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Old Oct 8, 2010, 3:58 PM   #1
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Default Ho do I avoid this situation...

I've taken shots of people or animals, and sometimes the camera has focused on the item behind them. When this happens the subjects are really not out of focus but not as sharp as the "other" option that it chose to focus on.
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 4:33 PM   #2
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It depends on what type of camera you are using. If your camera allows you to designate which focus point is being used - that is how to solve the problem - select a focus point that is on your subject.
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 4:56 PM   #3
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Try spot focus. As I understand it the focus works by searching for the focal distance that gives the best overall contrast within the focus area. If you have a wide area focus and you take a shot of someone wearing a black/white striped shirt for example then it will always focus on the shirt if it's in the area because that gives a stronger contrast than the soft skin tones of the face.
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 5:20 PM   #4
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This is the way "everybody" does it:
http://www.tipsfromthetopfloor.com/l...then-recompose

But then there's this viewpoint:
http://visual-vacations.com/Photogra...pose_sucks.htm

I don't know what's right. Could be wrong, but seems to me that switching focus point selection isn't that quick/easy and doing it every picture is a big nogo for me.
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 6:23 PM   #5
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Using a focus point selection other than center spot focus is not something that is quick and easy, so you would only want to do it for a series of shots with the same relative positioning of subjects. Spot focus (center spot) is what I usually use, often with spot metering as well. If you have AE lock which can also lock focus, you are good to go. A lot of cameras can do this, if you look closely at the manual on how to do it. Some can't and you have to use other methods.

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Old Oct 8, 2010, 8:25 PM   #6
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As Brian says, read the manual.

Then experiment. Set up a situation with a subject (broom, lampost*, ...) close and a distant background. Shoot a bunch with various settings, look at the results with the EXIF data to figure out what works.

* a broom is less likely than a wife to become upset with standing about while you figure things out.
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 8:29 PM   #7
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Yeah, if you have your wife standing about a lamppost, you could end up regretting it.

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Old Oct 8, 2010, 10:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTphotog View Post
Using a focus point selection other than center spot focus is not something that is quick and easy, so you would only want to do it for a series of shots with the same relative positioning of subjects. Spot focus (center spot) is what I usually use, often with spot metering as well. If you have AE lock which can also lock focus, you are good to go. A lot of cameras can do this, if you look closely at the manual on how to do it. Some can't and you have to use other methods.

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You know, I would love to know what the difference is between spot focus and spot metering.

Let me word that better -- I know that spot (and matrix, etc.) have to do with the light; I guess what I'm asking is how to *get* the camera to "spot focus".

My FZ35 will do spot metering, but I haven't seen anything in the manual about spot focus.

(Thank goodness there is a newbie thread here ... and thanks to all you more expert photographers helping us out )
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Old Oct 8, 2010, 11:33 PM   #9
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It can be a bit confusing, and sometimes we don't always make the difference clear between autofocus and metering.
Metering is the measurement of the light entering the camera, at one or more points, in order to determine how to set the exposure. (shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity) All the metering is concerned with is how much light is available,and how to set the exposure. Most all cameras have exposure modes based on one of three methods:
Matrix (or multi-point) exposure breaks the area of the sensor up into several zones, and measures the light in each zone, then averages the values to come up with an overall exposure value. If one or more of the zones has a value much brighter than the average, the camera may give that more weight, and provide an exposure value to compensate at least partly for overexposure of these areas. How it is done varies with the camera.
Center Weighted Average is another method, similar to the matrix metering, but gives greater weight to the center part of the frame, on the assumption that that is where your subject is.
Spot Metering uses only the center part of the frame. The spot size varies, but is usually only a few percent of the whole frame. This lets you set one particular part of the frame as the part you want properly exposed, and ignores the rest. An example would be you wanting to get the details of a person's face, when the face is in shadow, and there is a bright background. The backround will come out overexposed, but the face will be visible, and detailed.
Not all cameras have all of these modes. For the ones that do, you usually have to select from a menu which one you wnt at a given time, unless the camera has a switch dedicated for the function.

Autofocus systems will pick one of the focus points (different from exposure zones) for the camera to focus on. In the normal mode it will lock focus on whatever it sees first, with enough contrast. Most of us would rather decide for ourselves what the camera should focus on, though, so there is Spot Focus, in which one point in the center of the frame is chosen for the camera to focus on. Selectable Focus Point is similar, except the point doesn't have to be in the center, but can be any one of the focus points that the camera has for normal use - you just have to select it beforehand. Not all cameras can do the last two. You will have to check you manual, or read the reviews if you are shopping.
Hope this wasn't too long-winded.

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Old Oct 8, 2010, 11:42 PM   #10
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Wow. Thank you, brian.

*I* don't think it was long-winded -- it actually answered some additional questions about things that I knew I had, but wasn't sure I had the technical vocab to ensure I worded them correctly.

Thank goodness, I'm not shopping anymore - I have an FZ35, with all the metering modes you listed. But it may very well be that I haven't seen "spot focus" because I believe in AutoFocus, LOL.

Also, I did consult my manual prior to asking the question, but even though I am enjoying my camera, that has to be one of the most user-unfriendly manuals -- to just about any device -- I've ever read. It reads like a NASA engineering module translated into Klingon.

So thanks for making things much clearer.
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