Oof... those pictures are rough! Have you ever wrapped up an amazing photoshoot, sped home, and popped your SD card into your computer to see hundreds of out of focus photos? Trust me dude, I have been there time and time again. I would look through all the photos I could have sworn were sharp and clear and think "What happened?! Am I really that bad at this?". The answer is: No! You are not bad at this. You just need to make some simple adjustments! The good news is I have learned from my mistakes and found some preventative measures you can take to avoid this all-too-common pesky problem.
Side Note: obviously you can make adjustments in post-production (photoshop, lightroom, whatever you use!), but that can't always fix the problem. These tips are to help get it right in your camera the first time around to make your life easier when you get to your post.
1. Take your time!
It sounds so simple. But in the heat of a photoshoot this is something we forget to do. When I started shooting, there was so much emphasis on "Just shoot. Shoot as much as you can so you have tons of content to choose from." But time has taught me this is awful advice.
Look at it this way: take more pictures and risk them being out of focus and unusable or shoot smart and get fewer pictures that are guaranteed to be in focus and usable.
2. Up your aperture (f-stop baby!)
Okay, if I'm being real with you I only do this in worst-case scenarios or if I want the background to be more in focus. Low f-stop is my favorite place to be. Having said that if all your shots are out of focus or you're in a rush, bump the f-stop up. You will thank yourself later.
3. Increase Your Shutter Speed This is more an issue of blur than focus, but we can kill two birds with one stone.
Sometimes if you are in a rush or your hands are shaking because your nervous, your pictures will appear blurry and out of focus because of hand shake or any slight movement made during the shot. Bump your shutter speed up from 1/125 to 1/250 or something to give you a cushion and prevent blur.
4. Use Auto Focus... or Manual Focus.
Pick up your camera. Right now. Look at your lens. Depending on which one your using, it may have a little switch that designates AF (no, not "as f*ck" - auto focus) and MF (manual focus). Sometimes shooting in autofocus might be a good solution for you. It will take the pressure off of you and put it onto the camera for getting the right things in focus.
BUT. Here's the thing, sometimes you gotta switch things up. At least three times in the middle of a shoot I flip that switch from AF to MF or vice versa. When I am taking my time in one location or if I am close up to the subject and have them off to the side in my composition I need to feel totally in control so I use manual. If I am in a rush or when I am farther away, I will center my subject and use auto focus. It's really a personal preference, but being comfortable in both of these settings will be a huge asset to you.
Side note: not all lenses have a manual/auto focus switch. Some are solely manual focus. Check out all your lenses and see which ones will give you the option.
5. Wear Your Glasses!
If you're like me and you should wear glasses or contacts but haven't made it a habit, this could be a major contribution to your out of focus photos. Until a year or two ago I was not wearing my glasses regularly and thought my photos were in focus!
Surprise! They were not.
When I started wearing my glasses I noticed a huge improvement in the focus of my photos. So put your ego aside and grab your glasses!
6. The Big(Little) Dial This is the big one. And it's the tiniest. In fact, if you haven't spent a lot of time up-close-and-personal with you camera you likely have not noticed it. I had not noticed this little bastard until a year or two ago and it has changed everything for me.
Meet your diopter dial.
Which I only know the name of because I just Googled it. If you have any imperfection in your vision (one eye has better vision than the other, you are under 20/20 in any way) you most likely need to mess with this dial. Even if you don't have any problems with your vision, look into this. You may have accidentally messed with the diopter and jacked up your sharp-image capabilities. I do not have the know-how for explaining how to calibrate the dial, but this article has the insight for you to get your pictures back in focus.
I hope this article can help you say "goodbye!" to out-of-focus, disappointing photoshoots and help you show your clients and the world what you've got! If you try out any of these adjustments, let me know what worked and what didn't in the comments.