Help your camera to focus better
Set your EOS camera focus faster, more accurately and consistently
The latest and greatest camera kit may do all kinds of magic to get great photos for a range of difficult subjects. There’s also one thing that can make your camera work even better, and that’s the camera operator – yes, you! Time and again I have seen people tell me they’ve watched amazing online tutorials from great professional photographers who have explained their perfect camera settings for the photos they take. I’ve seen photographers go out and buy the exact same kit, use the exact same settings and still not get the same result. The only thing different being the camera operator’s eye and skill.
During a recent photo tutorial session the photographer was getting less in focus shots than I was with the same camera. The claim was that their camera was not able to focus on the flying bird in the sky, and the lens was hunting between infinity and close focus constantly. This despite them having a very well configured back button AF setup. The reality was that they expected the camera to find the bird in the sky and focus on it all by itself. The reality is that the camera might do it, but if the lens is at minimum focus the bird is so out of focus that it is not even visible and the photographer can’t be sure it’s in the frame, so it’s no wonder the camera hunts between close focus and infinity.
The trick is to pre-focus the lens, by hand or by hitting the back button to drive focus on a subject at a similar distance to the bird. Then release the back button, and pan around the sky looking for the bird to be photographed, and only then, should you start pressing the button to initiate focus.
My photography history predates AF cameras, and I recall reading the techniques of sports and wildlife photographers who’d pre-focus the lens to where the action was expected to be, and I have always done similar since. It doesn’t matter if I pre-focus on the crest of a jump on a motocross track, or a distant tree for birds in flight, I’m doing my bit to give the modern AF system the chance to deliver. As a rule of thumb, you should pre-focus if your subject is moving quickly and first appears at such a distance from your camera that the lens at minimum focus would render the subject invisible.