How to manually focus your dslr or mirrorless camera

Ditch autofocus for manual focus mode to get more precise control over your shots. Find out how to get started using manual focus, and which scenarios call for it.

Vice President of Content / CNET

Sharon Profis is Vice President of Content CNET.

Autofocus just keeps getting better. With every new model, more advanced technology allows cameras to quickly pinpoint the subject you’re focusing on without missing the moment.

You’re probably wondering, then, what this guide is all about.

No matter how good autofocus is, there are still times when manual focus is the better shooting option. When used in the right scenario, it gives a photographer more control over the photo, and in some cases, achieves effects that aren’t otherwise possible in autofocus mode.

At first, you’re going to feel like manual focusing takes too long. You’ll wonder how people ever lived without autofocus. But with just a little practice, manual focusing becomes easier, faster, and the payoff more obvious.

Switching to manual focus

No matter which shooting mode you’re in — from Automatic to Program or Manual — you can shoot in manual focus mode.

On the side of your lens, look for a switch labeled “AF – MF,” which is short for Autofocus and Manual Focus, respectively. When you’re ready to shoot in MF mode, switch your lens to that setting.

At this point, half-pressing the shutter — what you’d normally do to find focus in AF mode — is a useless action. Adjusting your focus must be done using the focus ring on your lens. If you have a zoom lens, you should have two rings: a zoom ring closest to the body of the camera, and a focus ring toward the end of the lens.

As you turn the focus ring, you’ll see different parts of the shot come into focus. The point at which an object comes into focus correlates with its distance from the lens. In fact, if you look at the top of the lens while turning the ring, you’ll see the numbers in the window changing — the distance in feet or meters that the lens is focused on.

Some advanced or studio photographers actually use these careful measurements to focus on their subjects, literally measuring the distance from the subject to the lens to find the perfect focus. (This is especially useful for photographers shooting product photos in a fixed studio set.)

But in most cases, while you’re shooting in “the field,” precise measurements aren’t an option. Instead, you’ll need to trust your own eyes to make sure your subject is in focus. Luckily, there are built-in tools to help you do that.

Checking your focus

Here are the basic steps to getting the most precise manual focus:

  1. Turn the focus ring until your subject sharpens.
  2. Switch your camera to live view mode (where the LCD is your viewfinder).
  3. Tap the magnifier button to zoom in on your subject, and use the arrows on your camera to move the area of view. (Alternatively, move your camera to frame the subject, and re-compose.)
  4. Fine-tune the focus until the subject is crystal-clear.
  5. Tap the magnifier tool again to exit back to normal view before capturing your photo.

When to use manual focus

Though you can use MF at any time, there are a few specific scenarios that really benefit from it. Often these scenarios are a challenge for autofocus, wherein it either focuses on the wrong subject, or simply can’t find focus. Here are a few examples:

Macro. When shooting macro, where the depth of field is so shallow, it’s important to have complete control over what exactly is in focus. It’s also apparent that autofocus is challenged by macro shots, and spends too much time looking for the focus point.

Crowded settings. If you’re trying to shoot a subject in a crowded settings of similar objects, the camera might have a hard time identifying exactly what you’re trying to shoot. For example, many blades of grass.

Shooting “through” an object. You can achieve really striking photos by keeping the object closest to the lens out of focus, and focusing in on a subject further away. In this case, use manual focus to ensure the further-away object is the one in focus.

Low light. If your lens has a smaller aperture, it’s going to be difficult to autofocus in dimly lit scenes. So switch to manual focus, and be sure to hold the camera very steady when you get your shot.

Street photography. As Yanidel points out, locking your focus and aperture allows you to shoot continuously without changing either one of those settings. She explains, “You could spend a whole day without any need to focus your camera by setting the focus ring on 3 meters and the aperture on F11. Then everything between 1.8 and 7 meters would be in focus.”

Landscape. When shooting scenery, autofocus will often find something in the foreground, leaving the rest of the scenery blurred, or at least slightly out of focus. In this case, focus on something far in the distance while you’re in autofocus — this will force your lens to focus on infinity. Then, lock that focus by switching to manual before snapping your photo.

How to focus your DSLR when shooting video.

Accurate focus is massively important. It is very off-putting when your subject is even slightly out of focus and it can result in people quickly turning off.

In the video I show you three ways to focus your DSLR. The first is for YouTube style videos like this, the second is shooting on the move using manual focus and the third is using the advanced autofocus features of a new camera like a Canon 80d, Canon 70d or Canon 700d with face detection.

Like any photography, the most important thing to get in focus is your subjects’ eyes if you are filming people.


In a static situation like this, or an interview, where your subject is not moving manual focus is the best way. Before shooting a video set up something like a light stand or a microphone stand. Position it as close to where your eyes will be as possible. This will be the point where You focus the camera.

Once that is set move over to the camera, switch on live view, position the focus area on the stand at the point where the eyes were positioned, zoom into 10x and then use the auto focus to accurately focus in. Lock the focus into manual before returning to the original position. This is a good way to ensure your focus is accurate to a very fine margin. Remember do not then adjust your position, or the camera position, or you will have to go through the process again.

