitable for photographing a still person portrait, and another mode for photographing a running person or a flying bird.

When shooting stationary subjects, you focus on your subject all at once and take a photo. If the subject moves, you can set the focus back to its new location and take another photo. But if your goal is constantly moving like a soccer player, for example, in this case you cannot focus on your goal in one place because you do not know its movements.

The good news is that the camera has built-in functions to deal with such situations. Let’s move on to these focus modes in more detail.

AF-S / ONE-SHOT AF (Single Autofocus)

Single Autofocus is one of the least intelligent modes. If you focus on your subject and move, the camera will not focus again to track it. So you will have to focus on it again.

This mode is suitable for shooting static subjects, such as portraits, macros, and architecture, where there is no need to track a moving subject.

50mm f / 4 1 / 125s ISO200

It’s very easy to use! Firstly after entering the list of auto focus modes, you choose AF-S if you have a Nikon, or ONE-SHOT AF in Canon, point the camera to your fixed subject, then half press the shutter button until you get focus, meaning you see your subject clear and more. Resolution, then finally you press the shutter button to take the picture.

I always use AF-S for landscape photography, along with narrow apertures like f / 16 because it gives me a wide depth of field, meaning all the elements of the image are clear.

35mm f / 7.1 1 / 500s ISO160

AUTOFOCUS Continuous

Symbolized as AF Continuous in Sony or AF-C Mode in Nikon, it is also known as “AI Servo” in the Canon world. This mode is used to track moving subjects, such as shooting sporting events, wildlife and fast action, and the camera will continue to track your subject if it moves within the frame.

The nice thing about AF-C mode, is that it will automatically reset focus if you or your subject moves. All you have to do is hold the shutter button halfway, or press the dedicated autofocus button that’s often called on the camera with the AF-On button (if you have one). I’ll explain its function below, the camera will do its best to follow your subject with Keep focusing on it. The camera detects your subject’s movement and continuously refocuses to keep it in focus as long as you press the shutter button halfway.

I think you are now wondering: Why not simply use the camera’s continuous focus mode all the time instead of Single AUTOFOCUS?

First, the continuous auto focus mode is not as effective as Single AUTOFOCUS when the target is stationary. Because it needs a lot of processing power and lens adjustments, which makes it draining battery life even more.

Also, the auto continuous focus mode does not always work, since the camera technology is not perfect.

Depending on your subject’s movements, how shallow your depth of field, the focus speed of the lens, and lighting conditions, your camera may constantly gain and lose focus. When this happens and you end up out of focus where your subject is blurry and unclear in the picture, your only chance to get out of this mess; It is to use a program to make blurry photos clear like Topaz Sharpen AI.

AF-A (Auto AF)

Some cameras also have a mode called AF-A in Nikon, or AI Focus AF in Canon, which is basically a mode that automatically switches between AF-S and AF-C modes. If the camera thinks the subject is stationary, it automatically switches to AF-S, and if the subject moves, it automatically switches to AF-C mode.

Not many professional / high-end cameras have this mode, since it is designed for beginners.

By setting the camera’s autofocus to this mode, you are ready to shoot particularly challenging subjects, such as wildlife and young children, who move in sudden bursts of speed before deciding they want to pause and inspect something in the ground. This makes AF-A the best choice in situations where subject movement is unpredictable.

focus point in photography
500mm f / 8 1 / 500s ISO250

How to change the automatic focus modes in the camera

First, you will need to set the mode dial to a position other than the automatic modes (the modes are in red in the picture below). All the information about the camera modes you see on this disc, how they work, and where they are used and when!

As for the AUTOFOCUS modes, since these are one of the most basic camera functions, you should see them immediately when you press the menu.

Advanced cameras usually offer quick buttons to quickly change between different AF modes; For example, Nikon AF modes are set in the lower left area of ​​the camera. Simply press the button and use the rear dial to switch from AF-S to AF-C focus modes. Note, however, that the location of the button varies depending on the camera model.

