Confession: I have trouble with focus. No, I’m not talking about any type of ADHD condition (although that might also be an issue, but beside the point here). I’m talking about the act of making sharp photos. About what seems like the never ending struggle to make the camera’s focus system behave and see what your seeing. There is nothing more frustrating thing in photography than looking at the little image in your review screen and thinking you have something great and then finding out it’s too soft or completely blurred once you upload and view in on a large computer monitor. There are a few techniques I’ve learnt that help to improve my chances of making sharp images that are usable. I’ve also learned to lower my expectations of myself and not expect every single image to be pin sharp and perfect. Because no matter what the professionals say, no one gets it right every time.
If your subject is stationary and you have time, you could try auto-focusing and then setting the focus to manual mode before pressing the shutter. When you do this, the camera keeps the focal setting, allowing you to make several photographs knowing that as long as you don’t move the camera, your subject is in focus. This is a great way to shoot landscapes where you might take dozens of frames from the same angle over a period of time.
Moving subjects are more tricky. The way that works for me when shooting moving subjects is to use back button auto focus. Most cameras these days have this feature and it may be called something else depending on the make and model of the camera. Essentially it is what it says on the box. A button on the back of the camera that allows you to focus on your subject, rather than the traditional press the shutter half way to focus and fully to shoot technique. The advantage of this is that it separates the act of focusing from the shutter release and avoids the focus jumping from your subject to the background or other object when you press the shutter fully as can happen with some cameras. Using this in combination with a continuous focusing mode allows you to capture fast moving subjects such as cars or sports, or to capture a sequence of shots of a moving subject.
Still, don’t expect to get every shot pin sharp. That’s just putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.