How and Where to Focus to Get Perfectly Sharp Photos Every Time

It doesn't matter how great your composition is or how spectacular your colors might be, if your image is not crisply focused, then you most likely need to toss it in the trash. Learn how to nail your focus for tack-sharp images every time.

Way back when, many moons ago, there was a glorious time in a long-forgotten era when photographers had to actually do all the focusing themselves. It sounds rather quaint, but cameras and lenses of yesteryear weren't so technologically advanced that with a little half-press of a button, they could instantly focus in on a subject with alarming consistency and accuracy. But as research and development of gear has evolved, so have the autofocus systems, and we're at a point now in history where it's never been easy to beautifully focused subjects at an incredibly high hit rate. But it's not foolproof.

And that brings us to this great video by Henry Turner, in which he demonstrates how to get razor sharp focus in your images. It should be pointed out that Turner is a landscape photographer, so that's the position he's coming from, but in this video he discusses two vital topics: how to focus as well as where to focus. Sometimes, if you have a very obvious subject that is dominating every other element in the frame, then the choice of where to focus is very simple. But if you have a lot of depth in your image, and interesting elements in the foreground, the middle, and the background, then your options become a little more complicated. Turner addresses this, so give the video a look and let me know your thoughts.

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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A method of focus I've learned was this. Take the focal length of your lens in meters/yards. Everything at that distance or beyond will be in focus because they're at or beyond infinity. Then, whatever you want in focus in your foreground, you focus a third of the way into the scene from that point. I gave this a try and it worked pretty well in this image I focused on the trees in front of the memorials. The moon and structures are at or beyond infinity.

Cheers. The hard thing with Instagram is that it does such horrible compression that you can never tell when an image is really in focus or not!

Or pretty much all social media.