John Enman (submitted photo)

John Enman (submitted photo)

Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

Is something wrong with my camrea?

“Can you calibrate my camera or my lens? My pictures are sometimes out of focus.”

“What do you think is wrong with my camera? I went to a concert last night and my photos were out of focus. Then I used the pop-up flash and the pictures were in focus.”

These are questions I was asked by two different young photographers this past week. I’ll begin this article by making the assumption that the problem is with their cameras.

Modern digital cameras have a phase detect autofocus system. That means that both cameras and lenses sometimes need to be properly calibrated in order to yield sharp images. I think most cameras might be fine with the factory calibration, but that is not always true.

Auto focus fine-tune calibration can be found on some, but not all, digital cameras. (Nikon calls it AF Fine Tune and Canon calls it AF Micro Adjustment)

The process of calibration involves going through a camera’s menu to the setting that allows fine tuning auto focus operation of lenses. Nothing will be changed on the actual lens as the calibration is done in-camera.

There are many easy tutorials available for lens calibration and there is also hardware such as “Lens Align” or “FoCal” that one can purchase for calibrating lenses that have focusing issues.

I mentioned that for the extreme cases when there is actually something that needs to be done to tune up a camera and specific lenses’ focusing. However, with regards to the focusing problems of those two photographers the ‘problem’ was not their cameras.

My first question to each person was, “Did you have your camera on Program or Manual mode?”

Then for the photographer that had success only when the flash was employed, I asked, how his camera’s meter worked?

His answer was, “Meter? I don’t know anything about where to find the meter?”

His problem is yet to be solved. I asked him to stop by next week with his camera so I can help him figure out how to set his camera’s Shutterspeed and to find the Exposure Meter. I don’t think there is anything wrong with his camera.

I looked at some photos made by the photographer that wondered why some images were not focused. How a camera focuses can be changed, and I changed her camera’s focusing from matrix to center.

Most of the photos on the camera were of people. I could see that she was using a wide aperture to make the background blurry. That is a popular and great way to do a portrait of a singe person and even two or three friends that have their heads close together, but with an aperture of f/1.8 on her 50mm lens the depth-of-field is so narrow that the only in-focus area will be nose to eyes. F/2.8 might give a focus area of nose to ears, but with more than one person those wide apertures can cause lost shots. And when the focusing mode is Matrix it might select any feature that is closest to the camera, focus on that, and making everything beyond blurry.

I set the focusing to center focusing for safer focusing, and suggested using F/4 or when shooting family groups. On her 50mm lens f/4 would still give a soft background.

The easy way to lay blame for a bad photograph is to blame one’s equipment. But as with those two photographers, it is better to learn proper technique, and to spend some time with their camera manuals.

Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week.

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