Understanding your camera's focus modes

We're covering the various modes of you camera this week and today we are moving on to the different auto focus modes you can select from in your camera settings. 

Accurate focus can make or break a photo. I love a soft, dreamy focus as much as the next person (see the largest image below), but 99.9% of the time I want my images in focus and sharp. I can only think of a handful of times where I purposefully wanted a blurred photo and those shots I did using manual focus anyway (Christmas light bokeh, etc...). All of the "soft focus" photos I have or share were just missed focus gone right (womp womp). 

Most DSLR camera's offer three different auto focus modes: one shot (AF-S), AI Servo (AF-C) + AI Focus (AF-A) and today we're going to learn which each of them does and how to select which one might be right for you!

What are the focus modes?

1. One shot (AF-S)

One shot (or AF-S) auto focus is your basic auto focus. You press your shutter button half-way (or BBF) and the focus is locked. The focus point will not change again until you release the shutter or if you BBF, you press your button again. 

One shot auto focus is perfect for landscape photos or images where your subject is still (buildings, parked cars, sleeping children).

2. AI Servo (AF-C)

Al Servo (or AF-C for Nikon users) is a continuous focusing mode and constantly tracks a moving subject, refocusing as needed. You cannot focus and recompose in this method as the focus will continue to track your subject (assuming that it's moving). This focusing mode is perfect for squirmy little toddlers, kiddos who just refuse to sit still, pets, action shots and more. 

3. AI Focus (AF-A)

AI focus (or AF-A for Nikon) is mix of both one shot focusing and AI Servo. As you are focusing, your camera will transition between these two modes. If you are on this mode and your subject is still (or has just very slight movement), your camera will focus as if it's on the one-shot mode. As soon as your subject starts moving, the focus will continuously track the object and will transition to AI Servo to maintain focus (or attempt to maintain focus). 

Which focus mode should you use?

The type of focus mode you use will depend on what you are photographing. If you photography lots of landscapes, still life, portraits, one shot might be your better option. If you are like me and are constantly chasing two kids (and a dog) around trying to just get ONE GOOD PHOTO, then AI Servo is definitely going to be a better option. If you do a little bit of both still life + active subjects, then maybe AI Focus would be your go-to. For me, I keep my camera set on AI Servo. My subjects are ALWAYS moving (they seriously never stop), so I feel more comfortable knowing my camera will likely track their movement as it occurs. 


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