While at Canon, you can access Canon AF modes using the Menu or the dedicated Drive AF button on high-end models. Once pressed, use the control dial to choose the camera’s autofocus mode (One Shot, AI Servo, AI Focus).

To switch between Sony’s different auto focus modes, you can do so with the Fn button or any quick dedicated button.

After you have selected the automatic focusing mode that best suits your chosen theme, it is time to define the focus zone mode. Do not panic! Read on and you will understand everything.

AF-Area Mode

The AF-Area Mode, you can often find it in the menu next to the AF-Mode (see the picture above).

Choosing AF-Area modes means that you tell the camera where you want to focus your subject. For example, if you want to photograph something and place it on the side of the frame, you have to tell the camera that your subject is in the area on the side of the frame.

The AF-Area modes determine how to use AF points to achieve precise focus within the scene.

But wait! What is the meaning of Focus Points?

Understanding the focus points is the first step before determining the best AF-Area mode. First, let’s get to know the meaning of the camera’s focus points.

What do we mean by focus points?

Focus points are what the camera uses to focus on a subject. You will notice them when you press the shutter button halfway. Some auto focus points – often red or green – are illuminated on the camera lense or on the LCD screen.

Mirrorless cameras and modern DSLRs have many focus points, which can usually be seen through the camera lense or on the LCD screen. Whereas on older DSLRs, you can only see the focus points through the camera lense.

Fortunately, in all of the more advanced camera modes (when I say camera modes it means the shooting modes on the mode dial at the top of the camera, and I don’t mean the focus modes we saw above), you can specify which auto focus points you want the camera to use to focus on your subject, or in the words Others: Tell the camera which area you want to focus on your subject.

The AF Area Mode is what helps us choose the points that we need to focus on our subjects, for example I want to photograph a fixed object and place it in the middle of the frame, in this case, I need one focus point because my target is fixed. That’s why I’ll tell the camera that I only need the midpoint.

If I want to photograph a cat walking in city alleys, I must first choose the AF-C or AF-A mode because my subject is mobile, and then tell the camera that for example I need all the focus points my camera has in order not to lose focus on my subject, or I can simply allow The camera selects the focus point automatically.

You will either have a radio button dedicated to selecting the AF-Area modes, or you find them inside the menu.

Focus points in cameras

focus point in photography

Usually, the more expensive a camera, the more auto focus points. For example, entry-level cameras like the Nikon D3300 have 11 focal points. So you will find it at a low price compared to cameras that contain many automatic focus points, such as the Sony A9 professional camera that contains 693 focus points for the image.

Some modern cameras, such as the Canon EOS 7D that have a large number of focus points, have very smart AF systems, which not only allow you to select individual points, but also allow you to choose a group or section of the image to focus on. This reduces the possibility of an error in focusing.

Getting a camera with a large number of automatic focus points is especially useful if you want to capture a lot of action shots, such as pets and children, meaning moving subjects. With more automatic focus points, you can reduce the chances of the subject moving away from the focus point. Whereas if you are shooting portraits or landscapes, that is, still photos in general, a few focus points will do the trick, as you can easily adjust your subjects or position.

After understanding the true meaning of focus points, let’s now dive into the different AF-Area modes, where we’ll see the main types, how they work, and when you should use them.


The designations for this mode in common types of cameras:

  • Nikon: Single-Point AF
  • Canon: Manual AF Point
  • Sony: Center / Flexible Spot

When selecting the “single point” automatic focus area, the camera uses only one focus point, which you choose to focus on your subject, and you can move it.

So if you move your focus point up / down / left / right, the camera will only focus on that specific focus point.

This mode gives you superb precision, as it allows you to select only one AF point. This means you can precisely tell the camera where you want to focus on. It’s better suited for static or slow-moving subjects, as it’s difficult to keep this focus point in line with something that’s moving fast.

focus point in photography
120mm f/5 1/125s ISO640

The cheaper camera models, or sometimes the older cameras, have a small number of focus points where you can easily define and move the single point area.

