Q&A: Focusing on off-centered subjects

Maria asked:
“I am struggling lately with quickly focusing on off center objects. Any tips on getting quick crisp images that have an off center subject?”

There are a couple different techniques you can use to focus your image with your subject not being in the center:
– Focus + Recompose
– Rotate your focus points

First up – focusing and recomposing generally only works for subjects that are, for the most part, standing still for you. You mentioned “quickly” in your question, so I’m wondering if you’re not focusing on kids running around. In that case, focus and recompose probably won’t work the best for you. To focus and recompose, you put the center focus point on the subject (I usually focus on the person’s eye) and then while keeping the focus locked by holding the shutter halfway down, move your camera to frame the subject how you want it.

On to focus points. Most cameras if you’re shooting in auto will try to automatically pick a focus point based on what the camera “sees” itself. This isn’t the best thing because camera’s aren’t very smart and they definitely can’t read your mind to know what you want to focus on. You’ll have to read your manual to be sure exactly how to do it, but all cameras can be taken out of the auto focus point setting and into the setting where you pick the focus point yourself. You can then select one of the focus points that’s not in the center of the frame, and then just place that off-center point over your subject’s face!

I tend to do a mixture of the two when I’m shooting. Often times, since I don’t usually photograph kids, the focus/recompose method is the quickest for me. You have to be careful though. When you are recomposing your shot, be very sure not to move your body forward or backward because your subject will go out of focus! (I struggle with this sometimes!) Like everything, it just takes a bit of practice. :)

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