Photography tips

5 Situations When You Should Use Manual Focus

Without a doubt, auto-focus is of immense benefit to modern photography. It saves us a lot of time and effort, you simply need to press a shutter button and the camera will automatically do all the calculations and focus hunting for you. However, there are situations where it is better to use manual focus than auto-focus.

In these situations, which we will look at below, auto-focus doesn't perform well as expected. So you will need to rotate the focus mode selector to "M" and do all the needed calculation and focus hunting on your own. There are many reasons to use Manual focus especially for experienced photographers. In fact, every good photographer should understand when Manual Focus can give better results; for instance when there is obstacle on your way. You should also know when to switch back to auto-focus.

Both manual and auto focus can produce great results depending on how you use them. In this article, we will discuss top 5 situations where it is better to use manual focus than auto focus.

1. When there are obstacles in the Way

In some situations, your subject will be partially blocked by an immovable object or an object you intend keeping in the photo. In this situation, using manual focus will be extremely valuable in pinpointing the main subject. Additionally, you can creatively blur the obstruction from the view if you combine this technique with a wide aperture.

2. Low Light Situations

It can be hard to get the right focus when you are working in a dimly lit environment. In such situation, you'll notice that your camera is having a problem focusing in an auto mode when the lens whirls from one end of its focusing options to the other and back again before focusing when you take a shot. This situation can make taking quick shots very frustrating. Alternatively, you can switch to manual focus and easily pinpoint the subject you're after.

3. Shooting Objects in Action

Shooting objects in fast action such as race cars or bicycles can be frustrating when you use auto focus. Your autofocus will be faster if you have a fast lens but this cannot always compete with fast action shots.

To get the right focus, you can switch to manual focusing and pre focus on a point that the subject will move through and shoot exactly at that point. For this to work, you will need to get your timing right.

4. When Taking Macro/Close-Up Photos

Close-up or Macro photography requires you to focus spot-on on the subject or the area you need the maximum sharpness. The problem with using auto-focus in this situation is that it cannot always detect what is most important to you in a macro shot. It usually tends to focus on the center, so you might be better off making the decision by yourself using manual mode.

Manual focus will give you complete control especially when the main subject is very small or exhibits no variation in color, shape, size or brightness. A busy New York street packed with pedestrians is a great example of this situation.

5. When Shooting Through Wire Fences or Glass

When shooting through glass or wire fences, your camera can easily get confused on where to focus especially when you are using auto focus. You will find out that your camera won't know where to focus if you are shooting through an airplane window or taking image of a lion at a museum.

To avoid this confusion, you will need to switch to manual focus. This will help you to get right focus upon your main subject behind the fence or glass. In fact, you might be able to completely eliminate the glass or the fence from your photos if you use manual focus in combination with a large aperture.


Manual focus is a great option. There was a time when manual option is the only available option in cameras and veteran photographers were able to capture great shots with them. You can learn to use them to achieve a particular purpose. Learning to use manual focus will make you a better photographer and you will start producing breath-taking pictures using this option at certain situations.

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