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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 39 of 107

Focusing Basics

John Greengo

Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

39. Focusing Basics


Class Trailer
1 Class Introduction 23:32 2 Photographic Characteristics 06:46 3 Camera Types 03:03 4 Viewing System 22:09 5 Lens System 24:38 6 Shutter System 12:56 7 Shutter Speed Basics 10:16 8 Shutter Speed Effects 31:57
9 Camera & Lens Stabilization 11:06 10 Quiz: Shutter Speeds 07:55 11 Camera Settings Overview 16:12 12 Drive Mode & Buffer 04:24 13 Camera Settings - Details 10:21 14 Sensor Size: Basics 18:26 15 Sensor Sizes: Compared 24:52 16 The Sensor - Pixels 22:49 17 Sensor Size - ISO 26:59 18 Focal Length 11:36 19 Angle of View 31:29 20 Practicing Angle of View 04:59 21 Quiz: Focal Length 08:15 22 Fisheye Lens 12:32 23 Tilt & Shift Lens 20:37 24 Subject Zone 13:16 25 Lens Speed 09:03 26 Aperture 08:25 27 Depth of Field (DOF) 21:46 28 Quiz: Apertures 08:22 29 Lens Quality 07:06 30 Light Meter Basics 09:04 31 Histogram 11:48 32 Quiz: Histogram 09:07 33 Dynamic Range 07:25 34 Exposure Modes 35:15 35 Sunny 16 Rule 04:31 36 Exposure Bracketing 08:08 37 Exposure Values 20:01 38 Quiz: Exposure 20:44 39 Focusing Basics 13:08 40 Auto Focus (AF) 24:39 41 Focus Points 17:18 42 Focus Tracking 19:26 43 Focusing Q&A 06:40 44 Manual Focus 07:14 45 Digital Focus Assistance 07:35 46 Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF) 05:18 47 Quiz: Depth of Field 15:54 48 DOF Preview & Focusing Screens 04:55 49 Lens Sharpness 11:08 50 Camera Movement 11:29 51 Advanced Techniques 15:15 52 Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance 07:14 53 Auto Focus Calibration 05:15 54 Focus Stacking 07:58 55 Quiz: Focus Problems 18:54 56 Camera Accessories 32:41 57 Lens Accessories 29:24 58 Lens Adaptors & Cleaning 13:14 59 Macro 13:02 60 Flash & Lighting 04:47 61 Tripods 14:13 62 Cases 06:07 63 Being a Photographer 11:29 64 Natural Light: Direct Sunlight 28:37 65 Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight 15:57 66 Natural Light: Mixed 04:20 67 Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light 22:21 68 Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light 06:40 69 Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light 07:28 70 Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light 07:52 71 Quiz: Lighting 05:02 72 Light Management 10:46 73 Flash Fundamentals 12:06 74 Speedlights 04:12 75 Built-In & Add-On Flash 10:47 76 Off-Camera Flash 25:48 77 Off-Camera Flash For Portraits 15:36 78 Advanced Flash Techniques 08:22 79 Editing Assessments & Goals 08:57 80 Editing Set-Up 06:59 81 Importing Images 03:59 82 Organizing Your Images 32:41 83 Culling Images 13:57 84 Categories of Development 30:59 85 Adjusting Exposure 08:03 86 Remove Distractions 04:02 87 Cropping Your Images 09:53 88 Composition Basics 26:36 89 Point of View 28:56 90 Angle of View 14:35 91 Subject Placement 23:22 92 Framing Your Shot 07:27 93 Foreground & Background & Scale 03:51 94 Rule of Odds 05:00 95 Bad Composition 07:31 96 Multi-Shot Techniques 19:08 97 Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction 12:24 98 Human Vision vs The Camera 23:32 99 Visual Perception 10:43 100 Quiz: Visual Balance 14:05 101 Visual Drama 16:45 102 Elements of Design 09:24 103 Texture & Negative Space 03:57 104 Black & White & Color 10:33 105 The Photographic Process 09:08 106 Working the Shot 25:29 107 What Makes a Great Photograph? 07:01

Lesson Info

Focusing Basics

So, focus is obviously very important and it is deserving of its own section because at the very beginning of this whole class I said that when you're out there, photography is kinda based on some technical stuff and that's focus and exposure. So, we did exposure in the last one and now we need to do focus in this one. Before we get into the focus section, I just wanna... A little slight diversion for the morning. The photo cliche. Photographs have been taken for well over 100 years now and there's a lot of little genres that people get into and some people kinda get worn out of them. It's almost like fashion styles. And so, you will find people who don't don't like certain people who shoot certain types of photographs. You know, like sunsets. Oh, we don't need anymore photographs of sunsets. There's more than enough sunsets. Or, blurred water. Whenever I see a landscape photographer post a picture with a 30 second exposure, somebody in the comment section has to come in and say, I'm s...