But the advanced models include a lot of focus points, if for example you want to move the focus point to the far right of the frame, this process will require some time, so these cameras usually reduce the number of focus points when using this mode, in order to make it easier for you to move the focus point.

For example, in the Sony A9 camera, which contains 693 focus points. When using the single point mode it will be difficult for you to move that point to the place you want to focus on, because the number of points is many. Therefore, the camera reduces the number of points to facilitate movement from one to another.


Labels for this mode according to popular camera types:

  • Nikon: Dynamic AF area
  • Canon: AF Point Expansion
  • Sony: Lock-on: Flexible spot

With this mode, you can also manually select a single focus point, but if the subject moves, the camera uses the point you selected as well as some surrounding points to keep the subject clear and not lost. To do this, you need to track the subject with the camera to make sure it stays close to your selected focus point or surrounding points.

focus point in photography

The dynamic auto focus zone works great for fast-moving targets, such as birds, because it’s not easy to maintain focus on birds in flight.

Digital (DSLR) and Mirrorless cameras have the ability to control the number of focus points surrounding the one you select.

For example, the Nikon D810 allows a choice of between 9, 21 and 51 points in the automatic dynamic focus zone mode (see image below). So, if you only wanted to track a small portion of the scene, you would choose 9 points and if you wanted to fully trace the frame, you could choose all 51 points to track your subject.

focus point in photography

As for using the different dynamic zone modes, in most scenes, it is better to use smaller area modes and fewer points (say 9 points).

While in other cases, you may need to set the larger area which uses all available focus points, for example when you are photographing different subjects moving at different speeds and directions.

When it comes to choosing between the automatic single-point focus mode that we explained in the previous paragraph, and the dynamic automatic focus zone mode, consider whether or not your subject is in motion. If you are working with static thread, single point automatic focus zone positioning is best.

While if there is movement in the scene, use the dynamic auto focus mode to locate the first focus point and track the subject with the camera!

In this focus area mode, Nikon also offers 3D focus tracking, which includes color recognition to improve focusing accuracy. Let’s delve deeper into this point.

3D focus tracking

Many recent Nikon DSLR cameras have 3D focus tracking mode, in which you select the autofocus point manually, and the camera will automatically activate as many focus points as needed to track the subject’s movement.

The cool thing about 3D Tracking is that it uses a special scene recognition system, which actually reads colors and tracks your subject automatically, allowing you to compose the shot while the subject is moving. For example, if you are shooting a white bird among many black birds, the 3D tracking system will automatically focus and track the white bird, even if the bird moves, or if the camera moves.

The 3D full tracking modes use multiple points to focus on the target as needed. These modes can look cool and more convenient, but, as mentioned earlier, the more focus points in a camera, the more difficult it is to focus precisely on the subject.

So I advise you to use the 9-point dynamic area mode and move the camera, instead of using 3D. Why? I’ll explain why by identifying the difference between them.

The difference between 3D focus and dynamic AF-Area mode

If you compare 3D tracking with dynamic focus area mode by specifying a certain number of focus points, the 3D tracking method will use all available focus points on the camera to track your subject, while dynamic AF-area mode divides the focus points into “zones”, activating surrounding focus points Only (as far as I specified). For example, if you choose 9 focus points, subject tracking will only work within an area of ​​a total of 9 focus points surrounding the focus point you chose. If your subject is away from all nine focus points, the camera cannot focus on the subject. But this gives you a sharper focus.

 In 3D Tracking mode, the camera will still track the subject, even if it is too far from the initial focus point. But the more focus points in the camera, the more difficult it is to focus precisely on the subject.

Therefore, I recommend you to use the dynamic auto focus mode a lot when photographing wildlife, and use fewer active focus points (between 9 and 21 focus points). But if the action is too messy and you have a bunch of random birds flying towards you, then choosing the 3D Tracking mode does a fairly good job of finding your subject to focus on and constantly tracking it.

