DSLR Cameras are very intelligent. Sometimes they think they are smarter than the photographer. In most cases, they are—but there are times when their intelligence is compromised with incorrect settings. This causes the camera to produce undesirable results. Using autofocusing as an example, here’s how to reclaim some control.

Autofocusing Problem  

The Nikon D810 is billed as the most “Close to medium format” portrait camera you can get. I will admit, when shooting with a lot of ambient light on set, it rivals the quality of medium format. But the ambient light has nothing to do with the quality of the photo—it was needed to achieve focus. Many shots were missed because the camera would not focus. Several workarounds—focus and recompose, back-button focus and even using a flashlight—were quick fix solutions. Although not perfect, they got the job done.

Experiment with Settings

After a year of shooting—and asking everyone I knew about the issue—I almost resolved to accept it and wait for a replacement. My solution came one night when I experimented with several different settings. I took screen shots—using my phone—so I could set the camera back to my defaults. I never thought to change from single to continuous-servo autofocus (AF). After all, single-servo AF is used photographing subjects that don’t move, such as flowers or portraits, etc. It locks the focus on the non-moving object that you want to photograph. I tried it along with 21-point focus and it worked! I no longer had to use back-button focus or focus and recompose. I line up my focus point and shoot away.

If your camera isn’t performing the way it’s advertised, ask yourself: would the camera manufacturer draw attention to it? The obvious answer is no. Before you consider replacing your camera with a newer model, try these solutions first:  

  • Ask other users if they are having the same problem.
  • Research online and read the manual.
  • Call the manufacturer’s help desk.
  • Experiment—but remember the settings you started with.