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Focusing: The Eyes Have It

When you look at a person, probably the very first thing you notice is their eyes—it's just natural to make eye contact with other people, and we even do this with pets and other animals. This is extremely important when taking photographs because you want to be sure that your focus is on your subject's eyes (Figure 4.8). Also keep in mind that if the person is positioned at an angle, it's best to focus on the eye that is nearest the camera, since that's where we naturally tend to look first (Figure 4.9).

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8 It's important to set your focus on a person's eyes when photographing portraits.

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 I focused on this little boy's left eye since it was closest to my camera.

In Chapter 1, I discussed the different focusing points you can use with your 7D. In my experience, the best option for portrait work is Single-Point AF. You can move the focus around within your viewfinder to find the eye, ensuring that you are focusing on the proper part of the image before taking your photo. Leaving the focusing decision up to the camera means you could end up with an in-focus nose and blurry eyes, or, even worse, it might try to focus on the background instead of the person.

Setting Your Focus to a Single Point

  1. Press the AF Point Selection button (A) and look in your viewfinder.
  2. Press the M.Fn button on the top of your camera, located next to the Shutter button (B), until you see the setting with one small red square inside the viewfinder.
  3. Use the Main dial, the Multi-Controller, or the Quick Control dial to set the location of your focus point. I prefer to use the Multi-Controller because it acts like a joystick, and it's easier to place the focus point where I need it.

I typically set the focus point location in the middle, find my subject's eye, and press the Shutter button halfway to set focus. With my finger still holding the shutter halfway down, I recompose and take my photo. I find that the "focus and recompose" method is a much quicker way to photograph people. Speed is important because people tend to move around during the shooting process, and keeping the focus point in the middle simplifies my shooting.


A catchlight is that little sparkle that adds life to the eyes (Figure 4.10). When you are photographing a person with a light source in front of them, you will usually get a reflection of that light in the eye, be it your flash, the sun, or something else brightly reflecting in the eye. The light reflects off the surface of the eyes as bright highlights and serves to bring attention to the eyes. Larger catchlights from a reflector or studio softbox tend to be more attractive than tiny catchlights from a flash.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 The catchlights in this image add a sparkle to the little girl's somber expression.

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