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Last week I wrote an article for digital photography beginners called “Where to Start with Your New Camera.”  Knowing that learning digital photography can be tough for new photographers, or folks new to digital technology, it’s good to take a step back and start from the beginning sometimes.

Last week’s article was all about the very basics: turning on the camera, taking a photo, and transferring photos to your computer.  I ended that article with this advice:

Analyze your photos, once you’ve printed them or imported to your computer.  Do you see any consistent problems?  For instance, is focus hitting something other than your subject in many photos? Target that as the next feature to learn. Focus on one area of improvement at a time, master it and move on.

Because I hear that focus is a problem for many new photographers, let’s target it next.

The problem with shooting in Auto is that the only choice you can make about your photo is where to aim the camera.  You can’t tell the camera which part of the photo to focus on.  You can’t tell it if you’d like the background to be blurry or sharp.  You can’t tell the camera if you’d like to freeze motion or create a motion blur.

When you start feeling constrained by what Auto has to offer, it’s time to learn about shooting in some of the other modes.  Some people, at this point, jump straight to Manual.  Others take a smaller step to Aperture or Shutter mode.  But, if you want to take baby steps, the next step will be Program Mode.

Program Mode is essentially Auto opened up to a few adjustments from you. People sometimes call it Flexible Auto.  Your camera will set the exposure, but you can set the focus point if you want.  This is great if you frequently find that the wrong part of your image is focused.

So, how to do this?  First step, set your mode dial to Program.  Whether you have a Canon, Nikon or Olympus, the spot on your Dial will say P.

Next, set your Focus Point Selection to Manual.  This allows you to move the focus box inside your viewfinder until it’s over your focal point.  When you press the shutter, the camera will focus on whatever is under that box.

On my Canon, to switch from Automatic focus point selection, I go to the Quick Select menu and activate the button that you see outlined in teal in this screen shot.



Once activated, you simply turn the knob at the right (see the arrow in the screen shot below) until the heading displays manual selection.


When the manual focus point selection is turned on, to select the point to focus on, I use the joystick in the circle to move the focus point to the appropriate location.  That’s all it takes – I snap the shutter with focus where I want it to be.

So, what do you think?  Is this a good next step for a beginner to take?  Which other issues give beginners trouble that we can solve here?[/show_if]