Group-Area AF Mode

The designations for this mode are based on common types of cameras:

  • Nikon: Group AF area
  • Canon: Zone AF
  • Sony: Zone

Group autofocus mode uses five focus points to track subjects, instead of one.

When using this mode and looking through the Viewfinder, you’ll see four focus points, while the fifth is hidden in the middle.

 You can move all four focus points in all directions, but ideally, I advise you to leave these in the middle, because the focus points in the center of the frame are of the cross type and are more precise.

How does Group-Area AF work?

When you point the camera at a subject, all five focus points are activated simultaneously to obtain the initial focus, giving priority to the subject closest to the camera.

This mode differs slightly from the dynamic 9-point (D9) mode that we explained in the previous paragraph, because the D9 uses 8 focus points around the central focus point, giving priority to the center focus point that you manually selected. If the camera fails to focus using the center focus point chosen, it attempts to focus using the other eight focus points.

While the group autofocus mode uses all five focus points simultaneously, it will try to focus on the subject closest to the camera, without giving preference to any of the five focus points. This is why this mode is suitable for photographing a group of people where all faces will appear clear. Also, using this mode, the camera focuses on the object closest to the camera.

When can I use Group-Area AF?

The group area automatic focus is especially useful when photographing birds, wildlife, and sports. Pictured below, if your goal is to focus on the front sprinter, Group-Area AF will benefit you, as it will automatically acquire focus and track the runner closest to the camera. So there is no risk of the focus jumping to the runner in the back.

focus point in photography
160mm f/5.6 1/1250 ISO200

Another good example, you want to photograph a bird standing on a tree branch, and the ground behind the bird is clearly visible. If you use the dynamic autofocus mode that uses the center point as well as the surrounding points, in this mode all you point the camera at is where you will focus. If you point the camera at the bird, the camera will focus on the bird. If you mistakenly point to the ground behind it, the camera will focus on the background rather than the bird. This can be very difficult when photographing young birds, especially when the branch or wand they are standing on is moving.

But with Group-Area AF, there is no specific preference for any focus point, so all five focus points are active simultaneously. In this particular case, since the bird is the closest thing to the camera, and as long as one of the five focus points is near the bird, the camera will always focus on the bird, not the background.

focus point in photography

Once the focus is acquired, the group-area AF will also track the subject, but repeat, only if one of the five focus points is near the main subject (the bird in the example above). If the subject is moving quickly and you cannot move the camera effectively in the same direction, focus will be lost, similar to what happens in dynamic AF mode 9.

In terms of tracking, I personally find the group-area AF to be quite fast, but it’s hard to tell if it’s as fast as Dynamic 9 AF – in some cases, Dynamic 9 AF appears to be a bit faster.

Use the Group-Area AF mode for face detection

Another important fact I have to mention is that when using Group-Area AF in AF-S mode, the camera is able to recognize faces and try to focus on the eyes of the closest person, which is cool. For example, if you are photographing someone between branches and leaves, the camera will always try to focus on the person’s face rather than the branch closest to the camera.

focus point in photography
100mm f / 2.8 1/125 ISO125

Unfortunately, facial recognition is only activated in the AF-S mode, but this mode is only suitable for photographing still objects. So if you shoot fast-moving team sports and need the camera to lock and track on the target’s face (not on the closest object), the best area mode you should use is the dynamic auto focus mode along with the AF-C.


The designations for this mode are based on common types of cameras:

  • Nikon: Auto AF Area Mode
  • Canon: Auto AF Area
  • Sony: Wide

This automatic mode will automatically select Focus Points. Because it recognizes a person’s skin tone in the frame and will focus on them automatically. If there are multiple people in the scene, it will focus on the people closest to the camera. If the camera does not detect any skin tones, it will usually focus on the closest and largest object in the frame.

