You’d be surprised how something as simple as focusing your camera can have a certain set of rules to follow. This is definitely an area of photography that you do not want to overlook as a small mistake here can ruin your image – proper focus is key!
A tripod will, in most cases, help you focus properly. Since we’re usually dealing with stationary objects there is little concern about timing or being able to move freely without the restraint of a tripod. There are, of course, exemptions to this.
Here are three important reasons why you should use a tripod to help you focus your landscape image:
Never trust your freehand to capture exactly what you see in your viewfinder. Using a tripod gives you stability so you can double-check the important compositional elements, such as using the rule of thirds (if it applies), straightening your horizon, and so on.
Of course, you can fix these things in Photoshop later on, but that also means you’ll be cropping, which may throw off your entire composition or force you to eliminate important elements in your image. I’d rather not do that if it’s easily avoidable.
Assuming your tripod is sturdy, you’ll appreciate the added stability required for HDR/exposure blending, as well as seamless panoramic stitching.
It’s not just for lining up your shots either- if you’re using a very shallow depth of field, then even the slightest forward or backward movements can alter your d.o.f. to a point where blending/stitching images will become impossible.
As I noted above, slight movements in taking photos freehand can lead to problems if you’re using a shallow depth of field. This is especially true for macro photography as well.
Additionally, a tripod helps tremendously by giving you the opportunity to check and re-check your focus, and alter it manually if necessary.
In order to ensure you get the proper exposure and a uniform depth of field, you should take a few simple precautionary steps when preparing to take your photo :
Most – if not all – DSLR cameras have several auto focus points that you see through your viewfinder. The camera will automatically use these points as a reference to decide where the main focal point should be (the sharpest point in your image).
While this is a great invention, you are basically playing a guessing game with your focal point, which is not something you want to do when using a very shallow depth of field.
The easiest fix for this is to pick one focus point instead of allowing your camera to randomly select them. This gives you much more control on where you focal point will be, and you can easily aim the focus point at your subject and reposition your camera accordingly to get the composition you want, while having the correct focus. The center point is actually the most accurate, so that’s another reason to set your focus to center.
Once you’ve got the composition and correct focus with your camera, switch your focus into manual so that your camera doesn’t automatically refocus later on by mistake. This is very important when doing both panoramic shots and when taking multiple images for HDR or exposure blending since you want the focus to remain uniform throughout your image. This is, of course, less important if you’re using a deep depth of field, but still should be practiced since even the most minute discrepancy can throw off your entire image.
If you follow these important steps, you’ll ensure that your focus will be pinpoint where you want it, and it won’t change when you take multiple images with your tripod for exposure blending, HDR, panoramics, etc. It saves a tremendous amount of time and frustration.