‘Focus and Recompose’ is one strategy for taking pictures.

A Strategy?

Camera’s may seem very simple. “Point and Click”. So why formalize a strategy for capturing images? A few reasons:

  • Having a strategy for operating the camera and achieving the technical requirements of a photo (in focus, exposed, etc) frees one’s mind up to think about something else. The composition, directing a subject, noticing small details, nailing the timing, and so on. A consistent system like this can be done with little thought, much like one doesn’t think about the kinematics of their arms while shooting a basketball. They are thinking about the strategy, the gameplay.
  • A strategy can help one easily identify where and how something went wrong much faster. It’s easier for one to make changes to just one part of their process in order to adapt/correct. Like the scientific method, it’s helpful to isolate our variables.
  • It’s easier to learn with, for both of the above mentioned reasons. It becomes easier to focus on a new skill or approach when the rest is consistent and reliable.
  • It’s easy to adjust to your needs, as you can identify what you do and don’t like about a strategy, you can systematically try out new things and fine tune a method that works best for you. If things just aren’t clicking for you, you have options, new things to try – and with options and apparent avenues to explore, you are less likely to lose motivation.

Focus And Recompose

Okay, here’s your first strategy for shooting pictures. There are others, but this is your first. It’s called ‘Focus And Recompose’.

  1. Keep your camera in your hands or in reach on your strap, and look for images with your eyes, not through the lens. Try to visualize what the photo will look like.
  2. When you find an image, solidify your stance, make sure you arn’t obstructing anything/anyone, are in a safe location, and bring your camera up to your face.
  3. With single-point autofocus, point the camera at what you want to be in focus, and press the shutter button down half way until it beeps, and what you want to be in focus is in focus.
  4. Recompose. Move (“pan”) the camera around, while keeping the shutter button held halfway down, until the shot looks like how you want it. Usually this means shifting your in-focus subject over a bit, perhaps following the rule of thirds.
  5. Exhale slowly and take the shot, pressing the button down the whole way and releasing.
  6. If you are confident your exposure is fine, move on without looking at the image in the camera. Time for that later. If you aren’t confident, check the back of your camera and adjust the exposure compensation as neccesary, then take the next shot. Over time you will need to check your images less and less.

Okay, so I mentioned a few things to know: Visualization, shooting posture/stance, rule of thirds, and exposure compensation.

For this method to really be great, we also should change our autofocus mode so it only tries to focus on a single point in the center of the camera, and nothing is wonky. But I haven’t talked about that yet either!?!?

What’s going on! Why am I dropping all this knowledge without helping you out? Simple! I want you to get out there and start shooting with a strategy before you understand everything. Having a consistent strategy, a consistent series of mental steps you take when taking a photo, is going to be super useful for learning photography.

The basic idea comes down to practice theory. How do you practice photography? How do you just keep doing it without simply falling into a rut of taking the same photos and hitting the same problems? You need some kind of feedback, information about what isn’t working right. You can’t learn soccer by aimlessly kicking a ball around. You need drills. A polo-wearing mustached couch yelling specific bits of feedback at you.

Well, we don’t have such a coach because this website doesn’t yell very well. Adopting a strategy is going to help a lot in you being able to identify what you need to improve on yourself.


If your shots are blury, it may be time to learn about Shutter Priority Mode, or work on your stance/posture.

If the camera keeps focusing on the wrong thing, or it consistently takes a few tries to get the focus onto what you want it, it’s time to learn about autofocus modes.

If the focus doesn’t work at all, make sure your lens is switched to autofocus mode – the A/M or AF/MF switch on the lens barrel. Nock that over to AF.

If you can see the shots in real life but they don’t seem to live up to muster in your images, then it’s time to learn about composition basics such as the rule of thirds and practice visualization.

If the image’s focus always seems off – not out of focus, just not what you want, or your shots are looking a little bland, then it might be time to learn about Aperture priority Mode or some basic Post processing techniques.

See what’s happening here? Now that we have a strategy, we can start to isolate the problems we are facing, and this gives you a path forward – an idea on what you need to learn and not learn.

However, if you keep working through this guide in the order presented, then you’ll be fine too! Better, perhaps! It’s a very solid starting point!