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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 44 of 107

Manual Focus


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 44 of 107

Manual Focus


Lesson Info

Manual Focus

Alright, so we've been talking about auto focus up to this point, which is awesome focus, right? It's awesome. But there are times when auto focus just isn't really the best technique to use. So let's talk a little bit about manual focus and some of the things you need to think about and ways to work with it. First off, you gotta think about what type of lenses you have and what type of focusing rings they have. It's one thing to consider when you are buying a lens. A lot of the least expensive lenses have very small, almost non-existent focusing rings, because they're not really designed for people who are likely to manually focus. I prefer a lens that has a nice, wide rubber ring that you can easily grab and turns very very smoothly. And some of the best are you know, ones that are designed specifically for manual focusing. Back in the camera shop, when we got in used lenses, we were always checking to see if they were optically good, and then on the manual focus ones, we were like, ...

how good does it focus. If it was good, it was like butter, because you wanted a lens that was really smooth, wasn't grainy or stiff or too loose. And in the newer auto-focus lenses, they haven't really replicated the feel of a good manual focus lens. And so some of those Leica and older Nikon lenses really had a nice manual focus smooth feel to it, and that was great for manual focusing. Now, one of the other things that's really important on here is the distance scale, and you'll see that it is not on a lot of the inexpensive lenses. It's on some of the intermediate and most all of the higher end lenses, and then this depth to field scale looks really nice on the older manual focus lenses. Now this is actually a new lens, but in this category, Leica only makes manual focus lenses, and so this is really handy for anyone who is doing manual focusing. And we're going to get into this a little bit more into this section. For those of you with DSLRs, the viewfinder of your camera can help or hinder your focusing a little bit depending on what level and what features it has in there. There are four different things that I think are important. Number one is having a large viewfinder, and large viewfinders seem to come with large sensor cameras. Because they have larger mirrors in there, they have larger ground glasses in there, they have larger prisms, you get a bigger view of what you're looking at. That is going to make focusing easier because you can see the detail of your subject more clearly. A bright finder. Now one of the things that's just buried deep in the specifications of a camera is whether it has a pentaprism or a pentamirror in there. The entry level for Nikon and Canon have pentamirrors. And this is a little plastic box with some coated material that acts like a mirror. It's very lightweight, it's very cheap, and it does a pretty good job for the money, you know, it does pretty good job. But the higher end cameras have an actual prism system in there, which is going to be brighter and better, so when you pick up the two cameras, you'll go, yeah, this one's a better viewfinder, but you won't know why, but that's what's going on on the inside that makes it better. The other thing for the SLR user is a bright lens. If you have a lens that opens up to 2.8, that's going to let in more light, and you're going to see that with your eyes when you look through the camera. Those of you on mirrorless systems, you have an electronic view, and it's amplified, and it's adjusted according to the lens you have, so you don't have quite the same thing going on. But if you have a brighter lens, it's going to look brighter in the viewfinder and it's going to be easier for you to see. Cameras will have different levels of magnification. I talked about this towards the beginning of class in the camera section, but you can dive into the specifications of your camera, and you can see what the magnification ratio is. Now this magnification ratio can be difficult to compare between different sensor sized cameras, so you can only fairly compare them between sensor sized cameras. So for instance, the Nikon D7500 is .94, the D750 is .7. And, I'm not even going to compare which one's better because they're different, they're in different size sensors so you have to compare them by sensor size. And then the fourth thing is a large eyepoint. Higher end cameras typically have a larger eyepoint, which means you can view the entire screen from a little bit further back, which means you might be able to wear glasses as you look through the viewfinder. One of the things that I don't like about cropped framed cameras in general, and this is more on the SLR side than on the mirrorless side is that the viewfinders are kinda small, and sometimes people will say it's kinda like looking through a toilet paper tube. You know there's this little tiny window out here that you're looking at. And with a nice camera, it's like you look in there and you're in a big movie theater and you can see the image really clearly. And so your ability to manual focus will be dependent on all of these things going in there. The most accurate way to manually focus with an SLR camera is to activate the live view system so that you can see what's going on on the back of the camera. I'm going to talk a little bit about why it's not best to use the viewfinder. It's acceptable to use the viewfinder and it's what we've done for quite some time, but if you want the most accurate way, you activate the live view on the back of the camera. You like the video that I put in here for this one? It's one of those things, I'm a still photographer, and I don't shoot video, but every once in a while, I need little bits of video in my class to just you know make it look nice, and I came across this in an aquarium and I'm like, this is going to make the best live view screen on a camera, ever. So sorry to divulge into my keynote talk. A little meta meta talk there. Okay, so using this for focusing can be very good. Using the screen on the back of your camera is good in general for just getting a unique point of view. The auto focus performance is accurate, but slow. So the performance, well is it good or is it bad? Well it's accurate, but it's not necessarily quick. So you don't want to use it for action photography, but for a stationary subject, it works fine. Typically I find it's hard to use this with the camera handheld. Usually needs to be on a tripod to be most beneficial in my mind. And so what you can use is you can zoom in, and I'm going to show you an example of zooming in and then checking focus. And so what I'll do if I really want accurate focus, is I put my camera on a tripod, I turn live view on, and then I magnify in on my subject, and then I see if it's in focus, and then I adjust focus manually, and I get my image in focus, and I've done so at the highest magnification that I can get into. And if it looks sharp there, then it's sharp, and it's good, and then I can zoom back to the standard position and I can shoot the photo. That's the 100% guarantee that you have got proper focus. It's that you've done it manually, you've gone in to look at the very fine details exactly where you want it in focus, and it does it right. And so if I'm on a tripod and I really want to be precise, I'll go through that process, which doesn't take very long.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan