Shooting In Manual, Tips

How Autofocus Points Can Transform Your Photos


Here is a fun, creative way to transform your photos and improve your photography skills!

In this article I look at the Autofocus points (AF points) on your camera and how you can change the settings to produce more professional looking photos; sharper images and controlled focal points.

(For this exercise I’m using the Canon EOS Rebel T2i, known more commonly in Europe as the EOS 550D. The good news is that even if you are not quite ready to take the plunge into full manual mode, you can still give this a go in any of the creative zone settings on your DSLR.(Creative zone includes Creative Auto, plus Programmed exposure, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and the Automatic Depth of Field mode.) )

What are Autofocus Points?

When you take a picture, AF points are what the camera uses to focus on a subject. If left on automatic, the camera will make a guess at the main subject in the frame, this could be for example, a moving object in the frame. When you press the shutter halfway to take the picture,  it allows the camera to locate it’s focus point and you’ll hear the ‘beep’ as it locks the focus. You may also notice these points light up through the viewfinder.

Switching To Manual AF Selection

Part of the joy of picture taking for me is capturing the detail; whether it be eye lashes, wrinkly toes or the contour of skin on a baby. But, more than that, the detail will tell the story. Your eye will naturally be drawn in to whatever object is in focus, so we become more intentional about what becomes the focal point. Because the automatic selection is making a guess, it will not always focus on what you want to highlight and will leave you frustrated! This is where manual AF selection becomes important. By changing to manual AF selection, you will have full control over what the camera will focus on, as well as ensuring sharpness.

How to select manual AF points

Locate the AF selection by referring to the user’s manual. This is how automatic selection  may appear on your screen.

AF-automatic selection

Choose any single focal point using the dial and click on ‘set’. Now, when you look through the viewfinder, make sure the selection point is over the area you want to be in focus.


For optimal sharpness, as you take each photo, look through the viewfinder and make sure the red dot is over the area you want to be in focus, such as the eyes. Press the shutter release half way to select the focus and allow it to lock in, wait for the ‘beep’ then click all the way down to take the shot.

I recommend to stay in the same position and patiently take a few pictures from the same angle (if your subject allows.) You will find that as your child moves, the range of focus will change so I have built up the habit of constantly spotting the eyes (for example) and re-focusing so I am ready for that shot. It’s pretty noisey when I photograph – there are a lot of ‘beeps’ :-) After a few shots, take a look at the images and zoom in to see if your focus is sharp. Also note that sometimes, the only way to really see if your image is sharp is by looking at it closely on the computer.


To enhance focal points, set the aperture wide. Keeping a wide aperture (a low number) will also add to the blurry background. Just be aware that the slightest movement from the subject can throw off the focal point and for this reason I’ve recently tried to stay closer to f/2.0 rather than f/1.8 or even f/1.4 if I’m wanting the eyes to be the main focus.

Examples of focus


 Manual control of AF points work great in detail shots that fill the frame.

Eyes portraits-how-to-get-sharp-eyes-1

Baby feetAutofocus Points dslr photography-1-5

Baby’s earAutofocus Points dslr photography-3.jpg

Cookiemini session-1.jpg

EyelashesAutofocus Points dslr photography-1.jpg

Boy in the foregroundAutofocus Points dslr photography-8.jpg


Focus doesn’t have to be limited to objects in the foreground. Try focusing on an object in the background and see the foreground take on that beautiful blur.

EyesAutofocus Points dslr photography-13.jpg

ApplesAutofocus Points dslr photography-12.jpg


You can get even more creative shooting through rails or bars. However, keep the camera as steady as possible making use of an available ledge or a tripod.


Father and son on the Go KartsAutofocus Points dslr photography-10.jpg

Eyes through the crib railsAutofocus Points dslr photography-10.jpg

I hope this tutorial has provided you with helpful tips as you look to improve your photography. Have you found me on Instagram or Facebook yet? If you want to keep up to date with the newest posts don’t forget to sign up via email.

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