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How to focus a camera

While autofocus usually does the job, sometimes focusing manually is the key to a good photograph. For a DSLR or SLR camera, set the lens to manual focus, and then rotate the focus ring until the subject is sharp. If you want a focused subject and blurred background, use techniques to achieve a shallow depth of field. For better smartphone photos, tap the screen to focus manually and try to keep the phone completely still.


[[[[Edit]Use manual focus on a DSLR

  1. Turn the switch on the lens to “MF.” Check the side of your DSLR (digital single lens reflex) or SLR lens for a small switch labeled “AF ̵
    1; MF” or “A – M.” If the switch is set to “AF,” or auto focus, turn it to “MF” or manual focus.[1]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 1.jpg
    • When you get used to shooting manually, you can try shooting still images, such as flowers or other objects. It becomes much harder to focus manually if you are shooting moving objects or people.[2]
    • When you set to auto focus, the focus is adjusted automatically by pressing the shutter button halfway. In manual mode, rotate the focus ring on the lens.
    • Be sure to switch the camera to manual focus before turning the focus ring. Adjusting the focus ring while the camera is in auto focus may damage the lens.
  2. Rotate the focus ring until the subject is sharp. You will find two rings around a DSLR zoom lens. The one closest to the camera body controls zoom and the one towards the end of the lens controls focus. Look into the viewfinder, turn the focus ring and see different parts of the shot come into focus.[3]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 2.jpg
    • Play with the focus function when you see how the shot changes to get a feel for manual adjustment.
    • Look for two scales with numbers marked “ft” and “m” around the focus ring. The number displayed through the display window or in line with a mark tells you where the lens is focusing. If you see 1.25 on the viewer or are in line with an arrow, objects away from the lens are in focus.
    • When focusing on your subject, try to make sure that the focus is on their eyes, so that their eyes appear nice and clear. Then you can create different looks by adjusting the aperture.[4]
    • If you use a wide aperture, you can create a soft focus in the background. In this way, the subject will still be in focus, but the background behind them will be blurred.[5]
  3. Use live view mode to fine-tune focus. The viewfinder, or the small window you look through when taking a photo, does not always offer the best representation of focus. If your camera has an LCD screen, switch to live view mode to make a final focus check. See the image on the LCD screen and rotate the focus ring until the subject is sharp.[6]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 3.jpg
    • Most photographers prefer to look through the viewfinder when taking photographs. Holding the camera in your face supports it and minimizes movement. You can still take the photo with the viewfinder, but use the LCD screen to adjust your focus.
    • Note that once you have set the focus, keep the camera away from the subject. The subject becomes unfocused if it moves outside the area specified in the focus ring. For this reason, autofocus is best for moving objects.
  4. Measure the distance from a still image to the lens for perfect focus. Remember that the numbers on the focus ring tell you where the lens is focusing. For perfect focus, set your focus distance and then place the subject exactly that distance from the lens.[7]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 4.jpg
    • For example, if you are taking a portrait, place the camera on a tripod, set your focus on, and place the sitter exactly that distance from the camera lens.
    • Measurement works well in a studio setting with still images, but it will probably not be an option if you shoot in the field. When you can not make an accurate measurement, estimate the distance and adjust the focus with the LCD screen.

[[[[Edit]Adjust the depth of field

  1. Check the camera’s minimum focus distance. The minimum focus distance is how far the lens must be from a full zoom subject. If you want the subject to be in sharp focus with a blurred background, you need to get as close to the subject as possible in full zoom. Search online for your camera or lens model number with the keywords “minimum focus distance.”[8]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 5.jpg
    • Your DSLR probably came with a basic kit lens, for example 18-105 mm with a minimal focus distance on. This means that it cannot focus on objects closer than at full zoom.
    • A good macro lens, designed for very detailed close-ups, can focus on objects or smaller from the full zoom lens.
    • Optical zoom point-and-shoot cameras also have the lowest focal length. If you do not have a DSLR, you can still manipulate the depth of field to achieve a sharply focused subject with a blurred background.[9]
  2. Zoom in on your subject for a shallow depth of field. With the full zoom lens, you can place the subject at the smallest focal length from the lens tip. If your minimum focus distance is, the subject should be so far away from the lens.[10]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 6.jpg
    • Depth of field is the amount of photography that is displayed sharply from the foreground to the background. When a photo is taken at a shallow depth of field, an object appears closer to the lens in sharp focus and the background is blurred.
  3. Use the largest aperture setting to blur the background. The aperture setting, or f-stop number, controls the amount of light entering the lens. A smaller f-stop number, such as f2, corresponds to a larger aperture. A larger aperture results in a shallow depth of field, giving a sharply focused subject and blurred background.[11]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 7.jpg
    • Look for a dial at the top of the camera. Set it to “A” or “Off”, which indicates the aperture priority mode. In this mode, you set the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed automatically. In “M,” or manual mode, select both aperture and shutter speed.
    • If you have a point-and-shoot camera, you may be able to control the aperture manually, but not all models offer this feature. If you can not, you should still be able to achieve a shallow depth of field by zooming in all the way at the minimum focus distance.[12]
  4. Set the distance between your subject and the background. The more space there is between the subject and the background, the blur the background becomes. Keep as much distance as possible between the subject you are focusing on and all objects in the background.[13]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 8.jpg
    • For example, photographing a flower at least in front of a background object gives you more blur than if there are objects behind it.
    • This principle also applies to smartphone cameras. To some extent, you can achieve the effects of a shallow depth of field, even if phone cameras do not have optical zoom.[14]
  5. Adjust the shutter speed and ISO, if necessary. A larger aperture means more light enters the lens. This can cause bright, noisy photographs in outdoor settings or in other well-lit places. To reduce the brightness while maintaining a large aperture, you need to adjust the shutter speed and ISO settings.[15]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 9.jpg
    • Go with a faster shutter speed to reduce the brightness. If the current setting is 200, it means that the shutter speed is 1/200 second. Gradually try faster shutter speeds, e.g. 1/500 or 1/1000, until you reach the desired brightness.[16]
    • Make sure your ISO is set to 100 or 200. Under well-lit conditions, higher ISO settings produce grainy, noisy photographs.[17]
    • The exact methods for setting the shutter speed and ISO vary depending on the camera model, so look through your menu options or check your user manual for specific instructions.

