Using the Nikon® Autofocus System

Lesson 13/17 - Macro Photography with Autofocus


Using the Nikon® Autofocus System


Lesson Info

Macro Photography with Autofocus

Well let's go ahead and look at our field shoot. Like I said, a few weeks ago, we went out to Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington, and we did a bunch of photography out in the field just to show kinda some real world scenarios. The next one that I wanna show is how to do macro photography, or how to use autofocus in macro photography. Let's go ahead and watch that video. So how 'bout macro photography? What do we do for autofocus when we're shooting macros? Well, a lot of times the best way to use autofocus is to not use autofocus. So when I do macro, a lot of times, I actually move the camera physically forward and backward to gain focus. So maybe what I'll do is I'll focus first to get kind of that initial close focus, and then I'll fine tune by pushin' the camera forward and backward. So for this scenario, I will, if I set up my camera for focus, I'll do something like AFS, which stands for single servo autofocus, and then S, which is single area, or I'm just using one single focu...

s point. So I'm gonna do that, gonna go down here and photograph these little pink flowers in the grass, and then I'll show you how I move the camera forward and backward. Alright, so I found a couple of little guys here, these two are gorgeous. On the lens itself I have an extension tube, on my 24-70, and that gets me a lot closer. I'm going to focus first, with the autofocus system, and now I'm just gonna move forward and backwards manually with my head, just to kind of get the critical focus. And I've got a really narrow depth of field here at F2.8, and the reason why I'm doing that is just so I can blur out this background. I'm gonna shoot another shot down really low. Oops. Great. Beautiful. That's it. I love crawlin' around in the grass to get a good shot. So macro photography, what did we learn? Well the crazy thing is, is that sometimes the best focus mode to use for macro is no focus mode. Macro photography's very precise, and any movement, forward or backward, can really upset your depth or where your focus point is in terms of your depth of field. Also when you're using extension tubes, or when you're using macro lenses, even at f8, f11, your depth of field is sometimes measured in millimeters or centimeters. So moving a little bit forward, or a little bit back is critical, therefore, trying to pick out a specific focus point in your whole field of view can oftentimes not be beneficial to you. It's very difficult sometimes to find your focus point, here moves the focus too far back. You focus point down a little, moves the focus point too far forward. So what I do is I focus initially, just to kinda get the camera close, and then I literally move the camera forward and backwards to line up the focus where it should be for the final image, okay? So here's the photos that we took from that session, I think they're gorgeous, they're beautiful, one of them I focused on the front flower and allowed the back one to go nice and blurry. The other one I actually tried to put the plane of focus from the camera so that it was parallel to the two flowers, and a lot of people make this mistake where a flower in the background is a little bit farther behind, and they end up focusing on the front flower. Well at f2.8, or even f5.6, or f11 sometimes, that flower in the background is just far enough that it's blurry. So one good trick I have for you is if you move the plane of focus, or the back of your camera so that it would be parallel to the front faces of the two flowers, you can get both of 'em in focus, and that's really what I did for that image. Just that a little bit. So that's macro photography, and manual focus in an autofocus class.

Class Description

The best photo moments often present themselves to us when we least expect it. Every photographer knows the feeling of lining up what they believe will be the perfect shot, only to realize after the fact that their focus was off. Nikon cameras have a built-in autofocus system for these situations. 

Join Mike Hagan, Nikonians Academy Director, to learn how to make the most of this often-overlooked function of your digital SLR. In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to set your focus within the menu settings and overall various camera settings
  • How to use autofocus patterns and area modes
  • How to use servo modes and lens configurations
Mike will help you configure the autofocus system for portraits, sports, wildlife, and landscapes. Relying on autofocus will also let you concentrate on lighting and composition, and help you take advantage of those fleeting moments.



Good course! I am a beginner and this course helped me a lot. I agree with some students that a better work could have been done in preparing the presentations. It seems to me that Mike is great in having informal live workshops. However, for recorded classes like the ones we buy in Creative Live, the teaching technique should be adjusted. Overall I am glad I bought this course.

Catherine Lucas

After having my camera D800 for 5 or 6 years and never really got the focussing down I can finally do it. This video should be included with every Nikon sold. I am so happy that I am finally get the fullest out of this great camera, I am more of a visual person. Reading the manual is not the same as actually see it done... Thanks Mike, you rock! I have watched the sequences over and over and learned so much. Thanks. And always welcome when you pass in New Mexico...

Janie Anderson

Thanks, Mike! I will go on tomorrow's shoot with my new Nikon D500, using autofocus with much more confidence thanks to this excellent class. I especially want to master birds in flight, so that module was of particular interest, as was the detailed review of back-button focus.