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To get your subject in focus, the camera lens must be set to the right distance. Autofocus will give you the right setting in the vast majority of cases.

Using Autofocus

For most pictures, you can use the autofocus by pointing the camera at the subject and simply pressing the shutter button. The camera measures the distance to the subject and adjusts the focus accordingly. What could be easier?

Unfortunately, that doesn't always do the job. There are a few situations in which autofocus will not work correctly without a little input from the user. If the subject is not in the center of the frame or there's an excessively bright object near the center (where autofocus will look to determine proper focus), then autofocus may not gauge the distance correctly (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3. Setting the focus while aiming at the street and then reframing on the car prevents the glare on the windshield from throwing the autofocus off.

If you're not sure that the autofocus is going to know what you're trying to focus on, temporarily move the camera so that the intended subject is in the center of the frame and hold the shutter button halfway down to set the focus, Then reframe the shot, and press the button all the way (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. Autofocus focused on the closer car, slightly blurring the background (left). Setting the autofocus using the background keeps it in focus, but slightly blurs the car in the foreground (right).

Using Manual Focus

If your camera offers a manual focus option, you can set the focus yourself. Since the viewfinder will not always reliably show good focus, you should measure the distance from the camera to the subject. Then set the focus on the camera to that distance (Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5. The manual focus display aids you in setting a proper focus distance.

Using Macro Focus

At normal settings, the closest you can get to a subject and still have it in focus is about 10 to 12 inches. When you want a super-close shot of something like a flower, you'll need to set the camera to macro focus. At this setting, you can get within a couple of inches and the autofocus will correctly adjust for that distance (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6. The camera was about 3 inches from the flower and was set to macro focus.

When reviewing your photos, the LCD display on your camera is too small to give you a reliable sense of whether a shot is in focus. Always check the shot on your computer to make sure that the fine points like focus are correct.

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