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by evan-pak

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I tried to take some portraits of my sister-in and her fiance earlier in a sunny, green park.

I took a few pictures where the fiance is closest to me but turning to look at his wife-to-be who is furthest away from me and peeking from behind a tree.

In the picture, I was trying to get HER in focus, and slightly blur HIM out. However, because she most of the image was in the foreground (i.e. the tree and the guy) my camera refused to let me focus on her, even when I moved the focus square over her.

(I don't have permission to use the exact photo, so I put a sketch effect on it so I could post it and illustrate the setup.)


My question is: How can I pinpoint a spot in an image that I want to focus on - even if there are bigger and more substantial things in the foreground? In particular - how to focus on a person in the background when there are people closer up in the foreground.

I am shooting on a Nikon D7000 with a starter lens.

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A lot depends on the focus system of the particular camera model you are using. Including that information, as well as the lens you are using, in the question might result in more informed answers. – Michael Clark May 28 '13 at 16:50
I am shooting on a Nikon D7000 with a starter lens. - added it now. THanks – CodyBugstein May 28 '13 at 16:58
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Set your Nikon D7000 to auto focus using AF-S and select one of the 9 cross-type focus points as the only active point. Set your aperture to the widest (lowest number) your lens will allow.

  • Place the point you have selected over the part of the scene you want to selectively focus.
  • Half-press the shutter button to lock focus on your subject and continue to hold the half-press.
  • Reposition your camera to recompose the scene if necessary.
  • Fully press the shutter button to take the picture.
  • If the rest of the scene is defocused more than you desire, close down the aperture by increasing the f/number and shoot the scene again until you get the result you want.
  • If your camera won't focus on the point you want, try using the center focus point.
  • If that still doesn't work, then you will probably need to manually focus. If you find it difficult to use the viewfinder to focus manually, try using Live View with your camera mounted on a tripod.

Be aware when reviewing photos on your camera's LCD screen that it will lie like a politician! On the smaller, lower resolution screen depth of field will appear much deeper than it will when viewed at full size and resolution.

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This depends on the camera you are using, and if this camera has an option to select a specific focus point for focusing: you could then turn your camera with the focus point on the subject you want to focus on, then press the shutter halfway so the camera focuses on the intended subject. Then finally change your composition and press the shutter further to take the shot. Be careful though not to alter the distance from your lens to your focal point, as this will disrupt the overall sharpness of the image.

This web page has some more details on this subject:

Hope this answers your question.


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Another thing you can do with the D7000 that I found to be useful is to reprogram the AE-L/AF-L button (auto-exposure/auto-focus lock) to operate the focus. (This is function control f5.) Then select a single focus point (see Focus Point Selection, page 96 in the user manual). I set mine up to use the center focus point.

This has worked well for me, even for hasty candid shots. Going through the steps takes only a little getting used to. Raise your camera, put the focus point on what you want to focus on and push the AF-L button, then re-frame and snap the photo.

I just finished a 3 week trip where I used this exclusively with my D600. I found it to work well for candid shooting on the streets.

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