Manual Focus

This sounds complicated but is actual very simple. Put your camera into manual focus mode and start filming. Use the focus ring to adjust focus as necessary for your shot. Extra accessories like a follow focus, magnifying screen or external monitor can make this easier. You can also shoot with a smaller aperture so your depth of field is large. This means your focus does not have to be quite as accurate.

Auto Focus

The last way is using autofocus on newer cameras like the Canon 700d or the Canon 70d or Canon 80d. With face detection switched on the cameras do a pretty good job of keeping you in focus but you can also tap the screen to focus into that area. Combined with the new STM lenses this makes auto-focusing a real pleasure although sometimes it will hunt around going in and out of focus for no apparent reason.

The method of focus you use is entirely up to you but having the ability to use all three will ensure you are armed to focus your DSLR whilst shooting video in almost any situation.

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Learning about the focus setting your your DSLR may sound at first like a totally simple subject, but there are some nuances that you need to undertand in order to leverage focus to its fullest potential.

Here’s the first one: when you focus on a subject, you’re not focusing on a POINT in space, but a PLANE. The best way to see this is to take a picture of a textured wall (i.e. brick).

If any part of the wall is in focus then the ENTIRE wall will be in focus – that’s because all other points along the wall fall within the plane of focus.

However, if you take a picture of a cylinder and you focus on the center then the sides may not be in focus, since they are behind the plane of focus.

To bring a plane into focus, you’ve got two main options: you can focus the lens manually (by twisting a ring on the front of the lens) or you can leverage the autofocus system in your camera/lens.

If you go with autofocus, you’re really working with TWO mechanisms: the one in the lens and the one in the camera.

The SPEED of an autofocus (AF) system is the result of a partnership between camera and lens. For example, if you stick a lens with a slow AF on a fast camera, the performance of the AF will be reduced. Conversely, if you stick a lens with a fast AF on a moderately fast camera, the AF performance will increase.

A camera’s autofocus system is made up of a group of invidual autofocus points: any one autofocus point can be used by the camera to bring the image into focus.

In the good old days of film SLR cameras, many only had one AF point that sat in the center of the viewfinder. Today’s modern DSLRs can include 3, 5, 9, even 11 separate AF points.

What are all these AF points for? They serve two main purposes:

  1. They let you focus on off-center subjects
  2. They track moving subjects across the viewfinder

Imagine you’re taking a picture of a friend in front of a fountain and your friend is standing off to the left side when you look through your camera’s viewfinder. If ONE autofocus point is over your friend, this is the reference point the camera will use to set the plane of focus.

Now imagine that your friend is walking in front of the fountain from left to right. As your friend passes under each AF point, the camera will re-adjust the plane of focus depending on the active AF point.

NOTE: While all of the AF points in your DSLR can be used to focus on a subject, the CENTER point is often the most sensitive and the most accurate. If you’re having a problem with autofocus (see below) try selecting only the center point to see if this helps.

Common Focusing Problems

While useful in many situations, multiple AF points can sometimes pose a problem, especially with subjects that are small relative to the background. When you’re trying to focus on an off-center bug on a flower, the AF system may decide to focus on the background instead.

For times like these, you have the option to MANUALLY select the AF point you want your camera to use. If the bug is sitting under the rightmost AF point, then manually select this AF point as the active one so that your camera doesn’t use the others.

In addition to focusing on the background, there are times when your camera won’t focus at all.

This typically happens when you’re below the minimum focusing distance that your lens is capable of. The minimum focusing distance varies from lens to lens. It is measured as the distance from your camera’s sensor to your subject (since the lens is trying to bring images into focus right where the sensor is located).

Special lenses called macro lenses have VERY small minimum focusing distances, allowing you to place the lens right up close to your subject for maximum magnification.

There are other times when minimum focusing distance is not an issue, but your camera STILL can’t lock focus. This happens most frequently under two conditions:

  1. Low Light – in very dim light, EVERY autofocus system will have a hard time locking on to a subject, even with the most sophisticated DSLRs. AF systems need light to work, and when light is lacking, AF has a tough time
  2. Low Contrast – when your subject doesn’t have a lot of contrast, the AF system becomes “blind”. For example, if you try to take a picture of a clear blue sky, the AF system won’t know what it should bring into focus. If you point your camera at a CLOUD, then the AF will lock onto the cloud because there is contrast between the cloud and sky

Live View Focusing

If your DSLR has a live view mode, you’ll find that autofocus works one of two ways:

  1. Fast AF With Blackout – in this case, the live image on the LCD goes black while the camera uses its multiple AF points to lock focus (which it can do fairly fast). Once the focus is locked, the image on the LCD re-appears.
  2. Slow AF No Blackout – with some live view systems you can continue to see the image on the LCD while you autofocus, but AF performance is significantly reduced. This is because instead of using the multi-point AF system, your camera resorts to what’s called “contrast detection autofocus” – this is the same system used by all compact digital cameras and is quite slow when compared with DSLR autofocus.

