6 Situations When You Should Use Manual Focus

manual focus

While buying a lens for our camera, we all make sure that the lens focuses accurately in auto-focus mode. Auto-focus saves a lot of time and effort as all we have to do is press the shutter release button halfway and the camera does all the calculations and focus hunting for you.

But what if your lens fails to lock the focus on the subject accurately, or it keeps on hunting for the subject but fails to focus? There are such situations and we do get irritated just because the lens is not able to focus on the subject. This is when manual focus comes to rescue as you being the photographer has all the control as to where you wish to set to focus.

In this blog post, I will be discussing 6 commonly faced situations where you should say goodbye to the auto-focus and switch to manual focus to get the best out of your camera.

Manual focus while clicking close-up/macro photos

In order to shoot macro photos, you need to make sure that the focus is spot-on and at the exact point where you want the maximum sharpness. Even a slight shift in the focus plane can result in images with less sharpness, as you would be working with shallow depth of field. by using the lens in manual mode, you can minimize the chances of losing the focus on the specific portion of the subject.

manual focus

Manual focus while clicking multiple frames for HDR or panorama images

To make an HDR image, you would have to click multiple shots of different exposures in order to get the accurate dynamic range in the final image. Similarly, while planning a panorama you would be clicking multiple frames by moving your camera in order to cover a wide area in a single image.

In both the scenarios, it is important that you switch the focus of your lens to manual to avoid focusing issue during post processing. You would not want a part of your panorama to be out of focus, or your HRD image lacking sharpness.

manual focus

Manual focus while clicking in low light conditions

While clicking photos at night, due to low light condition the camera will face issues in looking for the accurate focus point. As there is hardly any light available in the scene, the camera assumes that there is no contrast in the scene and thus fails to lock the focus. To get sharp photos at night, be it of light trails or stars, switch to manual focus and set the focus by looking through the viewfinder. In the case of stars, set to focus to infinity.

manual focus

Manual focus while clicking subjects lacking contrast

If you ever try clicking a white subject over the white background using automatic focus, it is unlikely that your camera will lock focus on your subject. The reason behind this is that your camera seeks and locks focus based on the contrast in your frame. So if there is a low contrast in your frame, the lens will keep on hunting for the subject and might fail to lock the focus.

So in situations where there is no or very less contrast in your frame, always switch to manual focus and then move the focus ring to lock the focus on your subject.

Manual focus while clicking deliberate out-of-focus photo

If you want to get creative and try something different, you can try and make your subject out of focus deliberately. In this particular scenario, the camera would not know that you want to make the subject out of focus and so you will have to adjust the focus ring manually.

If there are multiple subjects in your frame, but the camera is only focusing on the nearest subject and you want something different. All you have to do is switch the focus to manual and rotate the focus ring on your lens until you achieve focus on the desired subject.

manual focus

Manual focus while clicking photos through obstacles

If you are at a zoo and wish to click photos of animals inside the cage/bars, in most of the cases your lens will struggle to hunt for focus and might fail to lock the focus. The best and most apt way to click photos in this situation is to focus manually and save your time and efforts.

This also works when you are traveling in a bus or your car and see beautiful scenery outside the window. If you are shooting through the glass window, your camera will get confused and might not focus properly, so manual focus is the key to sharp photos.

Share the post if you found it useful. :)

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About Author

Kunal Malhotra
Kunal Malhotra, a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog: The Photography Blogger. Some of his favourite genres of photography are Product, Street, Fitness and Architecture.