Digital Photography School has a post titled 5 Situations When Manual Focus is Better than Auto Focus, in which the author listed five situations where manual focusing might be easier. I will try to extend on what is already an excellent post. 😉

1. Macro work

Many people find manual focusing during macro photography easier. There are several reason for this. First, the lens may hunt for focus due to poor light conditions. Auto focus may either completely fail or becomes inaccurate. Secondly the point you want to have the sharp focus may not be at the center or any of the AF sensor locations. With very narrow depth of field, focus-and-recompose technique typically doesn’t work well for macro photography. In this case, manual focus will help you out. Not only it prevents the camera from focusing on wrong part, but also it allows you to fine-tune the focus with the help of the DOF preview function. Remember the camera focuses and meters with lens aperture at its maximum opening and stops down to the desired aperture when the shot is taken. What you see is not what you get in terms of DOF.

In situations when the DOF is not very critical, and you can place AF sensor point right on the spot, you may find auto-focus work quite well with good light. If you are chasing ants or bugs that move erratically, you may also want to stick with auto focus when possible.

For best results, your should try to always use a solid tripod. If you are serious about macro photography, you may want to consider specialized setup such as a focusing rail. Instead of turning the focus ring on the lens, which also changes magnification on many macro lenses, many skilled photographers use macro focusing rails for macro photography. The desired magnification is first set on the lens, then the subject is put in focus by sliding the camera and lens in and out without turning the focus ring on the lens.

2. Low light

If the camera has difficult in acquiring focus automatically, it makes sense to use the manual focusing. However, in the dim light, the viewfinder is dim too. If you don’t have a good eye, stay with auto focus. Most modern digital cameras now have low light focus assist system via a built-in lamp on camera body, or internal or external flash unit. They work remarkably well.

3. Portraits

This really depends on what portrait types you will be shooting. If you want to get into the artistic type that only leaves small part of facial feature in sharp focus and let the rest blur out, go for it. An alternative approach is to auto-focus using selected focus sensor point based on the desired composition. Read More…

Posted in Tips and Techniques on September 19th, 2007. No Comments.

Push processing (pushing, uprating) is a well known film photography era technique, in which the photographer intentionally underexposes the film then compensates for the underexposed film by over-developing it in the processing lab. Typically this is done by telling the camera the loaded film is rated for higher speed than it actually is. The purpose of using this technique is to obtain the needed shutter speed to avoid blur caused by camera shake or freeze motion.

With today’s digital technology, the sensitivity of the sensor (ISO) can be easily changed at any time to obtain the desired shutter speed. In the film days, it would have meant exchanging the film in the camera with another roll that is rated at a higher speed. Is there any more incentives for underexposing then compensate it in post-processing (the equivalent of a film processing lab) with today’s digital photography? After all, many people suggest that the shadow needs to be properly exposed to avoid noise. Before answering this question, let’s look at the results of my recent experiment. Read More…

Posted in Digital photography, Photo Editing on September 16th, 2007. No Comments.

For users of digital cameras with interchangeable lens, dust can be a real problem. This is especially true for photographers who shoot at smaller apertures (large f/stop numbers). Why? Because the dusts are not sitting directly on the micro lens of the sensor but on the anti-aliasing (AA) filter. The typical distance between the AA filter and sensor surface is much greater than the size of typical dusts. At large apertures, the light rays that pass through different part of the lens surface can go around the dust and focus on to the pixel. The dust may not be visible at all or appears to be a fuzzy dot in your photos. When shooting at small aperture, the light is restricted and therefore more directional (coming through a smaller hole). It causes the dusts shadow to show up clearly and sharply in the photo.

It is not a good surprise when you come back from shooting then found out there are dark spots on the exact locations of your otherwise great photos. You cannot completely avoid getting dusts on the sensor even if you seal your camera in a air-tight bag. The moving parts on your camera and lens can also generate some particles. So, what are the options? Read More…

Posted in Digital SLR Cameras, Tips and Techniques on September 13th, 2007. 2 Comments.

There are many photo sharpening techniques. Some are quite tedious with many steps and lots of slider adjustments to make. This tip I learned today works very well and it is very simple. First, let’s check out an example. Read More…

Posted in Photo Editing, Tips and Techniques on September 10th, 2007. 2 Comments.

Last night I woke up early to photograph the total lunar eclipse. It is my first time to shoot seriously, with tripod, cable release, and mirror lock-up. It was an interesting but difficult experience. At the end I got some decent shots and learned some lessons. Here are the things I have learned.  Read More…

Posted in Tips and Techniques on August 29th, 2007. No Comments.

For many exposure bracketing shooting situations, the photographer just wants to ensure a photo with proper exposure is captured without worrying too much about the slight movements between the shots since other over or under exposed photos will most likely be discarded. For HDR photography, the requirements are more strict. Every photo counts for the quality of the final image. You should try to avoid anything that may cause blurring in the merged image. What does this mean? Read More…

Posted in Digital photography, Tips and Techniques on August 25th, 2007. No Comments.

Portrait Manipulation Tutorial by ~rosarioagro on deviantART

Posted in Photo Editing on August 24th, 2007. No Comments.

Flickr user pkripper503 shared with us this wonderful tip on how to take a great huddle shot without the photographer lying on the ground:

… put the camera on timer and have everyone huddle around the camera on the ground, though lying on the ground would achieve the same results, but you never know what’s on the floor…

Posted in Tips and Techniques on August 23rd, 2007. No Comments.
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