Stop and focus | Photography Basics

Maybe this should have been lesson number one as one of the reasons people take so many bad photographs is that they don’t really understand how their cameras work.


When I used to work in Alaska we had people going out on whale watching trips and would come back with lots of wonderful pictures of open water with the occasional splash. “I just missed him, my camera wasn’t fast enough” was the usual excuse people would have. At this point I would explain to them how their camera actually works.

Photography Basics Memory Gate

When you press your shutter your camera is doing lots of things before it actually takes the picture. It’s focusing, taking light meter readings and if you’re using automatic modes its changing settings.

“To catch those whales next time” I would say “press down your shutter to pre-focus on where you think the whale might appear and keep it held till it does and press it the rest of the way down to take the picture”. Easier said than done with whales but the same principle applies to many different types of photography.


I took the shot below last weekend and applied the same principles. Before the boy jumped I pre-focused on the area that I knew he was going to jump into. I kept the shutter half pressed till he jumped and pressed it the rest of the way when he did.

The result is a nice action shot and most importantly of all it’s sharp.

Running jump Memory Gate photography

It’s really as simple as that. Stop, focus and snap. When you stop you can also consider lots more other things like composition and lighting but that’s an article for another day.


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