Some cameras even let you c hoose which type of AF you use in live view mode. The AF mode you select depends on your subject.

If your subject is not moving, then you can use the slow AF mode so that you can always see an image on the camera’s LCD. If your subject is moving, then you’ll need to leverage the speed of the multi-point AF.

Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium’s OneZero. Read more.

Autofocus doesn’t always work as well as you’d hope. Sometimes it’s necessary to go old school and focus your camera manually. Here’s how to make sure you get sharp shots.

Autofocus is excellent on bright days when there’s a clear subject but, if you’re shooting in low light, want to focus on a specific object, or there isn’t a distinct subject, autofocus can struggle. For landscape images, for example, I almost always use manual focus because it gives me total control over the image.

The Basics of Manually Focusing

The simplest way to manually focus your lens is just to adjust the focus ring until whatever you are trying to capture is sharp.

Remember, the wider your aperture, the more accurate you’ll need to be, and when you’re focusing through your lens like this, your aperture is always wide open, even if you have it set to something else; it only closes up when you go to take a shot. To get a better idea of what’s actually in focus, you need to use the depth of field preview button.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a practical way to reliably get good shots unless you’re using a narrow aperture. Modern lenses and cameras work on the assumption that people are generally using autofocus, so it’s now much much harder to manually focus by eye than it was with older cameras. Lenses have shorter focal throw distances (the amount of movement required to adjust the focus), lack distance scales, and otherwise just aren’t designed to be quickly and easily focused manually through the viewfinder.

How to Manually Focus the Right Way

The good news is that there’s a great way to focus a modern camera set up manually. It just requires a bit more time and, ideally, a tripod.

Put your camera into Live View mode and if you can, mount it on a tripod. Live View shows a real-time preview, so the depth of field and brightness you see are pretty accurate.

Use the zoom to zoom in as close as you can on the subject you want to be in focus; my camera can go to 10x. The zoom buttons are in different place on different cameras but are almost always close to the Live View screen. This is also a digital preview zoom; it’s not zooming in the lens. It’s just giving you a much better preview than you get looking through the viewfinder.

Next, adjust the focal ring until the subject is sharp and in focus. Since it’s zoomed in on the large screen and you’re getting an accurate preview of the depth of field, this should be easy enough. Take the photo, and you’re done.

When Should You Use Manual Focus

At the start I mentioned a few scenarios when manually focusing your lens is a good idea, but let’s look at them in a little more depth.

In Low Light

Autofocus is at its worst in low light conditions. It just doesn’t work when there’s not a lot of contrast. This means that in low light conditions you’ll be more likely to need to use manual focus to get the shot you want.

If you’re trying to hand hold your camera to take quick shots, things are going to be more difficult than if you’re able to lock down your camera on a tripod and focus on the stars. You’ll just need to find the right balance between speed and accuracy for your shots.

When You Want Everything In Focus

For good landscape photos, you normally want everything from the mountains in the distance to the grass in front of you to be in focus. Autofocus isn’t great for this because it will normally just focus on a subject in the foreground.

When you’re shooting landscapes and want everything to be in focus, one simple tip is to focus one-third of the way into the scene on something in the midground with your aperture set to f/16 or so.

For example, if you want everything from the wall five feet away to the buildings 500 feet away to be in focus, you should try and focus on something about 150 feet away from you. The reasons why this works get quite mathematical and complicated fast, but the gist is that the area in focus in your images is split roughly 33% in front of the focal point and 66% behind. By using a large aperture we guarantee there’ll be a large depth of focus and by focusing a third of the way in, we get it to cover as much of the image as possible. Note, for really distant objects like mountains or the stars, you can just assume a distance of around 1000 feet or so to approximate things.

When You’re There’s a Lot of Distractions

Autofocus normally focuses on the simplest, most obvious foreground subjects. This is great most of the time but if there’s something distracting or opaque in the foreground, like some tree branches or a window it will probably focus on that instead of the real subject.

Swap to manual focus and focus on the subject yourself.

Any Other Time You Want Control or Consistency

Autofocus is just another tool at your disposal. Any time you want control or consistency, there’s a good chance it will do more harm than good. You probably should use manual focus when you’re doing anything like HDR images, macro images, panoramas, or anything else where you’re combining more than one image.

It’s easy to let your camera automatically do everything and come away with decent images. It’s not the way to take great photos though; for that, you need to know how to control your camera properly—even if that means focusing manually.

Table Of Contents_

If you are new to the world of digital photography, learning how to manual focus a digital camera is an important step, despite advances in autofocus performance in both new and mirrorless systems. This may seem silly since the best digital cameras and compact cameras come with more precise and sensitive “autofocus (“AF”)” points, better tracking, and faster acquisition times, but there are certain occasions where you need to use it.


  • Turn off the AF (Autofocus) mode on the lens of a digital camera, or in the camera’s menu.
  • Rotate the focus ring on the lens to manually focus on the subject.
  • In mirrorless cameras, change the Manual Focus assist feature in the camera to automatically magnify into the Live View, so that you can accurately focus, once you start rotating the focus ring.