If you shoot in AF-S mode and choose “Auto-Area AF,” the camera will display the focus points it will use for a second, allowing you to see the area the camera is focusing on.

It is also used in situations where you need to quickly focus on something close to the camera.

But the camera can choose the wrong subject or the wrong part of the subject to focus on.

I never use this mode, because I want to control where the focus is, rather than letting my camera do it for me.

It is the best mode for novice photographers who are starting to use the camera’s autofocus modes, if you are a novice I recommend you leave the focus area modes at this mode, and play with the auto focus modes (AF-S, AF-C, AF-A).

If you want to control what to focus on in your image, this mode is not for you.

Focus on the eye EYE AF MODE

If you are a selfie photographer, Eye Auto Focus is a mode that you will use regularly. Eyes are the most important component of this field, and getting a sharp focus on these small targets can be a challenge, especially when using a shallow depth of field.

focus point in photography
60mm f / 2.8 1 / 125s ISO400

Mirrorless cameras are pioneering eye recognition. Nikon Z series cameras now include Eye-Detection AF as standard, along with the usual focus modes. Canon also uses Eye AF in the EOS R lineup.

However, out of all the major manufacturers, Sony has the best Eye AF system. It reliably tracks the eye, even if your target is moving, wearing glasses, or looking down. Sony Eye AF works with animals, so you can use it for wildlife photography, too.

Finally, keep in mind that AF-area modes are constantly evolving. New features are made available with each model update and technology advancements, so make sure your camera has the latest firmware updates in order to get new features, best autofocus area modes and performance!

How to change AF-Area modes on the camera?

To see how to change the AF-Area modes on your camera, again, I recommend checking out the camera manual.

If you have an entry-level camera, the Camera Menu (Menu) is often required to change the AF-Area modes.

If you have a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera, you may be able to quickly switch between the different AF-Area modes, by pressing a combination of different buttons. For example, on a Nikon D850 DSLR camera, you must press the same AF modes button on the front of the camera, and then rotate the front dial (sub-control dial) to change the AF-area mode.

Regardless of the manufacturer, all high-end camera bodies have a dedicated switch for choosing the best AF-Area mode.

What is the AF-On button on the camera?

focus point in photography

Most cameras will autofocus when you press the shutter button halfway. Although this is a great feature, there are times when you’ll want the two actions – focus and take a photo – to be separate from each other I’ll show you why you’ll want it.

Most cameras allow you to do this by locking focus with a separate button, often called AF-On, and removing it from the shutter.

This button might not seem like much of a benefit, but you’ll encounter a lot of situations where you don’t want the camera to refocus by simply pressing the shutter button, so AF-On is an important feature, and we recommend using it instead of half-pressing the shutter button if possible. There are no downsides to using it, but rather many positives.

When does AF-On help in the picture?

In the event that you need to lock focus to take multiple photos of the same subject:

Simply press the AF-On button to focus, then don’t press it again until you have captured the batch of shots you want.

If you want to focus and reconfigure:

Suppose you want an image composition where your subject is at the edge of the image. In this case, if your camera has a small number of focus points 11 points, for example, the autofocus points may not reach the side of the frame where you want your subject to be.

Therefore, you should focus only using one of the points you have, then hold down the shooting button, and move the camera in order to get the composition of the image where your subject is at the edge of the frame, without raising the finger on the shooting button, then take the picture.

However, with the AF-On button, you can press it once to lock focus, then you can compose the image as you like instead of half-pressing the shutter button all the time.

If you need to wait a while before taking a photo:

You may find yourself in situations where you need to focus, and then wait a while before taking a photo. For example, you might want to photograph a toddler in the park, waiting for him to hop. With the AF-On button, you can focus in the right spot and wait, then capture the shot as fast as you can when the time is right – while still being prepared to quickly refocus if the subject moves out of frame.

