I need help with Focus!!

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sarah_towry, Dec 3, 2014.

  1. PLEASE HELP!! I have only been doing photography since the beginning of the year. It started as a hobby for me and it went on from there. I have taught myself everything. I am having a problem that I can't seem to fix or find any answers. I have noticed my photos are not as sharp as I would like. I recently did some pics for a friend of mine. The results are horrible. For some reason, the focus is on the background!! I move my focal point to my subjects eye and the focus is always to the left of my focal point!! I can't figure out how to fix this! I am using a 35mm lens. The photoshoot was at the start of sunset using the shade of a barn. The same thing happens if I'm close to my subject or farther back. Anyone have any advise?? Also, this is way off subject but what should I be setting my camera at as far as file size?? It seems like my photos are huge. Thanks so much :)
     
  2. You may need to AF Fine Tune your lens and camera. If the camera is focusing behind the target, you need to try negative AF fine tune values until you find one that works. See: http://regex.info/blog/photo-tech/focus-chart
     
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    This doesn't sound like an AF fine tune problem. It sounds like a user issue that needs to be better understood.

    Please post a few shots.
     
  4. I'm new to this site. How do I post a pic?
    00czPg-552958384.jpg
     
  5. It would also help if you stated what model camera you have and the focus mode settings you are using and that you have the lens and body (as appropriate) set for autofocus.
     
  6. Here's the settings
     
  7. Sorry! Let's try that again
     
  8. Here's another pic
    00czPk-552958684.jpg
     
  9. The actual AF sensor area doesn't exactly correspond with markers you see in the viewfinder. In a situation like the barn scene above, the AF system probably ignored the soft features of the kids' faces, and instead caught the high contrast, string lines in the background.

    Were I making that same shot, I'd be using a single focus point, dead center. Focus, and recompose as needed.

    It's also possible that part of what you're seeing there is a metering issue. Those faces make up a very small part of the scene, and the camera is trying instead to adjust for the larger (darker) background. The result is over-exposed faces that are as a result losing some detail. Experience will teach you, after a while, that a scene like that calls for some negative exposure compensation in order to get those bright faces under control.

    Also: you're shooting at f/3.5, which provides not a lot of depth of field. If you did nail focus on their faces, that would be plenty, and it would begin to push the background a bit more out of focus.

    Lastly: get closer! You can still capture that barn feeling without showing so much OF it, and both you and your camera will have a much easier time getting the kids in focus and properly exposed if they, rather than that large background, are the subject.
     
  10. Thank you so much MAtt Laur!!
    The way I was focusing in this photo is by moving the single focal point square to one of the kids faces. I can't remember which one. Are you saying to set my focal point to the center of the photo?
     
  11. I also tried some pics of my son in front of my Christmas tree. His face was not focused and the tree was. Same lens as before. 35mm. I haven't had this problem before and it has me stressed to the max! Thank you so much everyone for your responses.
     
  12. Have you tried the View NX software that came with your camera? It can show you which focus point(s) the camera used, which can help you determine whether the focus point is actually in focus or not.
     
  13. The center AF sensor is the most accurate, especially in poor light or on low-contrast subjects. I routinely (well, pretty much exclusively) use the center AF point, place it on the thing/face/whatever that I need in focus, and half-press the shutter button to acquire focus. Not letting up on the shutter button, I then recompose if necessary to alter the framing (as with your group shot, above), and then complete the shutter button press to complete the shot.

    Your posts here are limited to 700px wide. It might help if you used your photo editing software to crop out a smaller area of the whole frame so that we can see the faces at full resolution, the better to see what's really going on.

    Also: your image details aren't including information about the focus mode. Are you in AF-S, or AF-C?
     
  14. If you shoot in RAW mode, and then post process, View NX2 or other programs will allow you to make exposure compensation and other adjustments that are reversible.
    View NX2 will show what focus points the camera used, but it will not show what was focused on if you held focus and recomposed. In other words, if you have your camera set for a single center point, then recompose as suggested, the red square in View NX2 will remain in the center, even though what it locked on to is now elsewhere. So although it is very useful for checking focus point accuracy, that's only if you have not recomposed.
    That and many other programs can copy raw files to JPG of a chosen size, in bulk, allowing you to send smaller copies as needed, but to keep the originals as you would a file of negatives.
     
  15. This is a situation where I would switch to manual focus as I will be assured the focus will not shift.
    It may be the lens is not compatable with the body causing focus errors, read the lens compatabality section of your camera's instruction manual. The focus screen should be accurate but the RF indicator and or the focus sensors may not be. My D300 manual states such for some lens.
     
