You generally use this mode when you want to focus on the subject and then recompose the image.
In my profession and all my work as well I'm utilising this particular focus more often. Because composition is an essential part of a strong image, making this specific focus mode becomes very important to understand. So an example of that might be that you are taking a portrait and you want to be able to focus on the subject, but then you need to recompose the subject, so the subject is falling in the rule of thirds or what is called the golden mean. So once you have got your focus mode on the single shot as you depress the shutter button halfway down, you'll find that it will focus on whatever the camera points to.
To lock the focus onto whatever subject you want to, all you need to do is hold the shutter button down halfway and then recompose the image to make the composition a lot more striking. A great way of understanding composition is by having the focusing area in your viewfinder, central, then focus on the subject and then move the camera. If you keep doing that a dozen times or more, you'll start to get into an excellent habit of recomposing the image every time after you have locked your focus. Immediately this is going to separate your work from every other amateur. Most amateur photographers focus on the subject in the middle of the frame and then take the shot. This particular composition is so typical and annoying because you see it all the time by most amateur photographers.
On the Nikon D5, you have got a button on the side of the camera around about where the lens mounts the body and when you depress the button you can change the focusing mode from single shot to continuous. You also can very quickly change the focusing example of whether you want one point focus or whether you want 51 points focus. Now you would choose these particular focusing points depending on what you want to achieve.
Single point versus 51 points of focus
Now the focusing point might be right in the centre of the frame, but what you do is you focus by depressing the shutter button down halfway, and then the little red square will light up. It will also point out that the subject is now focused and then from there you can recompose the image by moving the camera plane. Outstanding technique once you get the hang of it. I use this every day in my personal and professional work and what it means it gives you the ability to practice the art of creative composition when it comes to placing the subject in the frame again in the prime position which is generally the rule of thirds.
A perfect technique for portrait work; however, you can still use this for landscape, urban architecture or any subject matter. How about travel photography. Anything whereby the subject or seen is predominantly static. Let's say you're at the seaside and there's a beautiful boat or dinghy anchored. It's very early in the morning, and you want to take a shot of that particular boat serenely so what you do is you would do is focus on the boat then recompose say that the boat is going to be to the bottom right of the frame. By the way, if you want to get that real serene feeling, you are generally composing the image horizontally or in landscape mode.
This particular focus mode, once chosen, will follow any moving subject as you either pan the camera or keep it static. It will continually keep focusing on whatever is in front of it. In my working career, I photograph a lot of Harley Davidson clients. This continuous mode is used most of the time with my Harley clients because I'm doing tracking scenes of them riding their motorcycles towards the camera and across the film plane as well. This makes for striking imagery that very few amateurs generally do. My Harley Davidson clients love my work because all of a sudden, they got this incredible image of them riding their motorcycle, which they love. Not to mention, they look like a rockstar!
This continuous focusing mode is fabulous if you want to chase and follow any moving subject, whether it's children at a birthday party or if the kids are playing football or soccer or maybe motorsport is your thing, and you want to capture that event.￼
In continuous mode, you can firstly have the camera static like with a Canon or Nikon. They will continuously focus on the moving subjects that are happening within the frame. But secondly what you can do is you can be moving the camera, (commonly called panning) as the subject is moving across the film plane or even in and out. You see this sort of image often at motorsport racing events. The trick here is to make sure again you familiarise yourself with these particular focusing modes and learning how to access both of those modes individually fast. It could be a good idea to jot it down when you go and see your retailer in regards to the menu items. That way, you are guaranteed; you can access these focusing modes fast.
Going back to my film days, I didn't believe that the cameras were good enough to focus on the subject using autofocus and capture everything sharply and so I always opted to focus manually. It is beautiful now because I use autofocus for most of my work and the reason for that is that most of my work is moving pictures.
As I have already pointed out I can access the two most used focus modes I just pressing a button on the side of the camera where the lens mounts the body and I can very quickly, in fact without even looking change the mode from single-shot to continuous focus mode. Incredibly handy if you are at the time restraints and you are changing your photography from tracking and following a moving subject to then the next moment photographing static subjects. You will find that most camera manufacturers will have a very similar fast operating go to function button that will give you the ability to change from continuous to single-shot, or vice versa. With a little bit of practice, you'll become very proficient in changing in between the two focus modes, by just touching the controls and not looking at them.
On any given photographic shoot day for me professionally I will be swapping from continuous mode to single shot mode at least 20 times and so being able to access each focus mode fast is paramount by keeping my attention on what's important, which is my client, not the camera controls.
It is vital that you understand the difference between the two focusing modes, as often the case, I find amateur photographers ask me questions why is it that I usually have an out of focus subject. After asking them a couple of essential issues, it becomes very evident to me that they want to photograph a static subject, but instead they've got the focusing mode on 'continuous'. So, as they focus on the subject, and they move the camera to recompose the image, this focus mode focuses on the background. Now the background might only be two or 3 feet away, but it's still going to be enough to render the subject matter out of focus.
Now depending on the aperture that you are using and depending on what distance you are from having the subject from the background will determine how sharp the subject will be if you are using a wrong focusing zone or focusing mode. In conclusion, I would like to say that the two focusing modes that I have covered will be used daily in your photography. Enjoy learning how to fast track the focus modes. Go and create. Your photographer, mentor and friend Darren Tilnak
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Darren Tilnak (MPhotog P.I.P.P) (Mastering Photography)
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