o tired of blurred water. that's not how it looks to my eyes, why can't you do something different? Then they'll complain about photos of barns and you're not supposed to take pictures of your pets because there's been enough picture of pets, and so don't do that anymore. And, you know what, there's pictures of flowers and docks and there is on an on. Somebody's gonna get angry about seeing too many photographs about something, and I say to heck with all of 'em. Go out there, shoot what you want, and the fact of the matter is is yeah, you're gonna go through phases. You're gonna be really interested in shooting something and it's part of your growth cycle of photography. Don't worry about what other people have done or what they don't like, just shoot it. If you enjoy it, maybe you're gonna be the best photographer in the world at what that is. You don't know. And so, to heck with people saying photo cliche, don't shoot it, can't do it. Go out there, shoot it, learn it, and experience it yourself. Alright, today we're talking about focus. And focus is very important and there's a lot of things that are technically going on. And so, there's a lot of illustrations that I get to go in and show you how things work in here. So, this is a good class. Now, I am gonna be repeating myself in this class a little bit, just in case somebody's viewing this and they kinda want the complete package of focusing. 'Cause when we talked about shutter speeds that deals with focus, you know? How in focus is a picture. So, we're gonna be talking about the focusing system, shutter speeds, and everything that matters to getting sharp photos in your pictures. And the first thing to know is that you have got to nail focus. Now, I didn't want to say this is the last class, exposure, because I wanted you to think that exposure is important. I want you to get it right out in the field, but the fact of that matter is is that if you miss the exposure by a stop, 20 years ago, you're dead. But nowadays, a lil' click slider and you're probably fine. In fact, I was testing a couple of the recent cameras and I was trying to see how far off I could be in exposure and fix it in post. And I shot a camera five stops over exposed and five stops under exposed and it wasn't a perfect result, but it was good enough that on a website most people would never know that I totally messed it up. Alright, so for getting a picture too light or too dark, you can do a lot of things to fix it and if you don't need to make it too big, you can correct it. Now, the interesting thing is on focus you absolutely have to get it right. And I was just thinking today Photoshop has been around for more than 25 years now, I forget exactly how old it is, and one of the things you can do in Photoshop is you can sharpen a photograph. And I'm gonna show you a little bit about what that does, and it just kinda adds a little bit of edge detail. But in 25 years, in my opinion, Photoshop has done nothing to fix my out of focus pictures. Nothing. Now, I've seen prototype software at some trade shows about, we're working on this software program and it's gonna take out of focus and it's gonna put 'em into focus, and I would love that 'cause every once in a while we make mistakes. We all intend to get good focus, but we make mistakes. But right now, and from what I can tell about the future, there is no way that you're gonna be able to fix an out of focus picture. Now, I hope I'm wrong on this, but if you were to take a picture of me and it was really blurry, you would see this kind of yellowish blob up here and you would see this bluish blob down here, but you probably wouldn't be able to pick out where the buttons are because it's just gonna be a big blurry haze. You're not gonna be able to pick out where the pocket is. You actually have to focus on it to get it right. And so, there's a lot of things that go into getting it right and you gotta do it right because there's just no going back. When you have an out of focus picture, about the only thing you can do is reproduce it really small. You can make thumbnails of it and that's it. So, a lot of things to cover in this class. First off, there is auto focus and there is manual focus and my original cameras were manual focus and I still use manual focus for a lot of things, but auto focus is really good and I know that I've talked about manually controlling your camera in a lot of ways, but auto focus is just a way to help you focus where you want it to focus. And the important thing is that you're making decisions about how your camera focuses and what it focuses on, and whether the camera helps you or not, that's perfectly fine. The fact of the matter is is that I would bet pretty much every camera on the market is faster than anyone in this room or anyone out there at home. It's just faster at focusing and it's probably more accurate than we are in most cases. There are ways that you can manually get very accurate and we'll talk about that throughout the class. So, for some camera companies like Nikon and Canon, they'll be a switch on the lens. Canon, it's always on the lens. Nikon, it's a little more complicated. They used to have a switch on the body. Well, technically they still do, but that used to be the main switch. And then Nikon started putting it on the lens and now you have two of 'em, which both need to be in the auto focus position or one of 'em is in manual, then you're in manual focus. But I think Nikon is gonna go to a system like Canon, where it's eventually all on the lens. Most other manufacturers will either have a switch on the body or they'll have a menu item that you can turn on and off for focusing. If you do have Nikon, there are different levels of lenses with different types of switches on them. The M and A option is pretty simple. Auto focus, manual focus. But then some of them have ones that look like this, that's M/A M. So, M is for manual and M/A means auto focus, but you have a manual focus override, which means the lens has a special clutch motor in it and if it's in auto focus, you can let the camera focus, grab the focusing ring, and just turn it. Now, you weren't able to do that on some of the early lenses from Canon and