Your camera comes with auto-focus – of course it does. Well most DSLR cameras and compacts do. But that doesn’t mean you’ll always get shots that are “in focus.”
The auto-focus on your camera is just like everything else on your camera. You have to know how to use it properly to get a good result.
Whether your camera has nine auto-focus points or 51 auto-focus points, you can still end up with an out-of-focus picture if you don’t pay attention to careful focus.
The camera will generally pick what it thinks you want to be in focus by selecting either the most prominent thing in the scene or the closest thing in the scene. And you know what – that may indeed be the right decision. But what if you’re photographing a human being with a large nose and shooting wide-open at f/1.8 on your 50mm lens? The nose is going to be closer to the camera than the eyes and it’s likely the nose will be in focus while the eyes won’t be.
Most modern cameras come with the ability to manually shift the focus point around the viewfinder. This lets you set the individual focus point. In the example above, you’d want to be sure to put your focus point right over the eye. That way the eye would be the focal point of the shot and not the nose.
One thing that can really aid in the pursuit of careful focus is the Focus Lock button on your camera. Acquire focus, press the Focus Lock, recompose if you need to and then press the shutter.
Take your time and don’t just rely on your camera’s general auto-focus capability if you want to improve the number of shots that come out just right.