Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 44/107 - Manual Focus


Fundamentals of Photography


Lesson Info

Manual Focus

Alright, so we've been talking about auto focus up to this point, which is awesome focus, right? It's awesome. But there are times when auto focus just isn't really the best technique to use. So let's talk a little bit about manual focus and some of the things you need to think about and ways to work with it. First off, you gotta think about what type of lenses you have and what type of focusing rings they have. It's one thing to consider when you are buying a lens. A lot of the least expensive lenses have very small, almost non-existent focusing rings, because they're not really designed for people who are likely to manually focus. I prefer a lens that has a nice, wide rubber ring that you can easily grab and turns very very smoothly. And some of the best are you know, ones that are designed specifically for manual focusing. Back in the camera shop, when we got in used lenses, we were always checking to see if they were optically good, and then on the manual focus ones, we were like, ...

how good does it focus. If it was good, it was like butter, because you wanted a lens that was really smooth, wasn't grainy or stiff or too loose. And in the newer auto-focus lenses, they haven't really replicated the feel of a good manual focus lens. And so some of those Leica and older Nikon lenses really had a nice manual focus smooth feel to it, and that was great for manual focusing. Now, one of the other things that's really important on here is the distance scale, and you'll see that it is not on a lot of the inexpensive lenses. It's on some of the intermediate and most all of the higher end lenses, and then this depth to field scale looks really nice on the older manual focus lenses. Now this is actually a new lens, but in this category, Leica only makes manual focus lenses, and so this is really handy for anyone who is doing manual focusing. And we're going to get into this a little bit more into this section. For those of you with DSLRs, the viewfinder of your camera can help or hinder your focusing a little bit depending on what level and what features it has in there. There are four different things that I think are important. Number one is having a large viewfinder, and large viewfinders seem to come with large sensor cameras. Because they have larger mirrors in there, they have larger ground glasses in there, they have larger prisms, you get a bigger view of what you're looking at. That is going to make focusing easier because you can see the detail of your subject more clearly. A bright finder. Now one of the things that's just buried deep in the specifications of a camera is whether it has a pentaprism or a pentamirror in there. The entry level for Nikon and Canon have pentamirrors. And this is a little plastic box with some coated material that acts like a mirror. It's very lightweight, it's very cheap, and it does a pretty good job for the money, you know, it does pretty good job. But the higher end cameras have an actual prism system in there, which is going to be brighter and better, so when you pick up the two cameras, you'll go, yeah, this one's a better viewfinder, but you won't know why, but that's what's going on on the inside that makes it better. The other thing for the SLR user is a bright lens. If you have a lens that opens up to 2.8, that's going to let in more light, and you're going to see that with your eyes when you look through the camera. Those of you on mirrorless systems, you have an electronic view, and it's amplified, and it's adjusted according to the lens you have, so you don't have quite the same thing going on. But if you have a brighter lens, it's going to look brighter in the viewfinder and it's going to be easier for you to see. Cameras will have different levels of magnification. I talked about this towards the beginning of class in the camera section, but you can dive into the specifications of your camera, and you can see what the magnification ratio is. Now this magnification ratio can be difficult to compare between different sensor sized cameras, so you can only fairly compare them between sensor sized cameras. So for instance, the Nikon D7500 is .94, the D750 is .7. And, I'm not even going to compare which one's better because they're different, they're in different size sensors so you have to compare them by sensor size. And then the fourth thing is a large eyepoint. Higher end cameras typically have a larger eyepoint, which means you can view the entire screen from a little bit further back, which means you might be able to wear glasses as you look through the viewfinder. One of the things that I don't like about cropped framed cameras in general, and this is more on the SLR side than on the mirrorless side is that the viewfinders are kinda small, and sometimes people will say it's kinda like looking through a toilet paper tube. You know there's this little tiny window out here that you're looking at. And with a nice camera, it's like you look in there and you're in a big movie theater and you can see the image really clearly. And so your ability to manual focus will be dependent on all of these things going in there. The most accurate way to manually focus with an SLR camera is to activate the live view system so that you can see what's going on on the back of the camera. I'm going to talk a little bit about why it's not best to use the viewfinder. It's acceptable to use the viewfinder and it's what we've done for quite some time, but if you want the most accurate way, you activate the live view on the back of the camera. You like the video that I put in here for this one? It's one of those things, I'm a still photographer, and I don't shoot video, but every once in a while, I need little bits of video in my class to just you know make it look nice, and I came across this in an aquarium and I'm like, this is going to make the best live view screen on a camera, ever. So sorry to divulge into my keynote talk. A little meta meta talk there. Okay, so using this for focusing can be very good. Using the screen on the back of your camera is good in general for just getting a unique point of view. The auto focus performance is accurate, but slow. So the performance, well is it good or is it bad? Well it's accurate, but it's not necessarily quick. So you don't want to use it for action photography, but for a stationary subject, it works fine. Typically I find it's hard to use this with the camera handheld. Usually needs to be on a tripod to be most beneficial in my mind. And so what you can use is you can zoom in, and I'm going to show you an example of zooming in and then checking focus. And so what I'll do if I really want accurate focus, is I put my camera on a tripod, I turn live view on, and then I magnify in on my subject, and then I see if it's in focus, and then I adjust focus manually, and I get my image in focus, and I've done so at the highest magnification that I can get into. And if it looks sharp there, then it's sharp, and it's good, and then I can zoom back to the standard position and I can shoot the photo. That's the 100% guarantee that you have got proper focus. It's that you've done it manually, you've gone in to look at the very fine details exactly where you want it in focus, and it does it right. And so if I'm on a tripod and I really want to be precise, I'll go through that process, which doesn't take very long.

