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Focus on the holidays 2019

Focus on the holidays 2019


Getting together with family and friends at the holidays is a mandate for looking over old photos, and more importantly – taking new ones. The technology in imaging devices from cell phone cameras to sophisticated interchangeable lens cameras makes it simple to capture sharp, well-exposed images that can be shared and printed immediately. There are a few “tricks” worth learning to make those Kodak moments memorable.

Remember when we gathered in front of a camera and waited for the designated family photographer to set up the camera, focus, set the self-timer and run to get in the picture? We can now “trip the shutter” remotely on cell phones, tablets and larger cameras with a Bluetooth, infra-red or radio-controlled shutter release – most available for less than $20. Cell and tablet camera apps have a focus lock/exposure lock that can be set (usually by touching the screen for 2-3 seconds until the AE/AF Lock icon appears), ensuring a sharp and well-lit image. Many cell and tablet camera apps will automatically seek focus on faces, but it is generally better to “lock” focus, especially when the subject is not far away from the camera.

Larger cameras have several focus options, mentioned in previous ADP columns. To review, three main focus options are available in most advanced cameras (advanced amateur, mirrorless and dSLRs): Single focus for portraits and landscapes, Continuous Autofocus for moving subjects and Automatic Autofocus, which combines features of each of the previous two, but tends to be the slowest and works best for movies.

Canon calls its single-focus option “One-Shot AF,” while Nikon and several other brands refer to the single-focus option as “AF-S.” This choice can be further refined by setting a specific focus point or points, or letting the camera choose which area(s) to select. This photographer is particularly fond of using a single focus point, especially with portrait and nature photography.

Continuous autofocus has evolved to the “point” of being able to track and maintain sharp focus on rapidly moving subjects. This option also has several possibilities from using a single focus point to the highly specialized “3-D Autofocus” system used by Nikon’s higher-end cameras, which interprets both subject movement and specific subject identifying features. It is not unusual to get several hundred burst-mode shots of a moving subject in sharp focus.

The best option to use for those holiday group photos, however, might just be “Face Priority” focus. Often available only in the live view mode (viewing on the LCD screen on the back of the camera), this system can detect and focus on one or many faces. Combined with a remote shutter release and the camera on a tripod or other steady surface, there are no more excuses to not have wonderful photos from the holidays to preserve those memories for years to come.

… Just remember to back them up and print the “good” ones!

Dr. Photo – AKA John Keller - operates a full-service photography studio, No. 5, and art gallery in the Mission Arts Building at 124 S. Ninth St. He teaches introductory and advanced courses in digital photography, cell phone and tablet photography and editing at Doane University in Lincoln and for the OLLI program. He also offers private and group digital photography lessons. Email your digital photography and computer questions to


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