How to use manual focus

What you'll learn

1. How to set a camera on manual focus

2. How to ensure the best results when using manual focus

3. Why manual focus is better than autofocus for many set-ups

As useful as autofocus can be, there are many situations where being able to manually focus your camera on a specific point in the frame is vital.

What you'll need

  • Camera and lens with manual focus

  • Tripod (optional)

A bit of theory

These days, all cameras have an autofocus option and most have a manual focus option too. It might initially seem strange that you would ever want to use manual focus over autofocus, but there are a huge range of scenarios where manual focus simply makes much more sense.

Manual focus allows you to totally control the focus of the camera, usually through turning a focusing ring on the lens of the camera. This will also turn off the autofocus on the camera, which means that once you’ve set the focus, it won’t change unless you move the camera or the focusing ring. This might sound tricky, but modern cameras have loads of neat little features built in to make it much easier.

Most cameras will have an icon in the viewfinder which will help to indicate when the photo is in focus (this is usually a small circle). If your eyesight isn’t the best, or you’re finding this all a little bit too tricky, there’s one more tool that can really help. Live view mode is perfect for manual focus as it will show you exactly what the camera is seeing, so you’ll be able to see if the bit of the scene you want to be in focus is in focus. The other great feature of live view, which most cameras have, is the ability to zoom into the image to check just how well focused the shot really is.

For many scenarios where manual focus is helpful (e.g. landscape, still life, high speed, timelapse or video) a tripod can also be useful. A tripod will help to ensure your camera stays in the same spot, as moving the camera closer or futher from your subject will throw the image out of focus. This isn’t to say that manual focus isn’t possible when holding the camera, as it certainly is, it might just take a little more practice.

Manual focus is really key for photography where you want to use an external trigger, such as Triggertrap Mobile. If you’re using Triggertrap Mobile as a cable release, manual focus will ensure the shutter fires as soon as you press the button. If you’re shooting a timelapse, the last thing you want is the autofocus drifting around!

Manual focus can be a bit fiddly at first, but it really is a good technique to get a handle on as it will help you more often than you might think!

Setting up

Capturing the photos