Focusing On Your Subject :: Digital Photo Secrets

Focusing On Your Subject

by David Peterson 6 comments

Sometimes, when our photos turn out blurry, it's because of a focus problem. Your camera has set the focus point on the wrong part of the image. An example is in the image on the right. The camera's focus point is outside leaving our subject (the boy) blurry and out of focus.

How does this happen? Your camera isn't smart enough to pick out what you want to be in focus, so it takes a best guess. When you take a photo, your camera selects areas near the middle of the image and ensures those are in focus.

Unfortunately if you want a more pleasing shot, you will rarely have your subject in the center of your photo. Using the 'Rule of Thirds' your subject should be on the left or right side of the photo, not the middle.

One technique to use is called a "Focus then Recompose". This is where you take these steps before you take the shot:

  1. First point your camera towards your subject
  2. Depress the shutter button half way down to force the camera to lock focus on your subject
  3. Now move the camera so your subject is on the left or right of the photo
  4. Fully press the shutter button to take the photo.

I used this method in the image to the right. Focus is on the boy even though he's not in the center of the photo.

If you have an SLR camera, you can see where your camera's focus will be by looking through the viewfinder. You can usually see what parts of the photo are in focus, but if you are not sure most cameras display an indication superimposed on the image (like a red box) where the focus has been set.

If you have a Point and Shoot camera, these sometimes show you on the LCD screen where the focus is. But if you're not sure, take the photo and then use the LCD to zoom into the image. It's much better to check that your photo has the correct focus immediately so you can take another shot if needed than to wait until you get home and discover your error!

There are more causes for blurry photos than your subject being out of focus. Check them out with my Top 4 Causes of Blurry Photos, And How To Fix Them.

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  1. David Peterson says:

    Hi Debra,

    What camera do you have? On every digital camera I have ever used, they have the 'half press down' feature.


  2. Debra says:

    "2.Depress the shutter button half way down to force the camera to lock focus on your subject" The most ridiculous thing I've read this year. On my camera there is no "half way down".

  3. Pete says:

    I select automatic AF point on my Canon Rebel. Am I better of selecting just one auto focus point and then recomposing as you describe ?

  4. Lydia McCallen says:

    I have been getting you marvellous instructions for some time now and I did miss them when you were ill, glad you are lots better now.
    I found the one on the better way to make photos black and white but could not hear the commentary can you please help me.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.