6 Tips for Finding Focus and Getting Sharp Images

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Getting sharp images is a common problem among beginning photographers. So, in this article I will give you some tips to hopefully answer some, if not all, of your questions about finding focus.


Some of the things we’re going to cover include:

  1. Focus mode (single, continuous, auto – AF-S, AF-C, and AF-A)
  2. Focus point mode (when to use single point, when to use zone/multi, when to use auto)
  3. Drive mode (single or continuous, when to use each)
  4. Using a large aperture, especially in low light
  5. Focus on an area with contrast
  6. Focus on the eyes of a person

There are several different settings on your camera related to focusing, so you need to choose the most appropriate one for each situation you photograph. Let’s go through them one by on,e so you know which to pick.

1. Choose the right Focus Mode

Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras (as well as many point and shoots) have a setting for focus mode. This is how you tell the camera what type of subject you’re shooting, and how it should focus according to that subject. There are generally four focus modes (some cameras have more:
  • Single: called One-Shot on Canon cameras, AF-S on Nikon and Sony, AFS on Pentax, and S-AF on Olympus.
  • Continuous: called AI Servo on Canon, AF-C on Nikon and Sony, AFC on Pentax, and C-AF on Olympus.
  • Auto: called AI Focus on Canon, AF-A on Nikon and Sony, AFA on Pentax.
  • Manual: pretty much the same on all cameras – M.

Note: it would be really nice if all the camera manufacturers could get together and use the same names, right?!

If you have another brand of camera, check the user manual to find out about your focus modes, and what they are called. But, likely there will be four that are similar to those above.

Single Focus Mode

Use Single Focus MODE for non-moving or stationary subjects

Best used for stationary objects, anything that is not moving, this mode will engage autofocus, and do a focus lock when you press the shutter button part way down. You may hear a beep when lock is achieved (you can usually disable that if it annoys you as much as it does me, check your camera menu under sounds). This mode is also best combined with using a single focus point (more on that below).

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