Autofocus Modes

Autofocus Modes: And How They Affect the Sharpness of Your Photos

When it comes to photography, there’s no worse feeling than going back through your images and realizing that images you though were sharp are slightly out of focus. There are many factors that can contribute to this happening, but one of the main things you can check is if you are using the right type of focus mode for the subject you are photographing. Here are the different modes available on most DSLRs, how they work, and the type of photography you should be using them for.

autofocus, modes, canon, Al Servo, Al Focus, One Shot, AF-C, AF-S

Single Area AF – Nikon: AF-S or Canon: One Shot AF

When using one shot/single shot mode, you are toggling your focus point and locking focus on the subject. It only focuses on the subject once and will not track focus if your subject moves. This mode is less successful if you’re trying to capture a subject that might move quickly.

This should be used for any objects that are primarily still or in low-light conditions – i.e. couple’s portraits, senior portrait, detail shots, dancing at a reception, etc.

Continuous AF- Nikon: Continuous AF-C or Canon: Al Servo

Continuous mode allows you to lock focus on a moving subject. As soon as you press the shutter release or back button focus to begin tracking focus,  as you hold it the camera will try to track the subject as it moves and refocus to keep the subject sharp. This won’t always guarantee a sharp image as it can’t always predict movement, but when it nails it, it’s awesome. Side note: this mode will use a lot of battery power because it is always focusing and refocusing.

This mode is most useful whenever you have moving subjects – i.e. children’s portraits, a bride as she’s walking down the aisle, pet photography, sports, etc.

Automatic AF- Nikon: AF-A or Canon: Al Focus

This last mode allows the camera’s focus to jump between AF-C and AF-S (Nikon) or One Shot AF and Al Servo (Canon) depending on what you’re photographing.

While the camera can do a decent job knowing when to track, it’s always best to be smarter than your camera and either choose one shot or continuous mode.


So the next time you’re shooting, try to be conscious of the mode you are shooting in and see if you have a difference in results than before!


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