Photography: Focus Modes

Posted on: 14th October 2013

Digital cameras today offer a variety of focus modes to choose from. The most common would be that the focus will automatically lock in if you press down the shutter release button halfway through (for automatic mode).

To achieve optimum focus, you have to familiarize yourself with the function of the two-step shutter button. Of course, you also have to take into account the level of illumination around the surroundings, the movement and/or speed of the subject as well as the degree of contrast between the subject and the scene.

Digital cameras with auto focus assist lamp are best used at night or in dark sceneries. Since there is low lighting, this function will give justice to the subject in close range.

On the other hand, the LCD aids in securing focus at the right moment. Also called the electronic viewfinder, it changes colour that signals you whether you have achieved the right focus or not. Some digital cameras have also built-in audio sound to signal if you have locked focus.

Photography Focus ModeAuto focus

Single (or one) area focus — The camera is concentrating on the subject in the middle part of the screen. Photographers always use the focus mode because of its accuracy. Depending on how near or far the subject is, you have the freedom to control the camera focus.

Continuous autofocus — It allows you to concentrate on a specific subject without any interruption. If you are shooting slow moving subjects, a continuous autofocus can help a lot to capture the very essence. Nevertheless, it is not always as perfect as the original subject. Digital cameras that also double as video also use this mode as its default setting.

Spot focus — The camera is concentrating on a very precise part of the screen.

Multi area focus — It automatically focuses on the subject. Nevertheless, the concentration of the focus may change. This can happen if there is more than one subject within the shooting scenery. This mode has less accuracy than single area focus.

Face-priority AF — It scans facial features to ensure that you will have clear and crisp outputs. This is done by concentrating on the location of the detected faces in a scene. Current models of digital cameras these days can focus on a particular face you want to take a shot of. All you need to do is to recompose the picture even if the subject moves or changes location. The focus will still remain on the face of the subject.


A pre-focus mode works best if you have a pre-determined and similar distance between the camera and the subject or object. Focus will not change unless you change to another focus mode or you press the focus button again. You can recompose again after you chance focus. It is always advisable to check your camera manual to determine the different ways of pre-focusing alternatives.

Manual focus

Manual focus area – This is best used for macro shots. With manual focus area, the concentration is on any part of the scene and not the on the subject especially if it is not in the middle of the scene. You can also use this for close-up photography.

Focus ring — This proves to be most advantageous if you have not determine yet the range or distance of you want to have from your subject. You can focus manually on the subject just by turning a focus ring near the lens.

Focus button — Bring the subject into focus by depressing a manual focus button and rotating a dial.

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