These are the reasons why we highly recommend switching the camera from the shutter focus to the AF-On button. If you always use the Shoot button to focus, it might be a bit difficult for the first few days after starting to use this button, but it is something you won’t regret in the end. (Some cameras don’t have an AF-On button, but you’ll always find one to serve the same purpose.)

Now you have all the information related to the Focus including the manual and the automatic focus and its modes, as well as the AF-Area modes … etc. You will only be left with how to apply it in real life. In the next paragraph I’ll give you some key steps to focus on your goals in order to get the perfect sharpness or precision.

Basic steps to focus in photography

As a photographer, there is nothing worse than a blurry photo for a great moment. If you want to know how to focus in the camera, then practice the following steps to make sure you always keep your subject in focus!

Determine where you want to focus in the image
This is due to the technical configuration! Are you looking to make a subject stand out from the front and make the background blur? Or do you want to photograph an image where the background and foreground stand out and clear?

If you want to highlight your subject without caring for the background this is very easy, because you know what to focus on, you should only choose a large aperture of f / 1.8 or f / 2 to get a narrow depth of field i.e. a blurry background. With regard to focus, we must apply what we saw above, meaning either you set the focus manually on your topic or choose the automatic focus mode and the appropriate region mode for your topic.

But if you are outside for landscape photography. You have an adorable intro and background, and you want to focus on everything as much as possible. Naturally, you’ll consider setting a small aperture of f / 11 or f / 16 to get a wide depth of field so everything in your photo is clear. However, not everything in your frame is sharp. Aperture alone will not do the trick.

The truth is, lenses cannot hold everything – from what’s directly in front of you to the horizon – reasonably sharp at the same time. You can focus on something too close while risking blurring the background. Or, you can focus on something far away and risk blurring the foreground elements.

If you wanted an image where all the elements were clear, meaning a deep field depth, where would you focus?

When photographing landscapes, architecture, or any type of photography that requires deep depth of field, you will have to focus on something called super focus distance. Do not panic! I will explain more!

Hyperfocal Focus Distance

It is the focal point you should focus on to give your photos the greatest depth of field.

For example, consider a landscape in which you want everything – foreground and background – to appear sharp. If you focus on the foreground, the background will be blurry in the image. And if you focus on the background, the foreground looks out of focus! How do you fix this? Simple: You have to focus on a specific point between the foreground and the background, making the foreground and background elements of the scene look sharp. This focus point in photography is called super focus distance.

The method I usually use to get the perfect sharpness in my photos is as simple as this chart:

focus point in photography
Focus distance limitation table

For example, if you have a Crop Sensor camera, i.e. APS-C in the table above, and you use a 24mm lens and a f / 5.8 aperture number, the point that you should focus on will be 17 feet away from your camera.

And if you own a Full Frame camera, and use a 20mm lens and a number for the aperture of f / 22, the point you should focus on will be two feet away from the camera … and so on.

Applications for calculating Hyperfocal Distance

But another easy way to calculate super focus distance is to download an app that does this. Like Hyperfocal DOF app. easy to use ! Simply type in the name of your camera, then the focal length of your lens (16mm, 24mm, 35mm …), and also the aperture you are using for photography (f / 2.8, f / 5.6, f / 8…). Then choose if you want the focal length in meters, tap Meters or in feet tap Feets. Finally, press CALCULATE HYPERFOCAL. The distance you got is the distance between your camera and the point you should focus on.

There are many other applications that calculate focal distance: Hyperfocal Pro, Hyperfocal Free calculator… etc.

As for my personal opinion, I strongly suggest Photopills, it is not free, it costs 10 dollars, but it will help you a lot in this process, and in many other operations.

PhotoPills offers tools for calculating Hyperfocal Distance, Exposure Time, Depth Of Field, Field of View, Time Lapse, and much more. The app also includes how-to articles. If you want a photography companion that does practically everything, this app is the perfect fit.

