In Photography

How To Choose the Focal Point in Manual Mode

How To Choose Focal Point

Choosing your focal point in photography is one of the most simple things you can do in order to improve your photography immediately. Before I started shooting in manual, I wondered why so many focal points lit up on the screen when I took a picture. I mean, how could my camera possibly know what I wanted to take a picture of? It doesn’t! I needed to know how to choose the focal point!

If you want a thing done well, do it yourself- Napoleon Bonaparte

Have you ever heard that quote? I think we all have heard one version or another. By choosing your focal point in an image, you can pinpoint exactly where you want focus to land. By choosing the focal point of the image, you are telling the story for your camera. Don’t forget that. The camera is a tool, so lets learn how to use it well.

What are the Advantages of Choosing the Focal Point?

Many. First off, you will  be able to focus directly on the eye of your subject for portraits. You’ll hear that over and over. Focus on the eye! And in a portrait, of course you want the eyes in focus. Moving your focal point also allows you to set up your compositions in interesting ways.  My favorite advantage of choosing the focal point is by far shooting detail shots. I tend to lean more toward documentary photographs. I like to sit back and watch my kids play. And to tell the entire story, I love to take detail shots. It may be of little hands drawing, or a lost tooth, or eyelashes.

How To Choose the Focal Point

Let me start of by saying that this is NOT manually focusing your lens. Your camera will still be autofocusing, which sounds a little confusing. This IS a camera setting that allows you to toggle/move individual focal points around on the screen and get in focus exactly what you want to have in focus. The first step is turning your camera off of Auto mode. It’s
time to made the leap anyway!

For Nikon D750 

It too me forever to find this function when I got this camera!!!!! First turn on the info panel on the back of the camera by pressing the little i button. Next, there is a tiny button on the front of the camera that has AF and M next to it. The M is for manual focusing (by turning the lens until the subject is in focus). Make sure it is on A, then press the button. At the top of the screen you’ll see Focus Mode/AF-Area Mode. Look through the eyepiece and turn the front wheel for your index finger until you see a single dot.

Other Nikons

It may not be exact, but will be similar to these instructions:

Go to Menu<autofocus<AF-Area Mode< Choose Single


Sorry! I don’t have a Canon to hold, or I would figure it out for you! So, look for “Manual AF Point Selection” in your manual.


Practice changing your focal point and taking pictures.

Grab a handful of legos, place them on the table and practice moving your focal point around and grabbing focus.

Now that you know how to choose the focal point of your images, what kind of photos would you like to take?

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