Photography Cheat Sheet: Autofocus Done Right for Portraits

If you’ve started shooting portraits, one of the things to master is how to nail your focus.

When you’re shooting portraits, it’s not enough to just rely on your camera’s autofocus mode and expect everything in your frame to look focused. You have to make sure your subject’s eyes are always pin-sharp. With this portrait photography cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to use the right autofocus mode to achieve that with each shot.

So, you’ve got your model ready, and you have the right poses and pegs in mind. All you need to do is get the shoot right. With this useful guide from Digital Camera World, you’ll tick off one of the most fundamental rules of portrait photography: keeping your subject’s eyes sharply focused. This is so their eyes will be able to connect with the viewer and convey the look and feel of your shots. You can use your camera’s autofocus mode for this purpose, but the guide below will help you to utilize it more effectively.

The flowchart format makes it easy to learn which modes to use and how to work your scene as you switch between poses. So, whether you’re shooting headshots or full-length photos, or whether they are still or moving, the guide has you covered. With headshots or still subjects, shoot in single shot focus mode so the camera will only make the exposure when your image is sharply focused. When your subject is moving, shoot in continuous mode so the camera will track the movement and keep your subject sharp.

Since you’ll be having your model do different poses and variations, you may want to compose each shot differently. You’ll most likely place your model in the middle of the frame for some poses, and switch to one side of the frame for others. The flowchart also takes note of this and indicates when to manually select the center focus point or the off-center focus points to highlight your subject’s face. This will make sure the focus will be set on the points you selected. If your subject is moving, follow their movements with your camera to keep the focus point locked on them.

Make sure you press and hold the shutter lightly to activate the autofocus system. Only make the full press when the image you want comes into focus in the viewfinder. That should give you portraits with your subject’s eyes and face sharply focused. Keep practicing and you’ll have it mastered in no time!

Check out our growing collection of photography cheat sheets for more photography tips and tricks!