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This year my sixty-second tips series has covered the basics of exposure, slowing down, simplifying your photography and more in between. Next up I’m going to take a closer look at autofocus – specifically what continuous mode is and how it is a must for child portraits.

Let’s dive straight in to my final sixty-second tip of 2019. And for ease I’m sticking with the Nikon terminology.

Are there different autofocus modes?

Absolutely! Usually three: single (AF-S), continuous (AF-C) and automatic / hybrid (AF-A). Most people will use AF-S by default which is for stationery subjects. Select your focus point, focus and the camera will fix on that point. If your subject were to move, the focus will not.

How is AF-C different?

When using AF-C, the active focus point you select will continuously track the subject for movement. As it moves, the camera will re-focus so long as you continue to have the shutter half-pressed.

So why use it?

If you know your subject will be moving – especially if that movement is erratic and unpredictable – then AF-C is a must. It is a must for sports or indeed any other action photography.

But why use it for child portraits?

For the simple reason that children are rarely so still that you can use AF-S! They will fidget, crawl, climb, fall, run and do just about anything other than sit where you wish. Using AF-C will help massively in tracking all those movements.

A great example is if you are taking photographs of a newborn crawling towards you; the focal distance is continuously changing. Just keep that active focus point trained on the eye and your hit rate of sharp photographs will be higher than when using AF-S mode, I assure you.

Aren’t there different modes of AF-C?

There are, but to avoid confusion I will cover that another time. Essentially the differences are in how many focus points are used and how they track the subject.

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