Modern photography is a game of technological recklessness where our brains are so focused on telling the camera to do everything for us to satisfy an algorithm. The skill comes with disconnecting from the algorithm and creating, not capturing. It requires intention. In the past year or so, I’ve become far more intentional about my photography by only using a single focusing point. For several years, I used the ones at each intersection point and the center. But cameras became so good that they could find a subject in almost any situation. Composition took a back seat — but using the center focus point is a slap in the face to that thought process. This all has to do with your camera’s autofocus.
This isn’t a piece about technology — it’s an article about how we need to take back creative control instead of letting the cameras make the decisions for us. Many photographers shoot in the continuous autofocus mode and let the camera decide. Others use the wide-area AF setting and let the camera decide what needs to be in focus. This turns the experience truly into a point-and-shoot affair. But it doesn’t necessarily make for better photographs.
We’re outsourcing tasks to a device while not necessarily allocating the other mental resources to the creative things that make our images stand out from what an AI image maker can do. AI can evolve, but we can, as well as photographers. We need to evolve to keep expressing ourselves in different ways and to dive deeper into our own ways of expressing our deepest feelings and thoughts on an image.
So, what does all this have to do with the center focusing point? That’s a great question. Your camera’s autofocus is making you a bad photographer.
Years ago, photographers used to do this process called center and recompose. It’s when they focus on a subject and then recompose the scene. And back then, they did it because autofocus abilities on other points were terrible. Now, all of them are pretty good, depending on the situation. But they can also encourage bad composition that makes you do more post-production. By using the center focusing point along with autofocus tracking and recomposing, you can get a higher keeper rate that’s more in line with your intentions to begin with.
That’s the important part: we must be more intentional about our image-making. We don’t need to be shooting portraits at 20 frames a second. No photographer needs to go back culling through a few hundred photos of a subject looking at the same moment. Instead, we need to shoot more carefully.
Now, I will tell you a possibly harder truth if you’re a photographer who only shoots for Instagram and social media. That truth: no one will care about your images for more than a few seconds unless you make them do it. And you can do that by using your brain and creative muscles to make a better photograph.
If you’re a photographer who wants to build a legacy, then you need to do a few of the following:
- Stop letting social media dictate your work.
- Stop judging your worth based on what an algorithm or other people tell you to be.
- Stop looking at your images only on a screen.
Print your images. Move away from outsourcing all of your creative tasks to a camera.