How to Change Your Focal Point on Your DSLR

When we keep our cameras in Auto, the camera is the boss.  It makes all the decisions for us.  That’s fine when starting out, but as you move forward in your photography journey, it is time to tell your camera, “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!”

This starts with being able to select your focal point.

The focal point is the part in the image that is the clearest, the most in focus.  When shooting in Auto, you camera decides what should be in focus.  Sometimes this works great but other times, we want something else to be in focus.

Look at the photo below.  The camera decided the plant should be in focus and now I’m all blurry. 

In the next photo, I decided what I want to be in focus (ME!).  Now the plant looks blurry and I’m pretty clear.  

Try this out for yourself.  In Auto mode, push your shutter down halfway.  Do you see those little red boxes or dots that light up?  Those are the points in your image your camera thinks should be most in focus.

I shot the photo below in Auto mode.  The camera decided the elephant should be in focus.  When I looked through my viewfinder, I saw a red square light up on the elephant.  You might see a dot light up on the point your camera thinks might be most in focus.  Or, you might see several spots light up.

But, what if I want the monkey to be in focus?

Once I change this setting on my camera, I can move my focal point around and look!  The monkey is the focal point.

You are probably used to shooting in Auto mode.  (And that’s just fine)

BUT, we can’t select the focal point in auto mode (again, the camera wants to be the boss!)

So, the first step in being able to change focal points is to move off of auto mode.  You can do that by turning the dial that looks something like this.

If you are already familiar with Aperture priority mode (A or Av on your dial), you can switch to that mode. (If you have no idea what I mean here, don’t worry.)
 
If you are not familiar with Aperture priority mode, you can use Program mode.  There’s a setting on your dial with a “P.”  That P stands for “program mode.” 
 
Program mode is very similar to Auto. It makes lots of decisions for you, decisions related to your exposure.   However, in program mode, you can take control over some aspects, one of them being able to select your focal point.
 
When you first turn the dial to program mode, your camera is still going to select the point it thinks should be most in focus.  

The next step is to change a setting that will allow you to select your focal point.  How you do this is going to depend on your camera.  If you Google "manual focus point selection" and then the make and model of your camera, you should be able to find how to change this setting.  

Once you've made this change, you'll be able to move that little box or dot around.

To select your focal point, look through the viewfinder of your camera.  Push your shutter down halfway to wake up your camera.  You should see where your focal point is currently.  You can now move it around!  My camera has a toggle that allows me to move it, other cameras will move the focal point with a dial.

Have fun with this!  Play around and practice.  Place two objects far away from each other (from front to back).  Then, practice placing your focal point on one spot and then the other.  

Questions??  Please ask!