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Move to Manual: Understanding Focal Points

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  1. Ashley says:

    Nikon User -D5100- amateur

    Great explanation. I just had a photo shoot with my niece on the weekend. I defiantly noticed that her eyes where in focus, but I didn’t understand the focal dots within the eyepiece of the view finder.

    Just a clarification the dots on the view finder I want any one of the dots to line up with the eye?

    Also When I would switch from one person to two people I found it hard to keep both sharp even when they were close together. Do I switch any settings when I shoot one person then a couple then to group? I did up my aperture.

    • Courtney says:

      Yes! The dots you see in your viewfinder are the ones that determine where you are focusing. I recommend determining your aperture by how many people you have. If you have 2 people I’d go with a 3-something aperture, 3 people with a 4-something aperture, etc. Always focus on the eye closest to you and make sure that everyone is within the same focal plane. 🙂

  2. […] my method…keep in mind that my camera is always on Al Servo Auto Focus and Partial or Spot Metering Mode. These things are constant and don’t change, so they […]

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  4. […] I get all of my other settings fixed in camera, I select my focal point. When I’ve decided which focal point works best for the particular image that I’m […]

  5. christy collins says:

    Hi Courtney! I’m a budding photographer (still amateur although been practicing for years). I’m just now breaking into the scene and I really enjoy your blog, it’s refreshing to know there are moms like me out there trying to perfect their art…and with SO MUCH to learn, I find I’m constantly RE-learning! Thank you for your info and I look forward to reading your future blogs!

  6. Hey Courtney Im wondering where to place the focal point when shooting 2-4 people? Can you help? Thanks! Nikki Grafton

    • Courtney says:

      When I’m shooting more than one person, I generally try to place the focal point on the person who is closest to me. If they are in a straight line (lined up side by side) I go with whoever is in the center. When you shoot more than one person, your aperture should generally be high enough that focusing on the eye specifically won’t matter. I focus on the forehead or the nose of the person instead. 🙂

  7. Anna says:

    I have loved this series and I’m hoping you will continue doing stuff like this. These lessons were easy to follow and great practice for me. I am still behind on a couple of them but have tried to keep up. I finally blogged about it on my blog….I’m not a great blogger and don’t have many followers but it’s my space out there that maybe someday I will want to build. For right now, it’s enough for me. Take a look if you’d like and again, thanks so much!!


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Courtney Kirkland is a Southeast Alabama Writer & Designer. Since 2011,, Courtney has passionately provided beautiful, intentional design to small businesses & bloggers and encouraged thousands to walk in a rich faith in any situation.