How to Manual Focus Your Camera


Depending on your camera brand, locate the diopter adjustment control (i.e., a small wheel on the label + and – on some cameras). You will find this control close to the viewfinder, allowing you to alter the viewfinder focus to fit your eyesight.


Manually move the focus-method switch to the setting marked MF or M on your lens. Most camera lenses have this setting. Alternatively, if you have a compact camera, go to your camera’s menu and turn ‘ON’ the MF assist feature.

If you are new to the world of digital photography, learning how to manually focus a digital camera is an important step, despite advances in autofocus performance in both new and mirrorless systems.


  • Enable grid lines on your camera by accessing the setting in the camera’s menu. As a result, you will see two vertical and two horizontal lines on your screen.
  • Place the horizon on one of the dividing lines, but not at the center. In addition, the bottom part emphasizes the background, while the upper part is for the foreground.
  • Leave some room at the top, and position the subject at any four points where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect.
  • The work of the frame is to lead the viewer. Use the negative space in the scene to show the viewer what they need to see. If you place your subject on one side and then require them to move across the field of view, ensure they stay within the frame unless you intend to have them walk out of it.

STEP 4 Select the Sharpest Focus Point

Press the zoom-in button on the top-right corner of the camera. Then, turn the main command dial to select the focus point you want. Most DSLRs use a phase-detection focusing system to focus on a point. On the other hand, most point-and-shoots and mirrorless cameras use a contrast-detection system.

Alternatively, you can look through the viewfinder and press the multi-selector tool. Then, switch to the left, right, up, or down options until the focal point you want to use flashes red.


Rotate the focus ring until your subject appears in sharp focus.


Press the shutter button to take a picture. Then, check the preview image and magnify to check if your shot is in perfect focus.

What Is Manual Focus?

Manual focusing is the process of turning the focus ring on the lens by hand. As you adjust the focus ring, you observe the subject through the LCD screen in live view or through the viewfinder. Now, most modern cameras with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) or optical viewfinder use the image on the camera sensor to help with manual focusing. As a beginner, learn how to use the viewfinder to get a precise focus of your image. The best part is that the process is pretty much the same, whether you are using a new or a homemade digital camera.

Mirrorless cameras provide manual focusing through the viewfinder. In some cases, automatic magnification is active when you turn the lens’ focus ring. This quick, convenient, and on-demand precision has made manual focusing popular among professional photographers who want to shoot in low-light settings, as it will help them capture quality images and minimize glare on their digital cameras.

Manual focusing is the process of turning the focus ring on the lens by hand.


How can I use a manual lens on my Canon EOS camera?

You have to choose the manual exposure mode and manually set the shutter and aperture speed.

Do photographers use manual focus?

It’s your best bet to focus on a subject without any guesswork. Most professional photographers avoid using an autofocus system because manual focusing gives them maximum control of their shooting sessions.

Is autofocus a better alternative to manual focusing?

If we are talking about speed, then autofocus is better than manual focusing. AF is better because it can easily lock onto an object within seconds, making it ideal for fast-moving objects. But, of course, you can also use manual focus on moving targets by pre-focusing on the spot where the target will be moving to and shooting the selected location.

STAT: If you are looking for an affordable quality digital camera option, you can go for the Nikkor 50mm 1.4. (source)

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As sophisticated as autofocus systems are these days, any photographer will know that there are times when your camera is easily fooled and you’ll get better results by using manual focus. But knowing how to focus manually and capture precise detail can seem like a fine art.

Rest assured, it’s not. By knowing what technology you have at your disposal and, most importantly, when to turn off the AF, you can achieve superb results quite easily.

In theory, using manual focus is simple. Just look through the viewfinder and rotate the focus ring on your lens until your subject appears sharp. But sometimes it can prove difficult to get a clear view of your subject – and even more difficult sometimes can be making sure that you are fine-tuning your focus on the right area of your subject.

Now, you can get away with small errors like this sometimes if you are shooting with a small aperture (a high f number) and there is lots of depth of field in the image.

But when you are shooting with a small aperture (a low f number) and blurring your background to isolate your subject, any small focusing errors like this will spoil your efforts.

So how do you avoid them? Recent advances in camera technology have given photographers some real advantages and made manual focus much easier than it used to be.

Manual Focus with Live View

It wasn’t that long ago that many photographers (admit it, you did!) dismissed the LCD screen on the back of their camera and the idea of composing images this way, instead of the traditional viewfinder.

To be fair, LCD screens and Live View technology have come a long way since then. But also, most photographers, as they’ve used them over the years, have come to realise there are some real advantages to using Live View for manual focusing.

For starters, the LCD screen is significantly bigger than your viewfinder. This is particularly useful when composing an image while your camera is mounted on a tripod.

What’s more, with that larger screen you can also now magnify sections of a scene to fine tune your focus on some of the smaller details in a composition.

Many cameras now also let you move this magnified section around the frame in order to verify the sharpness of the entire scene.