  16. The pdf on Nikon's site lens compatability page is 269. Focusing is covered on pages 91-99 and includes a chart with samples where the AF system can produce inaccurate focus.
    You were using Matrix Metering, it read the deep shadow inside the barn and set the exposure accordingly resulting in the childrens faces being slightly over exposed. Centerweighted metering would work better in this instance.
     
  17. The D7000 has many AF points but not all of them are the cross type which are the most accurate (the 9 center ones are the cross type). I suggest you only use those. Also, for the type of shots you are doing, you can easily use any of those 9 AF points, lock in focus (AF-S mode or using the AF lock button) and then recompose and get proper results.
    From Nikon:
    https://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/440/~/when-should-i-use-ae-lock%3F
     
  18. Firstly I don't get the exposure info for these pics, it's all over the place. The use of Manual is just fine, but what you chose to use is a bit 'unusual'.
    Pic 1) Why are you using 1/640 sec on a stationary target, thus forcing ISO 800? 1/80 @ ISO 100 would give the same exposure and give a much better Dynamic Range, so not losing detail in the shadows AND highlights. 1/80 is high enough to avoid camera shake with a 35mm lens even on DX. Aperture at f3.2 is fine.
    Pic 2) Better, but still too high ISO. 1/400 @ ISO 400?? 1/100 @ ISO 100 would be fine. Aperture of f5 is OK. Why have you moved the WB to Fine Weather, when Shade worked so well for the children pic? This one is way too cold, ie blue.
    OK, focusing. To isolate whether it's user or machine 'error', take some similar shots with zoomed in Live View AF. Force the camera to do what you want!
    Try something like the first shot with an angled gate. Use a aperture around f2 to emphasise In Focus and Out of Focus area.
    a) Take it the way you did before, preferably on a tripod and then....
    b) Switch to LV, zoom in 'on screen', ensure the illuminated focus square is over your target, ensure it goes green and then take the shot.
    If the 2 shots are identical*, it's your technique that needs improving.
    However, if the LV shot is way better, your camera/lens combo need a AF Fine Tune, as the real and camera derived distance-to-target are way different.
    * unless they're both awful, then we'll think some more!!
     
  19. Mike, LiveView and non-LiveView focusing use two completely different systems in the camera. LV focusing is slower, but usually more accurate, and takes no notice of any AF fine-tuning setting. What I'm saying is that comparing LV focus to through-the-viewfinder focus doesn't prove or eliminate anything. Any discrepancy could still be due to the camera, the lens or the user. However, the use of LiveView AF as a standard for comparison is valid. It's just that the cause would still need to be found by other means.
    +1 to Matt's suggestion of using a fixed central AF point and then re-composing after focus has been locked with a half-press of the shutter button. It's generally quicker than steering an AF point around the screen, and IME more accurate. You could also try any face recognition AF that the camera offers with subjects such as those shown.
    One proviso with the focus and recompose method is that it can give inaccurate focus if the camera is swung too far off centre to recompose. This rarely results in a grossly mis-focused subject though, and is better than the camera randomly deciding to focus somewhere other than intended.
     
  20. Mike, LiveView and non-LiveView focusing use two completely different systems in the camera.​
    Yup, they sure are. LV AF is pretty infallible and the later flawed by not actually looking at what it's doing.
    What I'm saying is that comparing LV focus to through-the-viewfinder focus doesn't prove or eliminate anything​
    In my experience of checking focus with LV on a tripod with a stationary object in good light, it has NEVER been wrong. If the same shot is taken with VF focus and LV focus and the VF shot is bad and the LV shot is good.....it proves the VF focus is wrong and that the mechanics/optics are capable of good results.! That is a good place to start.
    +1 to Matt's suggestion of using a fixed central AF point and then re-composing after focus has been locked with a half-press of the shutter button. It's generally quicker than steering an AF point around the screen, and IME more accurate.​
    and when that doesn't work 'cos it needs an AF fine tune, we're back to doing my check.
    There's no point trying different AF points and re-composing etc if it cannot be right because it's inherently biased to focus long or short.
    If the tripod mounted VF and LV shots are the same (and good) that illiminates loads of stuff and doesn't need an AF Fine Tune and means it's a user technique issue not a hardware issue.
     
  21. Matt Laur [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], Dec 03, 2014; 11:47 p.m.
    The actual AF sensor area doesn't exactly correspond with markers you see in the viewfinder. In a situation like the barn scene above, the AF system probably ignored the soft features of the kids' faces, and instead caught the high contrast, string lines in the background.

