Complete Guide to Autofocus and AF Modes

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Vasilios Gavrilis and PhotoinPhoto.com (PiP) offer a TOTALLY FREE Online Courses “Complete Guide to Autofocus and AF Modes” that allow you to learn everything about yet another AF concept which may seem confusing at first—AF Area Modes—that will help you reach perfection in focusing only on the most important in your photographs.

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Part I (1st Day): Autofocus types – Focus points

Most modern digital SLR cameras are equipped with advanced autofocus systems that are often hard to understand. Whether you are shooting with an entry-level or professional DSLR, knowing how to use autofocus system effectively is essential to get sharp images. A badly-focused, blurry image can ruin a photograph and you cannot repair it in post-processing. Some professionals often end up converting their images to black and white, to hide their focusing problems. If you learn how to focus correctly, you do not have to resort to such measures and you can deliver much better results to your clients and family. Simply put, accurate focus translates to sharper images and that is something everyone is looking for in photographs today. I know some photographers will argue with me on this, saying that sometimes image blur yields a “creative” look, but it is one thing when you do it on purpose and another, when you consistently mess up just because you don’t know how to focus well with your camera. Once you learn how to properly focus with your camera, you can then decide whether you want to blur something on purpose.

Part 2 (2nd Day): AF-S/One Shot AF – Continuous AF-C/AI Servo – AF-A/AI Focus AF – AF-F – Conclusion

Using AI-Servo was really a huge step forward for me . When I discovered it for the first time I was pretty blown away! AI-Servo tracks focus on moving subjects so as your subject moves closer or moves further away your camera constantly updates focus to keep the subject as sharp as possible. This means that a train could be headed straight towards you and you could set your center focus point over the nose of the train and your camera would keep the train in focus as it got close and closer. Eventually the train would be too close for your camera to focus though and at that time it’s best to get off the tracks (protip).

Part 3 (3nd Day): Single Point AF Area Mode – Dynamic AF Area Mode – Auto Area AF Mode – Group Area AF Mode

The current line-up of top Nikon D-SLRs offer a range of AF settings.  The combination’s in settings seem daunting at first.  But with other settings on my D3 bodies, I keep it fairly simple.  Instead of flip-flopping between numerous settings, I keep it simple by generally using the AF settings in just two ways.  This depends on what whether my subject is static or moving.

First of, we’re keeping manual focus out of this discussion.  If you need to focus in manual for some reason, eg, doing macro work, the choice to do so will be for obvious reasons – you’re in a situation where you don’t need AF, or the AF doesn’t respond properly.

Then your choice of AF mode starts at the moment you decide whether you need to shoot in either Continuous-servo (AF-C) or Single-servo mode (AF-S).  This however, depends on how you use your AF-ON button / Back-Button Focus.

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