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by Bart Arondson

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I have a Nikon Coolpix S9100 camera

I am trying to take few self-portraits by setting the self-timer and then going in front of the camera, however all the pictures come out very blurry.

I am aware this is happening because the camera locks the focus in when I press the button and timer starts, not when it takes the picture. I think this is stupid because 90% of the time you use the self-timer when the photographer himself wants to be in the picture.

I desperately need to find a work around for this.

Can anyone suggest settings or a workaround so I can take sharp, quality pictures in focus using the self-timer?

Or is it just impossible to take pictures of yourself through self-timer?

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Posting as a comment since I don't know what it would be called on Nikon, but on Canon's there is often a auto focus mode that can be either one-shot (where it focuses once per shot) or AI Servo where it will adjust focus until the shot it taken. Presumably Nikon should have a similar feature. –  AJ Henderson Jul 12 '13 at 17:26
    
there are two Auto Focus modes available in my camera Single AF & Full-Time AF .. and i don't think so either one helps in my situation. still i am going to give an exhaustive try to it again and ll let you know. –  Maven Jul 12 '13 at 17:29
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Try the Full-Time AF. That should adjust focus on the fly. If it works, I'll repost the suggestion as an answer. –  AJ Henderson Jul 12 '13 at 17:38
    
you have: Auto (9-area automatic selection) Center Face priority Manual with 99 focus areas Subject tracking –  Michael Nielsen Jul 12 '13 at 21:34

5 Answers 5

I don't have your camera, so I cannot fix the problem using it; however, we can fix it by hacking the system.

  • First print out a nice big X on a sheet of paper, tape to a broom handle or similar you can prop up with a chair.
  • Focus on it.
  • Press the shutter timer.
  • Put your head where the target was :-)
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1  
The advantage of this technique is that it will work with even the cheapest point-and-shoot camera. By the way, you can often get by with just the broomstick/hat stand/whatever without having to use the target and tape as well. And for cameras that have an easier time focusing on faces (and there are some), a "happy face" will work better than an X. (Nobody said that cameras have taste.) –  user2719 Jul 12 '13 at 19:45

I agree with Michael Nielsen's suggestion. Things happen spontaneously and you'd need to be swifter than doing the overpreparation method (unless you are about punctuality and not at all in a hurry).

Don't forget that the closer you are to the camera the more visible difference in focus of torso in comparison to feet. So if trying to pre-focus on the future ground in your feet, make it focus to a calculatedly nearer distance.

Sometimes, if I find a standing object with the exact same radius of positioning as I would be, I'd focus there and turn back the camera to my thought-out frame.

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This is really simple:

  • Put the camera in manual focus mode (switch on the lens).
  • Put a line of tape on the floor, place something tall, say a tall lamp, right on top of that line.
  • Focus the camera on the lamp post.
  • Move the lamp or whatever it is out of the way.
  • Start your timer.
  • Go stand right on that line of tape.

Problem solved!! Now you can take as many portraits of yourself as you want, with any pose you want, without having to focus again! :) Oh, as an added measure, to make sure small changes don't affect focus with a thin DOF...stop down a bit. If you are using a fast lens, stop down to f/2.8. If you are using an f/2.8 lens, maybe stop down to f/4. Jack up ISO a bit to compensate.

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1  
There is no AF switch on the lens. It is a P&S camera. And max aperture of f/3.5 when at wide end of the zoom lens. –  Esa Paulasto Jul 13 '13 at 3:05

It helps to see AF as a "focus assist" rather than auto function. It is still the user that chooses focus with "AF" modes, as you get the direct feedback when you are behind the camera. That's also why you need to set the focus before leaving the camera behind for auto portraits and it doesn't try to auto focus alone (and what if it focus seeks - is the self-timer then a 10+1 to 3 secs self timer?). The photographer is always in the loop to do focus selection, by pointing the camera and half button pressing, focus and recomposing, etc. It is not the camera that "locks on focus before hte timer starts" , it is you who locks the focus on a background far far away.

So this is what you need to do when self portraying - exactly the same as normally. You just have to find something to point the camera at, at the same distance you want to be in. Others suggest you use props, which is fine if you are at home or planning it, but most of these shots tend to be spontaneous, so you need to find something in the scene. if you are going to sit on a bench, use the front of the bench, or the back if you will lean back. Maybe you will stand next to a tree or a pole or a guard post, so use those with "focus and recompose". Your kind of camera tend not to have narrow DOFs so you probably don't even have to worry about that.

So it's really just business as usual. Find and lock focus and then take the photo except for the running part before it snaps.

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  1. Put a stone or something where you want so stand yourself.
  2. Focus on that stone.
  3. Use the bottom most af sensor for doing that.
  4. Set your lens to MF (M) mode.
  5. Take your picture.
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