Manual Focus – Practice Makes Perfect (Part 3)

Manual FocusIn my two previous posts I discussed eleven reasons why you would ever want to use manual focus, and six ways to help you get a good sharp manually-focused picture.

As I said, it takes some practice to get sharp results, and in this wrap up post I’ll discuss practice. One type of practice it easy and can be done a home. The benefit of this practice is that it is very technical and needs little preparation.

Here is how it’s done:

1. Little to No Preparation

Pick up a tape measure – either a sewing one or a construction one. (I am not assigning genders – pick what ever suits you best).

Tape it diagonally on the table

Set your camera to manual focus – you are good to go!

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

Manual FocusUsing the autofocus setting in your camera take a shot of the middle of the band. We will use it for later reference.

Now switch to manual and try hitting dates on the tape. First try to get the dates close to the center or close to your other focus points. You can use the focus indicator trick to see if you are in focus or not.

Now try and go to the extremes, try and shoot the two ends of the band – the close one and the far one. Write down the number you were aiming at.

Next step is to analyze the pictures. Bring them up on the computer screen and blow up to 100% (ctrl+alt+0 on Photoshop). Are they sharp where you intended? This is where the first image you took with auto focus can come in handy. If the image is not as sharp as you’d like, you can compare it to the image that is auto focused. This will help you know if you lens is soft or if you are just out of focus.

3. Some tips

I used my beloved Nikkor 85mm/1.8. I pushed it up all the way to f/1.8. This is how I achieved the shallowest depth of field and made sure that I was not getting any coincidental sharpness.

Do the test in a location with plenty of light. This way you can be sure that any softness is caused by being out of focus and not caused from motion blur.

Manual Focus Mini Series: