Are you trying some settings on a new camera and can't seem to figure out how to set focus points due to several options? With DSLRs allowing manual vs autofocus, we're going to help you identify cases where to use them and how to improve focus for real estate photography.
Manual vs Autofocus in Real Estate Photography
Manual focus and autofocus both adjust the focus of the camera lens. However, autofocus is helpful for those who need help focusing as it uses optical sensors to determine the sharpest focus, whereas manual focus lets you control the focus ring by hand.
Understanding Manual Focus
Manual focus is the process of modifying the depth of field to bring a photo into sharp focus without technical assistance. Like when shooting in manual mode, manual focus gives you more creative control without sacrificing precision.
With manual focusing, you need to use your left hand's palm to cup and adjust the lens barrel. Then, your fingers must twist the focus ring until the photo comes into sharp focus.
It's important that you hold both the camera and lens properly to achieve this. Otherwise, you may create a slight blur from motion shake.
Autofocus is a self-directing feature of a lens that intelligently adjusts the barrel and focus ring to obtain image sharpness. It communicates with the camera to determine the sharpest focus.
As opposed to manual focus, using autofocus means you don't have to hold the lens as you shoot, giving you more leeway to think about other elements.
While autofocus is faster than manual focus, the quality may vary depending on the DSLR model. Likewise, the camera model indicates what kinds of autofocus modes you can use.
- AF-S: Single-servo autofocus locks focus on the subject once you press the shutter halfway, making it ideal for stationary subjects.
- AF-C: Autofocus can still track moving objects with continuous-servo, which continually moves the focus as long as the camera or the subject moves.
- AF-A: Auto-servo lets the camera detect first whether the subject is stationary or in motion. After that, it automatically chooses whether to use AF-S or AF-C depending on the scene.
When to Use Manual Focus in Real Estate Photography
Manual focus is an excellent choice for real estate photography, especially since most of the subjects are stationary. These are some of the most common instances where you can apply manual focus for real estate:
Focus stacking: This type of shooting needs you to take multiple images of the same frame using different focuses. You can only achieve that when you use manual focus for selective focusing.
- Wide-angle shooting: Real estate photography would usually require you to shoot using a wide-angle lens, which can enlarge a scene more than it looks in real life. Also, there will be a lot of focus points in a wide scene, and manual focus can help you choose the right focal point.
- Differences in image elements: Autofocus tends to have difficulty focusing when there's an object between the subject and the camera or when the subject and background are of the same color. Manual focus is better than autofocus in situations where you need help focusing despite such differences in contrast, distance, and color.
- Bracketing: Manual focus helps you make sure the focus stays precisely the same for all frames of the bracket sequence. A change in focus between frames would cause softening in the edges of the final image.
- Low-light shooting: Manual focus can easily pick up lighting changes even when the subject has both bright and shadow areas.
When to Use Autofocus in Real Estate Photography
Autofocus is equally beneficial in real estate photography, especially in the following cases.
- Setting the hyperfocal distance: The hyperfocal distance refers to the focus distance, which places the furthest edge of a depth of field at infinity. With wide-angle lenses and smaller apertures, setting the focus to the hyperfocal distance keeps everything from a meter or two to infinity in focus.
- Learning: Autofocus works easier and faster than setting the focus manually. If you want to focus on mastering exposure first, autofocus can give you that chance while it takes care of the sharp focusing.
- Real estate videography: Although you can also use manual focus for videography, autofocus mechanically adjusts the sharpness as you move, letting you concentrate on your movements and angles.
- High-contrast images: High-contrast photos have a full range of tones with strong textures and colors. When shooting in bright sunlight, autofocus helps ensure you don't miss a spot in focusing. This is great if your style also includes creative architectural photography.
- Moving objects: You won't probably have to include fast-moving subjects in your real estate shots, although it's best to know that you can rely on autofocus should you need to capture subjects in motion.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Improve Shooting Focus?
Commercial and real estate photographer Scott DuBose recommends using the handy DOF calculator. Meanwhile, architectural photographer Tom Zaczyk also suggests practicing using the back button autofocus.
Can You Use Autofocus in Manual Mode?
Yes, you can still use autofocus even when in manual mode, as well as in other modes like Program, Shutter Priority, and Aperture Priority. Manual mode means programming the exposure settings manually, so it won't affect the autofocus.
Do Professional Real Estate Photographers Use Manual vs Autofocus?
It depends upon the photographer, as the use of focus can be a personal preference. However, most professional photographers tend to use manual focusing rather than autofocus as it provides them optimum control over the sharpness of photos.
If you're new to real estate photography, autofocus can help you adjust. However, at some point, you must learn how to shoot with manual focus for better control. Understanding the advantages and downsides of both types can give more flexibility and options when shooting real estate images.
Does anyone else have any advice?