Nikon and other manufacturers due to the drive mechanism in there. It was... You were burning motors if you did that. But the modern lenses have... Oh, I shouldn't say that. The higher end modern lenses have a special clutch motor in there so that you can focus the ring manually even when it's in the auto focus position. And so, you have to be aware of exactly what sort of equipment you have. The entry level Canon and Nikon 18 to 55 lenses generally do not have that special clutch motor in there. And so, if it's in auto focus, you don't touch the focus ring. You let it do its job and you don't get in the way of it. With the higher end lenses you can just grab and adjust as necessary. A few lenses will have focusing switches that limit the range in which they work in order for them to focus a little bit more quickly. So, for instance, if you have one that has a full option, that means it's gonna be able to focus from the nearest to the farthest point throughout the range, and that would be a good place to keep it for general purpose. There is option for two meters to six meters on this particular lens, so if you were focusing just pretty up close to where the camera was, the camera's not gonna search in this other region. And finally, this is the one that's actually used most commonly by sports photographers, six meters and beyond. If you're photographing a football match or something, you know that most of the time the players are not standing right there in front of you, they're out kinda of on the field and the camera's not gonna search. I kinda think of this as when somebody gets lost in the woods they wanna limit the search area, okay? We know the person's lost on this mountain, not that mountain, so we're not gonna search there. And so, if you know where your subject is going to be, don't bother searching in this other area because what will happen on the Nikon and Canon focusing system is that if it doesn't know where the focus is, it may go all the way to one end and all the way to the other end. And if you can limit that search area, it's gonna focus faster for you, and so that's the reason why you might want to use it. For general purpose, it's fine leaving it on full. On the better lenses, not all the lenses, but kind of the medium to higher end lenses you're gonna get a distance scale on your lens that's gonna let you know where the lens is focused to. Now, this is something that I think is only gonna be on the Canon, Nikon, maybe the Pentax auto focus lenses. And I haven't seen it on the Fujis and Sonys and Olympuses because they're doing a different type of focusing system. They could very well put 'em on there, but they haven't. So, this is something that we used to have back in the days of manual focus. And what's happening when you focus your lens to close-up, the lens elements are moving away from the body. And this is something I mention only because at some point I'm gonna talk about extension tubes, and it's gonna allow us to focus closer, and that's when you push the lens away from the body. And the normal position for most lenses, kinda the default standard, the position that you would ship a lens in, the way that they test it for focusing and sharpness is gonna be at infinity, where the elements are closest back into the body. Now, for lenses that do have a focusing scale on it, there will be a mark for infinity, but you are able to focus beyond infinity, alright? And so, this is very important for anyone who does nighttime photography as I'll tell you in a moment. But it focuses beyond infinity so that your lenses can accommodate heat and cold expansion. And so, as you go from hot to cold temperatures, the metals and plastics and everything else in there change just a little bit, and they wanna make sure that there's a little bit of extra room so that if they did make it just go up to infinity, something might tighten a little bit and now you can't get to infinity. And so, they wanna make sure that you have a little extra room in there. Now, why it's important for the astro-photographer is you wanna go out and photograph the stars, it's really dark and kinda hard to see how to focus, so a lot of people will grab the focus ring and just go all the way over to end, past the infinity mark, and everything's gonna be a little out of focus. And so, for those type of photographers, they need to do one of two things: one is check their cameras in the daylight hours and look through, focus on something, you know, 200 yards away or something and then mark that on the lens or, at nighttime, they need to do live view check to see if they're actually in focus. So, there's a couple different ways of dealing it, but don't just assume the infinity mark actually is infinity because it does slip a little bit on lenses from time to time. Some lenses will have infrared marks. These are not real important because very few of us convert our cameras into infrared recording machines, but there are a few lenses out there that do have these little red marks and infrared light focuses at a different place than the visible light that we see. And so, that's why you might see those extra marks on a few of those lenses. The surest way of knowing if you got a picture in focus is to check it. Play it back, zoom in, and zoom around anything that's important in that frame and see if it is actually sharp. And what you're trying to do is you're trying to zoom into 100% magnification so that one pixel on the sensor now equals one pixel on the LCD on the back of the camera. A number of newer cameras now have a custom function that allows you, when you press the magnify button, to go right into 100% magnification. Kinda by default, what it would do before is they'd get a little bit closer and then a little bit closer, and it's like, no, I just... Get me in, I wanna see if it's sharp. Some of 'em will also zoom in directly to the point that you focused at, which can by really handy. So, if you're focusing on somebody over here, hit the magnify button and just vroom, you get to see if it's in focus or not. And so, learn your camera and get those controls set up so they're fast and easy for you to use.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan