When Should We Use Manual Focus?

Manual focus switch
Manual focus switch

In the previous post, we talk about auto focus, how it is used and what its strengths and its weaknesses. In this article, we would like to cover details on some of shooting conditions where the auto focus is not the good option and the manual focus is the one that should be chosen to get expected results.

1. Macro/Close Up
When you do macro/close up photography, the distance between the lens and the object can be very close and the depth of field can be very shallow for about few millimeters only. With such close object, the focus can be very difficult when you use auto focus. For instance, when you shoot insects and want to get the focus of their eyes and the auto focus is one in charge. You will find the focus that falls on the eyes is possibly not sharp. For such case, you will need the use of manual focus instead and move the ring by yourself to get the intended part.

Orchid in macro photography
Orchid in macro photography

2. Low light
This condition is pretty common where the auto focus will not work properly because the lack of light can make it very difficult for it to find the object unless you use AF-Assist which usually disturbs the object. For some kinds of lighting, your eyes can be better to find the object rather than the camera. When the LCD blinks a message “Subject is too dark”, actually, our eyes are still able to find the focus through viewfinder. So you may co-operate your eyes with the manual focus and you will get sharp image on the objects you want even in low light condition as well.

3. Panning
I have written an article on technique to create panning image and one of the condition is to use manual focus. Why? Because the object which is being photographed will be absolutely move to this kind of photo. The auto focus will find it difficult to find the key point when you anticipate the place where the object passes when the camera follows the move.

4. Stitching
This is a technique of uniting two or more images like one in panorama. When you want to “stitch” some images into one, the most important thing is to pay attention to the compatibility of the camera setting point on images that are being united. Particularly for this, of course, the focus must be the same. You may use small aperture opening that will ensure that the focus is even from the front to the back. However, it will be much better if the focus is locked to prevent the focus point missing from the object. Yet of course, the best way is to use manual focus.

Photo Stitching
Photo Stitching

5. Infinity
Not all lenses got infinity facility for example kit lens Nikon 18-55mm. if you use this kind of lens to shoot objects in far distance such as moon, starts, fireworks, planes and etc. it will be difficult to find the point when you use auto focus. And finally the lens will constantly move its ring focus and frustrates you. In order to save energy, move to the manual focus if you plan to shoot such objects because the auto focus will absolutely not help.

6. Bokeh
This one is the favorite of every photographer. Sometimes, bokeh is taken purposefully to dominate the frame and to do this; you need to control well to get images which are all out-of focus. This can be done only with manual focus.

City Bokeh
City Bokeh

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