As much as we all love looking through it, this type of accuracy just isn’t as possible when composing a scene through a viewfinder.

Something else to consider about manual focus in Live View: the scene you’re looking at on your LCD is the same as that on the image sensor itself. This means it avoids any front or back focusing issues where the subject looks sharp in the viewfinder but is actually a little soft.

If you shoot with mirrorless cameras you’ll find that the LCD on the back automatically works in Live View, but with DSLR cameras you often need to activate this function via a dedicated button, as they are designed with viewfinders as the primary compositional tool.

Manual Focus with Electronic Viewfinders

With the exception of a few mirrorless camera that feature hybrid viewfinders, the viewfinders found in compact system cameras are electronic. Electronic viewfinders (EVF) use the Live View feed from a camera’s imaging sensor to create an image in a small screen in the viewfinder.

Believe it or not, the very first electronic viewfinders were found in bridge cameras (these are essentially compact cameras with fixed zoom lenses and a DSLR-like body design), but the early results left a lot to be desired.

Images contained lots of noise, and the sensors were not able to capture a wide gamut of colours. Thankfully, technology has improved in leaps and bounds. Modern EVFs give a very clear view of a scene, offering lots of detail.

And like a Live View screen on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, many EVFs also allow you to magnify part of a scene and fine tune your manual focus. In most cases this magnification can be set to occur as soon as the focus is adjusted.

Focus peaking

Most compact system cameras and some DSLRs now offer a technology called focus peaking, which they inherited from video cameras. What this technology essentially does is highlight the areas of highest contrast within a scene. Why? Typically, these are the areas of sharpest focus.

When you activate your focus peaking feature you will notice that the sharpest areas of your scene are highlighted in a particular colour. You can usually select which colour this is on your camera, so if you are colour blind there are some options available. In most cases, red is a good option because it stands out in a lot of different scenes.

Focus peaking is particularly useful for photographers when shooting video because it allows you see quite clearly which parts of your scene are sharp and where the focus is shifting as you turn the manual focus ring on your lens.

That said, focus peaking is also quite useful for stills photography and can often be used at the same time a selective magnification.

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Simply put, the pull focus technique enables you to switch the focus of your shot from one subject to another. Used skilfully, it’s a time-tested way for videographers to pull the viewer’s attention from one item in a scene to another, or from one person to another during dialogue.

In order to get this technique to work you need to use a shallow depth of field, so open your lenses aperture right up. Apertures of f/2.8 – 4 are the most common f stops to use for this technique.

Obviously getting an aperture of this size in bright conditions can be difficult, as we don’t want to break the 180 degree shutter rule (which states, essentially, that shutter speed equals two times the frame rate).

As ever, to get the shallow depth of field effect where your foreground in focus and background soft, a longer focal length is always that best solution.

For example, an 85mm focal length with subject one positioned a meter from the lens and subject two three meters from the lens is an ideal setup. This separation should create a good depth of field once you’ve set aperture and exposure.

If you can’t get the wide-open aperture you need, think about fitting an ND filter to reduce the amount of light that’s able to hit the sensor. An ND or variable ND filter is a videography essential.

Once you have your exposure balanced with the wide aperture, then it’s just a case of manually focusing from one subject to another. Why manually?

There can be one major issue here with the focus and that is that many modern still lenses use an electronic clutch system. This means that when you switch to manual focus the lens is actually still using the electronic motors to shift the focus.

While this is fine for stills, that small delay as you twist the focus ring can be a real issue when it comes to video.

Obviously any delay will highlight in the footage. If you find that this is the case then a little experimentation is all thats needed in order to find the exact location you need to twist the focus ring in order to hit the right focus point.

A 100% mechanical focus lens is a far better option and this is why the old manual focus lenses have become so popular with filmmakers.

Before you get going it’s also worth noting that you’re going to be messing with the camera as you’re recording; an obvious effect is that the tripod is going to wobble.

This is generally why video tripods are far larger and heavier than stills tripods, and is especially relevant when pulling focus.

Make sure you use the heaviest tripod you own, or weigh it down with bags so that the setup is as steady as possible. If all else fails, employ someone to hold the tripod down as firmly as possible while you’re filming, telling them not to breath or move during the shot.

The Touchpix app allows you to connect DSLR and mirrorless cameras wired. This integration supports Canon & Nikon cameras.

The cameras work for photo functions (Photo, Gif) and video functions (Boomerang, Video, Slow motion). However, you can’t use both the photo and video functions at the same time. You have to put the camera in photo mode to take photos and in video mode to record videos.

Wired setup
Using an external camera with Touchpix is very easy. Follow these basic steps to make the DSLR / mirrorless camera work.

Required cable/adapter
We recommend getting this Lightning to USB 3 adapter from Apple if you use an iPhone or an iPad with a lightning connection. If you use an iPad pro with a USB-C connection, we recommend getting this Digital AV Multiport Adapter.
Get the USB cable that works with your camera. The most commonly used cable is the Micro USB to USB-A male or USB-C to USB-A male.