Class Description

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


1Class Introduction 2Photographic Characteristics 3Camera Types 4Viewing System 5Lens System 6Shutter System 7Shutter Speed Basics 8Shutter Speed Effects 9Camera & Lens Stabilization 10Quiz: Shutter Speeds 11Camera Settings Overview 12Drive Mode & Buffer 13Camera Settings - Details 14Sensor Size: Basics 15Sensor Sizes: Compared 16The Sensor - Pixels 17Sensor Size - ISO 18Focal Length 19Angle of View 20Practicing Angle of View 21Quiz: Focal Length 22Fisheye Lens 23Tilt & Shift Lens 24Subject Zone 25Lens Speed 26Aperture 27Depth of Field (DOF) 28Quiz: Apertures 29Lens Quality 30Light Meter Basics 31Histogram 32Quiz: Histogram 33Dynamic Range 34Exposure Modes 35Sunny 16 Rule 36Exposure Bracketing 37Exposure Values 38Quiz: Exposure 39Focusing Basics 40Auto Focus (AF) 41Focus Points 42Focus Tracking 43Focusing Q&A 44Manual Focus 45Digital Focus Assistance 46Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF) 47Quiz: Depth of Field 48DOF Preview & Focusing Screens 49Lens Sharpness 50Camera Movement 51Advanced Techniques 52Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance 53Auto Focus Calibration 54Focus Stacking 55Quiz: Focus Problems 56Camera Accessories 57Lens Accessories 58Lens Adaptors & Cleaning 59Macro 60Flash & Lighting 61Tripods 62Cases 63Being a Photographer 64Natural Light: Direct Sunlight 65Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight 66Natural Light: Mixed 67Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light 68Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light 69Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light 70Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light 71Quiz: Lighting 72Light Management 73Flash Fundamentals 74Speedlights 75Built-In & Add-On Flash 76Off-Camera Flash 77Off-Camera Flash For Portraits 78Advanced Flash Techniques 79Editing Assessments & Goals 80Editing Set-Up 81Importing Images 82Organizing Your Images 83Culling Images 84Categories of Development 85Adjusting Exposure 86Remove Distractions 87Cropping Your Images 88Composition Basics 89Point of View 90Angle of View 91Subject Placement 92Framing Your Shot 93Foreground & Background & Scale 94Rule of Odds 95Bad Composition 96Multi-Shot Techniques 97Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction 98Human Vision vs The Camera 99Visual Perception 100Quiz: Visual Balance 101Visual Drama 102Elements of Design 103Texture & Negative Space 104Black & White & Color 105The Photographic Process 106Working the Shot 107What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!

Vlad Chiriacescu

Wow! John is THE best teacher I have ever had the pleasure of learning from, and this is the most comprehensive, eloquent and fun course I have ever taken (online or off). If you're even / / interested in photography, take this course as soon as possible! You might find out that taking great photos requires much more work than you're willing to invest, or you might get so excited learning from John that you'll start taking your camera with you EVERYWHERE. At the very least, you'll learn the fundamental inner workings and techniques that WILL help you get a better photo. Worried about the cost? Well, I've taken courses that are twice as expensive that offer less than maybe a tenth of the value. You'll be much better off investing in this course than a new camera or a new lens. I cannot reccomend John and this course enough!