Now let’s go back to the hyperfocal Distance theme, when your scene has nothing in the foreground to focus on, but you want to focus on the distant mountains in the background. In this case, use Focus on Infinity.

I think everything is clear about the first step of how to focus in photography, so let’s now move on to the second step.

Manual focus or automatic focus – Manual Focus Vs AUTOFOCUS

The choice to use manual focus or automatic focus depends on the amount of time you have available to adjust your focus and lighting conditions within the scene.

The camera usually struggles to focus on autofocus in low light, so the manual focus option is preferable in this case. When photographing the Milky Way, for example. Or if the subject is stationary (landscape photography). But if you want to photograph something moving, a bird or a person standing among the trees, etc. read on!

Switch the focus from “M” to “AF” on the lens and camera

If you decide to focus the camera automatically, you must switch the camera focus to this mode. Most in-camera focus is controlled by a dedicated switch on the lens or body called AF / MF or A / M.

focus point in photography

By enabling autofocus on the viewfinder, you can now manipulate the camera’s autofocus modes discussed earlier.

Select the best automatic focus mode (AUTOFOCUS Modes)

Once the autofocus function is activated, you must choose the best autofocus mode for your subject.

  • Ideal for portraits and landscapes, single auto focus (AF-S) is the usual choice if you are shooting a still subject.
  • Automatic continuous focus (AF-C) is best if your subject is moving, as is the case with wildlife or action photography.
  • Choose autofocus (AF-A) if your subject is unexpected and can be stationary or moving, like a bird.

Set the focus area style according to the subject (AUTOFOCUS Area Mode)

 When you get to the AF-Area selection stage meaning the auto focus mode, you have to ask yourself a few questions: How many AF points do you think you would need to photograph a bird over a tree branch while keeping it clear? Is your subject static and want to capture it in the middle of a composition or frame? If so, a single point is the best area position you can use in this situation. If your subject moves across the frame like a bird, dynamic zone mode is the best option.

Remember, focus point in photography are the key to detecting and tracking your subject, and the central focus point is the fastest and most accurate. You can also leave the tracking and focus the image on the camera’s automatic system by selecting the AF-area mode in some specific situations if you have to.

Press the shutter button halfway or use the focus back button (AF-On)

Press the shutter-release button (also called the shutter-release button) halfway to focus. Once a focused image is detected, the camera will beep, turn the focus point to green, or use some other method to confirm the focus, this varies depending on the type and model of the camera.

If you are using continuous autofocus (AF-C) and your subject is in motion, let your finger on the button keep it only half pressed, so the AF can track your subject.

Then simply press the shutter button well to take the photo!

Many photographers also use the AF-On button which I explained well above. If you focus this way, just press the AF-ON button to focus and track the subject, and the shutter release button to shoot.

Check your focus and readjust if necessary

Take a look at your picture and check if your focus is correct!

To do this, always use the camera’s LCD screen, and zoom in on the main details of the photo. If focus is not as good as you expected, try focusing slower if you use manual focus, or use a different focus area if you have used auto focus.

Focusing in photography may seem difficult, but the more you understand how focus works, the faster the process becomes!


We hope that this guide to focusing in photography helped you understand the many uses of the camera’s focusing systems. If autofocus is your preference, an understanding of both camera focus and AF-area modes will ensure that you get the most out of your photography focus points.

However, I recommend practicing the manual focus mode, especially in situations that present a challenge to the camera’s autofocus, such as low-light photography.

No matter which focus method you choose, don’t forget to check your focus on the LCD after shooting, and zoom in on the details to see if everything is exactly as accurate as you want it.

Focus is a deep topic in photography that is very important to understand. When your photos are properly focused, they will be sharp and detailed, with a sense of intention and skill behind them. This applies to all types of photography, from sports to landscape. It’s best to learn things the right way so that you don’t fall into bad habits along the way.

If there’s anything else you want to know about understanding focus points or how focus works in photography, feel free to leave a comment below!

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