Canon EOS 60D, Focusing in Low Light

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When you are taking photos in low-light situations, you will find that the camera’s autofocus doesn’t always work. But before you can properly and consistently find focus in these instances, you need to understand how your camera’s focusing system operates.

First, you should know that when you are trying to focus on your subject, the camera utilizes contrast in the viewfinder in order to establish a focus point. If you were to point your camera at a clean, blank wall and try to focus it right in the center, the lens would hunt around and probably not find focus (Figure 7.6). By moving the focus point to an area where there is contrast, the camera will be able to set focus much more quickly (Figure 7.7).

The camera wasn’t able to autofocus on this image, because the focus point was set to the center, where there wasn’t enough contrast for it to work properly.
FIGURE 7.6 The camera wasn’t able to autofocus on this image, because the focus point was set to the center, where there wasn’t enough contrast for it to work properly.
By changing the focus point to an area where there was contrast, I was able to properly focus this shot.
FIGURE 7.7 By changing the focus point to an area where there was contrast, I was able to properly focus this shot.

If your subject doesn’t have enough contrast for the camera to read, you can always use the “focus and recompose” method of shooting if you find an area of contrast that is at the same distance as your subject. To do this, press the Shutter button halfway to set focus, and then—with the button still pressed halfway—recompose your shot in the viewfinder. When you have it composed how you like it, press the Shutter button fully. The focus should stay where you originally set it.

Another option is to use the manual focusing system. If you are photographing something that is difficult to focus on, like fireworks, you should set your camera’s focusing manually. If you point the camera into the dark sky, the autofocusing system will just keep searching for—and not finding—a focus point (Figure 7.8). To set your focus manually, just flip the switch on the lens from AF to MF and rotate the front of the lens until your focus is set.

In order to focus properly for this fireworks photograph, I manually focused my lens.
FIGURE 7.8 In order to focus properly for this fireworks photograph, I manually focused my lens.

FOCUS ASSIST

Another way to ensure good focus is to enable the 60D’s Focus Assist mode. This setting uses the flash to send out short bursts of light on your subject to help the camera in locating detail. If you don’t want to use the flash, you can disable it while you take your photos—the flash would only be used temporarily to help find focus but wouldn’t actually appear in your shot. If you are using the Basic Zone shooting modes where the built-flash is activated, this feature will be automatically enabled.

TURNING ON THE FOCUS ASSIST FEATURE

TURNING ON THE FOCUS ASSIST FEATURE

  1. Press the Menu button and then use the Main dial to get to the Custom Function menu tab.
  2. Rotate the Quick Control dial to highlight the C.Fn III: Autofocus/Drive setting and press the Set button (A).
  3. Use the Quick Control dial to get to the fourth item, the AF-Assist Beam Firing section.
  4. Press the Set button and select Enable, and then press Set to lock in your choice (B).
  5. Press the Menu button twice to exit, and then press the Flash button located on the front of your camera. Now with the flash in the “up” position, press the Shutter button to focus and activate Focus Assist.

If you don’t want the flash to fire during the actual exposure, you must first disable the flash.

DISABLING THE FLASH

DISABLING THE FLASH

  1. Press the Menu button and then scroll the Main dial to highlight the menu tab on the far left.
  2. Scroll down to Flash Control and press the Set button (A).
  3. Highlight the Flash Firing option, press Set, and then select Disable (B).