    Were I making that same shot, I'd be using a single focus point, dead center. Focus, and recompose as needed.​
    I do this, always. It sometimes concerns me: my camera has, umh, I'm not exactly sure, 45? focus points (Canon 5DIII), and what do I do? Turn my back on them, virtually always, set it to the center point.
    And, I remap the buttons on the camera so that focus is activated NOT by the shutter button, but independently, by a button of my choosing, near my thumb on the back of the camera.
    It really does bug me sometimes; I know being adept with the multi-focus points has advantages, especially with moving subjects, using servo focus (continuous, dynamic focus). I should persevere, give it a better try. Sometime. ;)
     
  22. I have it a little simpler, having a simpler AF system, but I find that I get best results most of the time with a single center point and dynamic area focusing. AF and metering are both activated and held by the shutter button, so I can aim at a subject, and it remains the point of both exposure and focus when I recompose.
    One thing it seems worth finding out is whether the system is working properly to begin with. Remembering that this is a digital camera and one can take a zillion test shots and throw them away, there's some room for practice and testing here.
    It's very hard to analyze a problem in the shots shown and to figure out what goes wrong. So I suggest some testing first. Get the camera out, and put it on A mode, matrix metering, AF-A and single point AF. Make sure the center focus point is the one used. Make sure the camera is set to focus priority (i.e. it will not shoot until or unless it has locked into focus). Open the lens wide open, and with a reasonable amount of ambient light, point it at things in your living room that are easy to check for sharpness. Book spines, video cases, clock faces. Aim at some LED lights or video equipment that has little pinpoints of light. Now open up the pictures, and see what you get. Auto ISO defaults to a shutter speed of 1/30, so motion blur shouldn't be a problem, but if it is, it will show as smearing of those little pinpoint lights. If your AF is working right, then even with the shallowest depth of field the point you aimed at should be sharp. If your metering is working exposure should be in the ballbark even if not perfect.
    Try taking exactly the same test shot with viewfinder and LV, and see if they are focused the same. If the camera is not working right, coaching will not fix it.
     
  23. Book spines or rows of CD cases are a good subject to test your focus with, but I'd eliminate motion blur/camera shake too, by simply waiting 'til after dusk and using the little popup flash for illumination. At close distances the flash duration will be much less than one millisecond, and you won't have to bother about camera movement. Although if shooting handheld, you should be aware that it's easy to rock backwards and forwards a few inches without realising it. A tripod is definitely the best way to do an AF test, but failing that, use flash - or both.
    1/30th of a second exposure handheld is way too long for any kind of sharpness test.
    AF fine tune is exactly what it says - a fine tune. If the focus is as far off as you describe it, then I doubt that the lens/camera can be adjusted that much. Also, using AF fine tuning can degrade the speed and sensitivity of the AF system. If the issue is found to be just with one lens, then I'd try for an exchange of lens.
     
  24. On the Classic Manual Camera forum here, a fellow named Marc Bergman has been scanning old photo magazine articles, and one a while ago seemed quite useful. The article described a home made light board with little holes, which was used in low light to test for motion blur. Nowadays the same thing can be done more easily in many places just by aiming at LED pilot lights in low light, and of course now you can shoot a million digital pictures.
    A very tiny point of light will show movement very clearly as off-center displacement or, when bad, a little light drawing. The result is very easy to read. Along with using flash to eliminate movement from the test and look only for focus issues, it's still rather useful to find out what shutter speeds you can reliably shoot at without bothersome amounts of motion blur.
     
  25. it's still rather useful to find out what shutter speeds you can reliably shoot at without bothersome amounts of motion blur.​
    The OP has focus problems and used a shutter speed of 1/640 and 1/400 respectively with a 35mm lens. I don't think camera shake is the issue.
    The image has in-focus areas, just in the wrong place.
    As to the last bit about file size. What size are they?
    Also, using AF fine tuning can degrade the speed and sensitivity of the AF system.​
    RJ, So you'd prefer a quick out of focus image? It's there for a very good reason, not a gimmick.
     
  26. I read through the notes, but did not see anyone address what kind of focus mode are you using
    1. Area focus
    2. Center weighted focus
    3. Spot Focus
    Almost anything other than Spot Focus will provide erratic results
     
  27. OP's words...
    I move my focal point to my subjects eye and the focus is always to the left of my focal point!!​
    Sounds like Spot Focus to me!....selected to be the one over the subject's eye....and it comes out, at the angle these shots are taken, focused behind the subject...ie Back Focus.
    Just do a VF and LV comparison of the same shot with the camera on a tripod, as detailed above.
    If they're different, it's a hardware issue. If they're the same, it's a technique issue.
     
