In my previous tips I wrote about choosing one primary star in your picture and using the Rule of Thirds to aid you in composition. To wrap it all up let’s finish it with the one technique you need to make it all happen.

Focus Lock

If there’s one technique I use 99% of the time, this is it. Without it just about all my pictures will have out-of-focus subjects because I gravitate toward creating portraits with strong bokeh – meaning I love creamy, blurry, out-of-focus backgrounds to accentuate the subject.

There are three steps. And it’s easy. So don’t worry.

Step 1

Focus Lock - Step 1
Select your composition. In this example, Alyssa is the star of the picture and I use Rule of Thirds to place her on the right side.

Step 2

Focus Lock - Step 2
Move your camera focus point to either the left (or right) eye. The EYE is the most CRITICAL focus point of the face. Every else can be a little out of focus but the eye(s) has to be sharp.

Next PRESS your SHUTTER RELEASE BUTTON HALFWAY until you hear a BEEP or the COLOR of your focus point changed. That’s your camera telling you that you have a LOCK.


Step 3

Focus Lock - Step 3
With the focus locked (maintain pressure on the button), RECOMPOSE your picture by moving the subject to your target location.

Finally press the shutter release button all the way down to complete the snap. That’s it!


You now have the last of the three ingredients necessary to take awesome pictures of your family. To recap:

  1. Establish the primary star of the picture (and secondary star if necessary).
  2. Use Rule of Thirds as a guide to help you compose your picture.
  3. Use focus lock to establish the correct focus point of the picture.

A few observations.

Different cameras have different ways of showing focus lock. So check your camera manual to see what works for you. Some cameras have a focus confirmation dot in the viewfinder that goes green etc.

Two faces at opposite sides. One closer than the other. Which does your camera decide to focus on? Focus Detection looses out in scenarios like this.

Two faces at opposite sides. One closer than the other. Which does your camera decide to focus on? Face Detection looses out in scenarios like this.

Other cameras completely bypass whatever you lock on when it detects a face. It then focuses on the face no matter what you do. This is great – until you have a few faces in your picture. Then you’re subject to the whim of who the camera decides.

I’ve kinda given up on face detection. Most times it gets it right but when it gets it wrong I’m fighting the camera to force it to get the right face. I can focus lock super fast and it doesn’t bother me.

Lastly, many modern day cameras let you select the location of your focus point as well. It doesn’t have to be right smack in the center of the picture. You can set your focus point to be left side, right side etc. That’s great, until you forget to reset it!

So focus lock is an important skill to learn, no matter what you do or have. Now that you have the basics, you are well on your way to establishing AWESOME, memorable family photos that your children will appreciate for a lifetime.

Happy shooting!

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