Step 1
Connect the camera with the USB cable (2) to the USB adapter (1) and connect the USB adapter to the iPhone or iPad.

Step 2
Tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner of the Touchpix app and tap on ‘Camera’.

Step 3
Tap on DSLR and ‘Connect to DSLR’ to open the connection screen.

Step 4
Set the camera to photo mode or video mode, depending on what you want to use the camera for. Usually, you can use a switch on the back of the camera to do that. On the Canon M50, you can use rotate dial to switch from photo to video mode.

When you want to use the camera for video
– Select MP4 as the video format in the Movie Recording Quality section.
– Enable High Frame rate when you want to use Slow Motion video.
– Make sure to use a modern lens with autofocus. The session will fail when the camera detects an older manual focus lens.
– Make sure the live view of the camera is enabled. The camera will only record video if the camera is in live view mode.

Step 5
Turn the DSLR off and on to connect the app to the camera. The connection screen will disappear when the camera is connected.

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Shooting manual is easier than you think

By:​ Christopher Claxton

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My Sony A7ii with a Sony – FE 85mm f/1.8 Telephoto Prime Lens. Credit: Christopher Claxton

In my last article, I gave Tips for Photographing Couples but I just realized how I can give you tips on how to shoot couples when I haven’t explained how to shoot in general. So let’s take a step back and start at the beginning.

When I first started photography, I was hesitant about shooting in Manual mode, I figured why would I need to shoot manual when I could shoot Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority? As time progressed and the environments I was taking pictures in kept changing I began to realize that the preprogrammed functions weren’t the best for all locations. If I wanted to really get into photography I was going to need to learn how to shoot manual for the most flexibility in my final images. I watched a ton of videos on YouTube and now this article will have the information compacted in one area. I watched hours of content so you could read around 5 minutes worth. Thank me later.

The BIG THREE camera settings that will alter your photography game are ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

First is your ISO which represents how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. This sensitivity affects the exposure of your photos, the lower the number the less sensitive your camera will be to light. With ISO you can control if your camera takes in more or less light for an image with a balanced exposure.

What you need to know:

  • The brighter the location, the LOWER the ISO should be.
  • The darker the location, the HIGHER the ISO should be.
  • The higher the ISO, The more grain or noise your photos will have.

Some photographers like grain, it’s a choice but most clients might not want a noisy image; you want to avoid grain at all cost unless it’s intentional. I’ve had some noisy images and trust me it kills your photos, noise reduction in post-production helps, but will ultimately make your noisy photo very smooth. The best bet is to get it correct right in the camera so you’ll only have to do minor adjustments in post. If you don’t know what grain looks like imagine small fuzzy dots on your images.

Play around with your ISO settings to see how high you can raise your ISO until the amount of grain is too much for your photos, then make a mental note of it. I currently use a Sony A7ii and I usually don’t go over an ISO of 1,600.

ISO lighting examples:

  • Outside- ISO 100
  • Shadow- ISO 200
  • Indoors, good lighting- ISO 400
  • Indoors, bad lighting- ISO 800

Key takeaway- The higher the ISO the brighter the image but more grain, the lower the ISO, the darker the image with less grain.

Aperture, also known as f-stop or depth of field, controls the depth of your image and it alters what you have in focus. The aperture controls the opening of the lens which controls how much light passes in.

Aperture controls your exposure, the lower the f-stop the more light passes through which creates a brighter image since the opening of the lens is wider. Low f-stops are perfect for blurry backgrounds also known as bokeh. While higher f-stops create sharper images and are great for landscape photography. I always wanted crisp images and I didn’t understand why my photos were great but not as crisp as I wanted them to be, it turns out my aperture was too low at 1.8, to get the crispiest of crisp images you should aim for an aperture of 2.8.

Key takeaway- The lower the aperture, the brighter the image and the less in focus it will be, the higher the aperture, the darker the image, and the more in focus.

Last but not least is shutter speed which controls how long the shutter stays open and how long the camera sensor is exposed to light. For blurred images of a moving subject, you want a slower shutter speed, for freezing moving subjects in place you want a faster shutter speed. I mostly shoot candid portraits that look as natural as possible, so while I’m talking to the model I’m constantly snapping images to capture all of their motion, for that I would use a faster shutter speed to make sure I don’t miss anything.

The best practice is to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/200 or higher, anything less and camera shake might appear in the image.

Key takeaway- The lower the shutter speed, the brighter the image but more blur, the higher the shutter speed, the darker the image, and the easier it is to capture motion.

Bonus- White balance

To be honest, keep your white balance on auto (AWB), when I first learned how to shoot manual I would change mine for each photoshoot but eventually, you begin to forget. I photographed the opening of my friend’s juice bar last year; I was going from taking pictures indoor to outdoor at night, I was changing my ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, but never my white balance. Long story short, I didn’t capture the day as well as I could’ve, all my photos were off. I did my best to save the images but some were just terrible.

Key takeaway- KEEP YOUR WHITE BALANCE ON AUTO. it’s easier that way, I made the mistake so you don’t have to.

Below you’ll find the cheat sheet I typed up on my phone when I first started shooting manual. Copy and paste it to your notes if you’d like.

  • Outside 100
  • Shadow 200
  • Indoors 400

Aperture- The size of the lens opening also controls the depth of field,

Controls the amount of light in photos

  • Lower the number the more light
  • Higher the numbers and less light
  • F/stops
  • How much is in focus
  • Shooting one person should use f/2-2.5
  • Group of people f/3.5-4
  • Landscape f/16 and up

Shutter speed -the amount of time in seconds where the shutter is open also, controls motion blur

  • For portraits use between 1/250-1/500
  • Sports 1/800-1000
  • Slower speed more blur
  • Faster speed less blur

If an image is too dark

Make each change one by one and try

  1. Slow shutter speed
  2. Lower aperture
  3. Raise ISO

If an image is too bright

Make each change one by one and try. Not all at once

  1. Lower ISO
  2. Raise shutter speed
  3. Raise aperture

For the fanciest video calls

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Share All sharing options for: How to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam

A Fujifilm X-H1 mirrorless camera used as a webcam. Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

If you’ve been working from home for the past few weeks, you’ve probably had to join more than a few video conference calls. Or perhaps you’ve been using video chat apps to keep in touch with friends and family while social distancing. Either way, you’ve probably noticed that the webcam on your laptop is, well, crap. It leads to blurry, pixelated video calls, and unflattering viewing angles.

There are a few ways to address this problem. You could buy a proper webcam, but good luck finding one of those in stock. You could repurpose an old smartphone and use that as a webcam, if you happen to have one lying around. Either of those might be slightly better than your laptop’s webcam.

But if you really want to step up your video call game, you can actually use a DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam for your computer and have the best-looking video of anyone in your group chat.

Depending on your camera and your computer, this can be as simple as installing a piece of software and just using a USB cable to hook your camera to your computer. If you have a relatively modern Canon camera and a Windows PC, there’s an app now available that lets you hook up the camera to your computer over standard USB and use it as a webcam. There are software-only solutions for other cameras and for Macs as well, but they often involve “virtual” webcams created by software which some apps can’t use (including, sadly, Zoom).

The “easiest” method thus includes spending some money. Most people will probably need some extra hardware that converts a camera’s HDMI output into a USB input. These devices are called USB capture cards and generally run $100 or more. Thanks to the global pandemic, they are also very difficult to find in stock. But we’ve tested this IOGear model and it works well. Unlike the popular Elgato Cam Link, the IOGear model is available from B&H Photo right now.

IOGear HDMI to USB Type-C Video Capture Adapter

How to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam

You will also need an HDMI cable that can plug into your camera, which likely means a Micro HDMI on the end that goes to your camera. You can either get a full-length Micro HDMI cable or an adapter that converts the larger HDMI plug down to a Micro HDMI. Once the camera is connected, you’ll want to enable “clean HDMI” output, which will get rid of all of the camera exposure information and give you an unobstructed video feed. Depending on your camera, this is either done by putting the camera in its video mode or toggling an option in a settings menu. Consult your camera’s manual for the way to do it on your model.

Pearstone HDD-106 High-Speed HDMI to Micro-HDMI Cable with Ethernet (6’)

How to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam

Tilta HDMI-01-M HDMI to Micro-HDMI Adapter

How to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam

In addition to the USB capture device or software for your computer, you’ll also want to have some way to mount your camera for video calls. This can be as simple as a basic tripod, but if you’re looking to put the camera above a desktop monitor, like a traditional webcam, things can get a bit more complicated. There are mounts and clamps you can buy to affix the camera to your desk and bring it up to eye level, but you’re just going to have to figure out how to get it to work for your own situation. I have been able to get a GorillaPod wrapped around my monitor arm to work, but it’s not the most elegant solution.

Finally, since using your camera as a webcam means it’s basically on and streaming video to your computer constantly, you’re going to want to get an A/C adapter to power the camera instead of relying on its batteries. Some cameras can be charged via USB-C battery banks and chargers, while others require special A/C adapters from the manufacturer. You will also want to disable any automatic power shutoff features in the camera. Consult your camera’s manual to see what you need.

Other things to be aware of:

  • Most webcams have wide-angle lenses, so it’s easy to stay in frame. If you primarily want to use this setup for video calls, you’ll want to use the widest lens you have for your DSLR or mirrorless camera, otherwise your video calls will be all face and you’ll constantly drift out of frame.
  • You also should try to use the fastest lens you have available. The lower the aperture (the number after the f/ on your camera’s lens), the more blurred and pleasant your background will look. You’ll want to be at least at f/2.8, but if you can go lower, that’s better. I set my 16mm Fujifilm lens to its lowest aperture of f/1.4 for the best effect.
  • Your camera likely has some sort of face detect autofocus, which you should enable. That way if you shift your seat or move, it will just follow your face to stay in focus. You will probably hear your lens refocusing as it keeps track of you, but odds are people on the other end of your video chats will not hear it.
  • Keeping the camera constantly on and feeding live video to your computer for long periods of time can make the parts in your camera hot, and in some instances, a camera might shut down if it overheats. It’s smart to turn off your camera in between calls.

