Are you frustrated with blurry images of action shots? Meg of Snap Happy Mom shows you how to use continuous focusing mode to help your camera to focus on a moving subject!
If you’re like me, then you probably feel like your kids are ALWAYS moving. And you’re probably right!
Taking pictures of active kids has its own unique challenges. Today I want to talk to you about how to use continuous focusing mode to improve the action shots of your kids.
To clarify, this post is about using continuous focusing mode, which is different from continuous shooting modes. Click here to read my post about using continuous shooting modes, or burst mode, to take lots of photos in a row. When combined, both of these technique help you take great action shots!
Your DSLR camera has several shooting modes. The two you will use most often are Single Shot and Continuous.
Single Shot Mode: One Shot / AF-S
Single Shot focus mode is used for portraits of unmoving subjects. It means your camera focused once and then locks that focus. On a Nikon the mode is called AF-S and on a Canon it’s called One-Shot.
Single Shot focusing mode is great for things in which your kids are willing subjects: sitting, standing, or posing for you), as well as and still life or landscape photos.
But what happens if your subject is moving towards you, on Single Shot mode? Unfortunately, only the first picture will be in focus, and then the other pictures will be out of focus.
The reason is because focus is dependent on the distance between subject and camera. If your subject moves but your focus point does not, then your picture will no longer be in focus. The more the subject moves, the more blurry it will become.
Continuous Focusing: Al Servo / AF-C
Which leads us to what this post is really about: continuous focusing mode! On a Canon this is called Al Servo AF and on a Nikon it’s called AF-C.
Continuous focusing is when your camera focuses on your subject first, and then continues to refocus over and over again. This is intended for subjects that are moving towards/away from you, like sports photography or active kids!
Continuous focusing mode is always trying to adjust and predict where you subject will be next. This means that if you hold down your shutter halfway to focus, but your subject moves before you fully press the button and take the photo, the camera will do it’s best to refocus accordingly.
When to Use Continuous Focusing
Now, before you get all excited, I have one caveat. When I first learned about continuous focusing for action shots I figured: “Well, my kids are always wiggly, so I might as well shoot in AF-C all the time.” I want to stop you right there because it’s not true.
If you shoot regular portraits in Continuous focusing mode, your camera is assuming your subject is always moving. Like, seriously moving – the running, jumping, flying through the air types of big, obvious movement. The camera will try to predict where the subject will be next based on that movement, and focus there.
The predictive technology that makes continuous shooting so cool can actually hurt you if your subject is not moving, because the camera is going to predict where your subject will be next. And if you subject didn’t actually move… well, then your focus will be slightly off. And we all know we’re trying to avoid blurry, unfocused pictures!
So, choose continuous focusing mode if you’re taking pictures of obvious action: jumping on the trampoline, swinging at the park, running races, sports with lots of movement, etc. If you’re just taking a picture of wiggly, can’t-sit-still child, then choose single shot focusing.
If you do have a wiggly child that isn’t cooperating, then you need to change your tactics, not your camera. Most kids are not going to cooperate if you just ask them to say cheese – you’re going to have to work harder than that for a real smile!
I’ve got a video stock full of ideas on how to get the authentic, candid smiles out of your children. My tips help you get more ideas for what you do behind the camera as well as the directions you give your subject. None of my tips involve saying cheese!
This video is part of A Mom’s Guide To Better Photos, my online photography course for moms like you. 12 other videos cover topics like finding good light, avoiding blurry photos, composing photographs beautifully, and more. If you liked this post, you’ll love that class!
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Snap Happy Mom is dedicated to helping moms (and Dads!) learn how to take better pictures of their families. Meg wants you to have pictures that matter to them, and that capture those precious moments of parenting and childhood. No matter what kind of camera you have or how experienced you are, she can help you feel more comfortable behind that camera.
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