  28. I don't have a D7000, not sure how the view finder display reflects actual focus mode.
    Another possibly is you focus on the spot, then reframe and press the shutter release again. This will acquire a new focus point and one different than originally selected. Could also be focus lock is not set.
     
  29. I realize camera shake is not the issue here, since there is focus occurring, but I was responding to Rodeo Joe mostly, and adding that as long as you're testing focus accuracy, you might as well test hand holding ability. Knowing what speeds are within your range of hand holding is a useful thing to know, especially if you are using shutter speeds that are much faster than needed while compromising with depth of field or ISO noise.
     
  30. Sarah, hope you got the answer you were looking for after sifting through the responses.
    I like your composition - the pleasing combination and choice of colors and items, and how you posed your main subjects to beautiful effects.
    Re your correctly exposed background yet over-exposed faces: Not sure what metering mode you used (matrix?). For me - unless the lighting is very contrasty - I find it safer to use the Center-weighted metering mode to provide more weight on the areas close to the focussed area.
     
  31. Sarah, first do a test to see if the basic mechanisms of focusing are working properly for your camera/lens. Setup five targets at 6" intervals, set your lens to a wide aperture, shoot from a few feet away, focus on the middle target, and check the result. To focus on the middle target, I set my AF for "center spot".
    You should expect the middle target to be in perfect focus, and blur increasing for closer and for the further targets.
    [​IMG]
    p.s. The focus and DOF is more obvious in the full 24MP image. Shot this with a Sony camera w/ APS sensor similar to yours, 50mm lens, at f/2.
     
  32. And, Sarah, keep at it. You can get excellent, sharp images from your camera.
     
  33. "Also, this is way off subject but what should I be setting my camera at as far as file size?? It seems like my photos are huge."

    Always, always, always use the highest-quality setting that produces the largest file possible. You can always downsize the files later but you can never up-size them if they are shot at a lower setting (without creating all sorts of garbage in the picture). You paid extra for the extra megapixels that result in large files, so use them. Computers are fast and memory cards and even external hard drives are cheap now, so large files are no longer a problem like they were in the days of slow computers and expensive memory.
     
  34. Thank you all so very much!! I appreciate all of the encouragement too! I tend to be hard on myself so this has gotten to me a bit. I haven't been able to log on for a couple of days so I am going to take everyone's advise and work on this today. I'll post what I come up with later. Thank you all again!!
     
  35. Yes, try in with some set-up scene to get the sharp picture you want. A wagon, bicycle, or other inanimate model may be useful.
     
  36. Ok so I tried some things earlier today. All I can say is I'm frustrated beyond words. I know its not the best picture but here's some I took with my phone of my camera. The TV in the background is clearer than my son. The focal point is on his face. I switched lenses. This is with my 18mm-105mm lense. Both are doing the same. I think it's just me. Somehow I have messed the settings up on my camera. That's got to be it. I can't think of anything else. I can't figure out how to show more than one focal point on my view finder either. I just have the one square and move it to what I want focused.
    00czhq-553029584.jpg
     
  37. Here's another
    00czhr-553029684.JPG
     
  38. OK. Here's a picture I took this AM. It seems like the further away I get from my subject, the worse the focus is. I had my focal point on the little boy's face. Both cars appear in better focus than my son and daughter. I can't remember what meter mode I was in bc I have changed my settings since then. I did make a button the focus lock.
    I took some pics of the lights on my DVD player and if I zoom in all the way they are clear. If not zoomed in, they are blurry. Same result in live view.
    My file sizes range from 3,000-5,000 KB. I only said this bc I tried emailing 3 pictures and they wouldn't go through. The guy made a comment of why my files were so big. He may have thought the number I gave him was for 1 picture not 3.
    Another photographer once told me she keeps her shutter speed no lower than 250. I just kept this in mind and I guess I shot that number up bc I was trying to compensate for the bright sun. This shoot really through me off. I am used to photographing in the shade around dusk. The sun didn't set as quick as I expected so it was really bright there.
    00cziG-553030084.jpg
     
  39. Here's the info for the pic above.
     
  40. Sarah... Where are you located? I would find a willing expert in your area to help you. I can be hardware over user, but it is difficult to
    tell at this point
     
  41. Fayetteville, TN
     
  42. Of course it's a bit hard to tell a lot from a 700 pixel downsize here, but when I looked at the photo magnified, I did not see any areas that were better focused than the child's face. It all looked about equally soft. Certain kinds of details can appear sharper because they have sharp edges, but when you look closely, they're not actually better. Our eyes can make sharp sense of the Tennessee plate, for example, or the Nissan trunk emblem, but if you zoom in, it's really no clearer than the emblem on the kid's overalls, but just an easier thing to capture.
    I am curious if you have gone ahead and done some of the testing that some have recommended, such as Sebastian's Coke can test for focus accuracy.
    It would help a lot if you could do some definitive testing, such as setting the camera on a tripod and shooting a stationary, controlled field, to see what, if anything, is sharp, and how that corresponds to your focal points.
    00czjv-553034784.jpg
     
  43. The interior shot is too poorly lit to help out much, and at such a low resolution, and with the JPG
    sharpening/compression artifacts visible, it's not safe to say the background TV is in any better focus than your son in the
    foreground. You don't mention whether that AF-S focus mode is on the interior or exterior shot.

    Consider using AF-S, rather than AF-A. AF-S won't be trying to adjust things on the fly, or get confused tracking focus. A
    half-press on the shutter and AF-S is locked until you take the shot or let go. It's pretty much the only mode I use, and I've
    shot untold thousands of images that way, including with cameras that have AF systems more primitive than yours. But
    regardless, you need to do a formal test as others have pointed out. If you're really interested in getting to the bottom of
    this, don't test with casual hand-held snapshots of moving subjects like kids in dark rooms while using that relatively slow
    lens.

    There are no prizes for good looks in a focus test. Put the exposure mode in P if you have to, pop up the flash, and shoot
    a row of cans, or other objects similarly lined up. You'll quick see where the viewfinder's focus point and the actual focus
    point coincicde - and then you'll have a chance if necessary to play predictably with the AF fine tune if necessary.

    But right now, we can't see what focus mode you're using on what shot, and you're not going abou this methodically - so
    it's hard to offer better advice. I know it's frustrating, but you just have to break this down in to controllable, bite-sized
    pieces until you get it under control.
     
  44. So I lined up 5 batteries in a diagonal
    and focused on the middle one. The
    back 2 were in focus and the front 2
    were out of focus. This means I have a
    back focus problem right? My camera
    was set to center focus and I used a
    tripod.
     
  45. Sarah, you are not going to resolve this until you follow a set procedure of test.
    1. set the viewfinder focus as shown on page 34.
    2. get a tripod. cheap ones can tip over easily or induce vibration causing unsharp images. Make sure it can support the weight of your camera and lens.
    3. set the camera up on a tripod.
    4. set the camera to manual focus.
    5. set up a test similar to the one in the first post on page 4 of this thread.
    6. manually focus on each target with the widest aperture of the lens and make a test shot with each target in focus in the center of the view frame.
    7. set the camera to auto focus S
    8. repeat the sequence of exposures as in step 5 in the same sequence.
    The D7000 manual in pdf download: https://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17008

    Pressing the Qual and exposure compensation buttons at the same time and holding for 2 seconds or longer resets most camera functions to default.

    Setting the focus lock lever to the dot use the multi selector to select the focus point, single point, 9 point, 21 point, or 39 point focusing.
     
  46. The back 2 were in focus and the front 2 were out of focus.​
    How about the actual centre target battery? How far front to back was the experiment, say 6 inches (15cm) gap between each battery so about 2ft? And shot about 6ft away?

    If those were roughly similar conditions and you set the camera aperture to wide open for minimum depth of field (the narrowest sharp zone), ie 1.8, I'd expect that only one battery would be sharp.
    Hopefully, you haven't taken the set-up apart as ideally you'd just flip the switch to Live View and take exactly the same shot with the same AF point. If the centre battery is sharp in the LV shot and not in the normal shot, then indeed you have a back focus problem which would confirm the suspicions with the other shots.
     
  47. Sarah --
    So I lined up 5 batteries in a diagonal and focused on the middle one. The back 2 were in focus and the front 2 were out of focus. This means I have a back focus problem right? My camera was set to center focus and I used a tripod.​
    Sounds like progress.
    I suggest you check whether AF Fine Tune is ON or OFF. If it's ON, it may be mis-set. If OFF, then you can turn it on, and try for settings that will give you proper focus.
    In any case, are you sure you know what settings have been adjusted on this camera? If any doubt, use the two-button factory reset procedure.
    You should be able to get nice sharp images from your camera and lenses.
     

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