Once you have all of the parts, setting up the camera is as simple as plugging the cable into the side of the camera, plugging the other end into the capture card, and then plugging that into your computer and turning your camera on. Both Windows and macOS will automatically recognize the camera as a webcam and it will be available as an option in Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, or whatever other software you use for video calls. From there you can just bask in the glory of the image quality from your overpriced webcam.

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For photographers used to looking through their camera’s viewfinder to compose and shoot photographs, shooting video may take a little getting used to because it uses Live View on the camera’s LCD display.

To focus using Autofocus, simply choose your AF area mode and AF focus mode.

To focus the camera in Live View, using AF, simply frame up your shot, and press the shutter button half way down. When the red box turns green, your subject is in focus.

For the more adventurous, you can also manually focus the camera by switching the AF button on the side of the camera from AF to M. Remember to check your camera’s User’s Manual for instructions on its particular menu navigation and dial layout.

Rack Focus or Pulling Focus Technique

One of the techniques that Hollywood cinematographers employ often is the rack focus or focus pull. This is where one subject in a scene (foreground or background) is in focus and gradually the focus changes to another subject in the scene. This is a technique that allows the cinematographer to put a dramatic emphasis on one subject and then change that emphasis to another. It is often done in scenes where there is dramatic dialog between characters.

To do this, choose one subject to focus on. Say the subject in the foreground. Focus on that subject and then slowly and smoothly turn the focus ring on the lens barrel until the subject in the background becomes sharp.

Third-party Focus Assist Accessories

There are a variety of accessories made by third-party companies that help you focus the HDSLR when shooting video.

One of these is the Loupe or Finder. A Loupe attaches to the camera, covering the LCD so you can bring the camera to your eye as if you were using the viewfinder to frame your scenes. Different loupes offer different variations of magnification to help you see and focus accurately.

Another accessory is the External Monitor. This is often helpful to use when you are shooting video with one person operating the camera and another person who also needs to see the footage as it is being captured. An external monitor can also be useful for the videographer who wants to view the scene unfolding before his camera on a larger display than the built-in LCD.

A third accessory is a Follow Focus system that will attach to the lens and allow the camera operator to more easily control the motion of the rack focus.

Remember to check your HDSLR camera’s User’s Manual for instructions on its particular menu navigation and dial layout.

Music by Dave Christian.

I am quite new to DSLRs and one of the first things I noticed was the incredible focus points and appearance of depth that you can achieve. That is great in a lot of scenarios, but not in all. When filming a landscape as a whole, I do not want to have the focus on that single tree, but on the whole skyline.

Is there a way by which you can sort-of “disable” the focus, so that the raw image is recorded without any added blur? I suppose something as simple as this is only a small function you can turn off, but I can’t seem to find it in the manual of my camera.

3 Answers 3

What you are looking for is large depth of field. This is an optical property, not something applied as a special effect, so it’s not something you can turn on or off. The raw image captures the light focused by the lens, and inevitably there will be parts of the scene which are either too far or too close — out of the range where the rays are tightly organized by the lens. In fact, the fashion of shallow depth of field with blur as a key compositional element is relatively recent — traditionally, many photographers’ concern was the same as yours: getting more of the scene in focus.

The good news is that you can affect this: a smaller aperture will give you greater depth of field. That means larger f numbers, like f/16 or f/22. This won’t give you infinite focus, but will greatly increase the range which appears sharp. The “price” is that you’ll need either higher ISO or longer shutter speed. For highest image quality, longer shutter is usually the better option — which is why tripods are common for landscapes.

For a given aperture, you can find the hyperfocal distance, which is the distance at which you can set the focus to get the largest depth of field. (There are a number of online calculators which can figure this out for you, although without an distance scale on the lens you kind of have to guess when focusing.)

If you use a pinhole lens the aperture will be so small that you will have effectively have infinite depth of field. But, with this approach, or even with any small aperture like f/11 or up, you sacrifice a little of the top possible sharpness of the in-focus area in exchange for greater overall depth across the scene.

To add to some of the confusion here: compact point & shoots and phone cameras use small sensors. That correspondingly means that the real aperture is smaller for the same field of view (see Why does a bigger sensor lead to a shallower depth of field? for details), which means that these cameras often have very high depth of field when focused on anything not right next to the lens. Because shallow DoF is trendy these days, some cameras and phones actually have a software-based effect to add the appearance of blur due to limited DoF. So, for these cameras, it is a software blur effect that can be turned off. For bigger cameras like your DSLR, though, it’s natural and unavoidable.

Finally, there is an emerging field called “computational photography”, where unfocused light rays are recorded without a traditional lens. With this approach, focus is applied after the fact, just as you were thinking. However, this technology is in its infancy — the only commercial camera to work this way is the Lytro, and its resolution is so low that it’s really just a toy (and a sort of “tech preview”).