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When should I use different focus modes?

My Canon D-SLR has three different autofocus modes, as well as manual options. So far, I've only really used AI Focus, and I' d like to know if it's better to use other modes for specific types of shooting. What wou ld you recommend?
Janet Banfield Gloucester Peter says AI Focus is a decent starting point,

Accurate focusing is critical for close-up shooting. For total precision use a tripod, and adjust the focus manually, using Live View to magnify the key parts of the scene

and it works okay for most shooting scenarios . .._ The camera defaults to One Shot (single) autofocus mode, and locks onto the subject. However, if the subject starts moving, the camera automatically switches to AI Servo (continuous) autofocus mode, and tracks its movement. Even so. if you know that what you're shooting is going to either remain still. or be moving, it's better to switch to One Shot or AI Servo respectively. This avoids any possible indecision on the part of the ea mera. One Shot mode works particularly well when you're selecting a single autofocus point, as you can choose the AF point closest to the most critical part of the scene. Alternatively, rather than fiddling around selecting

STEP BY STEP Make the most of autofocus modes

One Shot


This is great for everything from portraits to landscapes, but the exposure is locked at the same time as autofocus in Eva luative metering mode. If you're using a single AF point, and you autofocus on a particularly bright or dark object in a scene, the

Ideal for tracking moving objects, AI Servo works . . co ntinuously while the shutter button is lig htly pressed. lt can struggle to track objects moving quickly towa rds or away from the camera, but is usually fine for panning. Lenses with fast, ring-type USM autofocus are generally more able to tra ck faster-moving objects.

AI Servo

exposure is heavily biased to that object.


AI Focus II5J For subjects that might m ove unexpected ly, like
small children, pets and other animals, AI Focus is a good cho ice. However, if you ach ieve autofocus and th en move the camera, for example when t aki ng a portrait that 's off-centre in the frame , the camera general ly won't track any subsequent m ovement.

Focus points
lln For front-to-back sharpness in landscape images,
autofocus on a point about a third of the way into th e scene, and use a narrow aperture of around f/11 to f/ 16. Under gloomy lighting, increase you r ISO setting t o enable a faster sh utter speed; this wi ll avoid motion blur. as well as camera-shake in handheld shots.

different AF points. many photographers use th e ti me-honou red tradition of sticking with t he central AF point. Yo u ca n line t his up with a key feature. such as one of t he subJect 's eyes in a portrait shot, light ly press and maintain pressure on the shutter button to achieve and lock autofocus, then swivel t he came ra to recompose th e shot before fu lly pressing t he button. The only problem with this met hod is that, in Eva luative m etering mode, the exposure setting is locked at the same moment that autofocus is attained . If the overall scene is rather lighter or darker after you've swivelled the camera after ach ieving One Shot autofocus, t he result ing image is likely to be overexposed or underexposed. A neat trick is to use the Centre-weighted metering mode instead.ln th is case, metering and exposure settings wi ll be conti nuously updated in real time as you swivel t he camera. For moving targets, AI Servo is usua lly the best choice. Th e autofocus system t racks the su bj ect

automatically as it m oves nearer or furt her away, and it works particularly we ll with a multi-point AF setting. The cam era uses th e centra l AF point initially, so make sure you line t his up with t he main ta rget. However, if the target is moving erratically, and strays from the central area of t he frame, t he camera switches to other AF points to track it Th e only real pitfall of AI Servo is when targets are m ovi ng very quickly, as the autofocus system may not be able to keep up with t hem. If you know t he point at wh ich you wa nt to shoot your subject- a bend on a motor racing circuit for example- it's better to use One Shot autofocus mode, and pre-focus on that spot For close-up and macro shots, focusing is especially criti ca l. Yo u need to avoid swivell ing the camera, or moving it in any way, after focusing. it's therefore better to use a tripod, and switch to Manua l foc using mode so t hat you ca n lock the focus on the exact spot you want Better still, switch to Live View, and use a m agnified view on the camera's LCD for precise focusing . .,..