Peering through the viewfinder of my camera the little focus point bounces around excitedly like a small child who just met batman at a red cordial carnival inside disneyland. On occasion it pauses with a little beep as though to question whether it found the correct spot to lock focus. To be honest this little dance back and forth is starting to get old, why can’t you just do what I want!?!?!. As the sun beats down on my back it’s getting uncomfortably warm and frustration kicks in. A perfect spring day is quickly being ruined by the tiniest of insects and it’s stupid little face that my camera feels completely incapable of focusing on.
It’s time to turn this situation around and today I’m going to share my 3 step process to nailing your macro focus and let me tell you, it’s going to ROCK!
1. Never trust your cameras judgment
Change your focus mode to one-shot focus using a single point. This means that you are going to choose where the focus point is in the frame rather than letting the camera guess. The one-shot component of this (Olympus call it S-AF, Nikon call it AF-S, Canon call it One-Shot AF) essentially means that when we half press down the shutter button, the camera focuses just once and there is no continuous adjustment as you move the camera. This is going to remove a huge variable and give us lots of control to get our focus exactly right. Once this is done, move the focus point to where you want your subject’s ‘in-focus’ area to be, usually on one of the rule-of-thids intersection points is a good start.
2. Frame up your subject & lock focus
Get your composition right and ensure your subject’s important feature is on the single focus point that you’ve selected (either change your composition to suit or re-adjust the focus point position). Once this is done we half press the shutter button which will focus the lens on the subject and lock for as long as you hold the button half way down. (Don’t worry that the focus point may have slightly missed its mark, we are about to adjust that.)
3. Rock those Minor adjustments
This is the critical step, it’s called the ‘rocking method’ and and for good reason. By rocking our camera back and forth very gently you will notice that you can make critical adjustments to your focus as you move ever so slightly closer or further away from your subject. Once the exact part of the subject we are focusing on becomes sharp we gently hit the shutter button to fire the shot. I highly recommend taking a number of images before moving the camera away to check your images because when we are dealing with tiny subjects like this the difference between in focus and out of focus can be a single millimetre.
Does this beat manual focus in macro? I think so, because unless you have a tripod to free up your hands moving the focus ring can be quick a juggle. It also gets you in the rough vicinity automatically which can be a big time saver when dealing with tiny flying critters!
So there you have it, no more relying on your cameras auto-focus system to get those tiny insect eyes in focus or the stamen of flowers tack sharp. In just 3 steps you can go from the ‘spray and pray’ method to a gentle rock and save yourself hours of heartache!
Want to learn more about macro photography? Join me at the Melbourne Zoo on my exclusive small group workshop!