Focusing your camera: do you let the camera focus for you, or do you focus it manually? Which should you do? Does your camera take that option away from you? Or do you let the camera take it away from you?
I use a DSLR so I do have the option to focus manually or let the camera focus for me. Personally I focus manually most of the time. Why? Because I find most of the photos I take if I let the camera focus for me it focuses on the background or some other object rather than the one I am trying to capture.
My friend’s point and shoot camera takes the option away from her to focus manually, which for most shots is fine. The problem is that for that close up shot it wants to focus on not the subject she wants to be in focus but something else. For a long distance shot that maybe fine since everything at a certain distance is in focus.
For that macro shot being able to focus manually is critical at times since you want just the pistil of the flower to be in focus or a petal or the head of an ant not the background to be the focal point. With my digital camera there is a gird where when you have the subject in focus it beeps and one of the focal points flashes to let you know that point is in focus. The old 35mm SLR film cameras used a totally different way to show you that the shot was in focus. Some had a center point that aligned when you were in focus, others you could see the subject was in focus because it was not blurry when focused correctly.
The newer film cameras use basically the same focusing method as the digital SLR cameras. The cheap throw away film cameras use and have used an infinity focusing method so that everything within a certain distance from the lens to infinity was always in focus. Of course if you tried to take a very close up shot it was out of focus and there was not much you could do about it. That is what the old Brownie cameras used a fixed focus lens as well as their counter parts.
Today most cameras are digital whether point and shoot or even your phone camera and use auto focusing rather than manual focusing. Some still use the infinity method where after you are a few feet from the lens it is in focus out to infinity.
In my article on depth of field I talked about focusing and what area was still in focus because of the size of the aperture. The smaller the aperture the greater depth of field and more of the subject is in focus. The larger the aperture the less area is in focus. With the point and shoot cameras some have the ability for you to set aperture or shutter speed and a few other options. With the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera you can set aperture, shutter speed, ISO, manual or auto focus, and a mired of other features.
It is mostly a personal choice of whether you use manual or auto focus or any of the other features of your DSLR camera. I figure why have a camera with all those settings and features if you are not going to use some of them. So yes I use auto focus sometimes but the majority of the time I use manual focus. In wildlife photography if you use auto focus the camera is always trying to focus on the subject and you may miss a shot. Of course the newer DSLR cameras have much better computer control of the focusing than the older models and settings you can use for sports shots or landscape shots or portrait shots. Mine has them but when you go from shooting landscapes to wildlife in a matter of seconds you don’t have the time to change the settings. So you shoot what you have set up for and hope for the best. That is why I usually focus manually even with landscape shots since I may go from that to wildlife in a matter of seconds and then back to landscape shots.
It is up to you which you use, manual or auto focusing. Whether you let the camera do most of the work for you or you do most of it yourself, which ever you do have fun taking photos. Try both and decide which is best for you or a combination of the both manual and auto focusing.