[[[[Edit]Focus on a smartphone camera

  1. Click on the screen where you want the camera to focus. To manually focus a smartphone, simply click on the object as it appears on the screen. Then you see a square or rectangle on the object.[18]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 10.jpg
    • Hold down the screen to lock the focus on the subject. This means that if other objects in the frame change position, the phone will focus where you selected.
    • Note that the topic you have locked focuses on must remain, or it will become unfocused. Also, keep the phone at the same distance from the subject after setting the focus. Do not take it closer or further away from the subject, otherwise you will lose focus.
  2. Keep your phone as still as possible. Unstable hands are the number 1 cause of blurred cell phone photographs. To ensure that your phone stays still, invest in a stand designed for smartphones.[19]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 11.jpg
    • If you do not have a tripod on hand, try playing the phone on a surface. If you must hold it in the air, try to keep your arms as close to your body as possible. Hold your breath while taking the photo, or do your best to slow down your breathing.
    • Good lighting can also reduce blur due to shaking. In lower light, the shutter speed is slower, which gives more time to shake to blur the image.
  3. Avoid using digital zoom. For DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras, optical zoom is when the lens is physically moving to enlarge the subject. Mobile phone cameras do not currently have this feature. A smartphone’s zoom function simply harvests and enlarges the image, which lowers the image quality.[20]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 12.jpg
    • Instead of using digital zoom, bring the camera lens as close to the subject as possible. Keep in mind that most smartphone cameras cannot focus on objects smaller than from the lens.[21]
  4. Use the distance to blur the background. As with DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras, you can manipulate the depth of field of a smartphone camera to blur backgrounds. Tap the screen to manually focus on your subject and put as much space as possible between it and all the objects in the background.[22]
    Focusing on a Camera Step 13.jpg
    • Check the camera’s settings for macro or portrait modes. In these situations, you have easier time to achieve a sharply focused subject with a blurred background.


  • Play with the camera settings. Manually adjusting settings may seem daunting at first, but with a little sparkle, it becomes intuitive.
  • Standard Android and iPhone camera apps allow you to adjust only a few settings manually. If you want more control over your smartphone camera, you can always download a third-party app.[23]

[[[[Edit]Related wikiHows

  • Use almost any 35mm film camera
  • Use each Nikon Digital SLR
  • Blur background on a photograph


  1. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-use-manual-focus-on-your-dslr-lens/
  2. [v161357_b01]. April 14, 2020.
  3. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-use-manual-focus-on-your-dslr-lens/
  4. [v161393_b01]. 5 May 2020.
  5. [v161393_b01]. 5 May 2020.
  6. https://www.photographytalk.com/photography-articles/6974-how-using-live-view-can-improve-your-photos
  7. https://www.diyphotography.net/six-tips-to-take-great-manual-focus-pictures/
  8. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-blurred-backgrounds-with-a-dslr-kit-lens/
  9. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-blurry-backgrounds-with-a-point-and-shoot/
  10. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-blurred-backgrounds-with-a-dslr-kit-lens/
  11. https://photographylife.com/what-is-aperture-in-photography
  12. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-blurry-backgrounds-with-a-point-and-shoot/
  13. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-blurred-backgrounds-with-a-dslr-kit-lens/
  14. https://www.businessinsider.com/portrait-mode-photos-tips-tricks-google-2017-11#3-dont-stand-too-close-to-the-background-3
  15. https://photographylife.com/what-is-aperture-in-photography
  16. https://photographylife.com/what-is-shutter-speed-in-photography
  17. https://photographylife.com/what-is-iso-in-photography
  18. https://www.popsci.com/take-better-smartphone-photos#page-2
  19. https://www.popsci.com/take-better-smartphone-photos#page-5
  20. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383739,00.asp
  21. https://iphonephotographyschool.com/focus-tips/
  22. https://www.businessinsider.com/portrait-mode-photos-tips-tricks-google-2017-11#3-dont-stand-too-close-to-the-background-3
  23. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383739,00.asp

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