Photo Tips: Focusing on Image Clarity


By Jon Deck

In this age of digital manipulation, the computer can enhance and correct images in many ways. However, there’s no software program that can sharpen an image that is out of focus. The only way to assure a crisp image is to take one.

Almost every digital camera has an auto-focus. When the auto-focus is on, a red box will appear in your preview screen. Before you take your shot, depress the shutter button about halfway, and the auto-focus will engage (you can hear the lens making adjustments in some cameras). When the red box turns green the scene is focused—press the shutter the rest of the way and take the shot. I use auto-focus on our house camera, and it serves me well.

That said, there are some nuances to the auto-focus:

1. The camera is trying to focus on your subject. If there is something else in your scene that is closer or more well lit, it may be focusing on that item—and rendering your subject out of focus. Sometimes a little shift in camera position can override the focal point.

2. Also, on most cameras, you can move the red focus box on the preview screen up/down/left/right using the 5-way button usually situated to the right of the preview screen. This allows you to choose the focal point in your shot.

Another thing that can cause soft focus is being too close to your subject. The best thing to do is back off a bit, and zoom into your subject. This will also help if you encounter depth of field issues, where focusing on an item in the foreground renders an item in the background in softer focus, or vice versa. Backing off your subject to gain better focus should not require a large amount of zoom. Note that cameras have an optical zoom and a digital zoom. An optical zoom refers to the magnification that can be achieved by the physical lens of the camera. Digital zoom is a further magnification by interpolation of the image, and can lessen picture quality.

Make sure your subject is well lit. That will help assure better focus as well. The last thing that can affect image clarity is camera movement.

If the camera is jostled when the shutter is snapped, that slight movement can cause a motion blur. Practice staying as still as possible through the camera capture. Remember too, that the further you are zoomed in to a subject, the harder it is the keep the image still. A tripod can help cut any camera motion completely.

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