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Just Focus

When photographing a hectic event with people flying each and every direction, it can be hard to do the one thing that a photographer needs to do most -- focus. Whether it be figuratively or literally focusing your camera so you can get the right composure, it can become a heavy task due to the various distractions going on around you.


This was and is still something that I’ve had to deal with and overcome while on the Brand Storytelling team. This dilemma was especially evident when I photographed the Mothman festival. Upwards of 10,000 people were crammed into a five block radius. Aside from the people dressed in costumes, there were kids running around, vendors selling their products, concerts and pageants being run, lines to and fro, and anything else you could think of. Not only did that make it hard for me to stay on the course of my job, but it also made it hard for me to focus my camera on certain objects that might have been moving or were blocked by something.


In this blog, I’m going to give you tips on how to how to train your mind to focus on the task at hand, and how to actually focus your camera on what you mean to.


The biggest thing when it comes to focusing your camera on a moving subject is your reflexes, luckily, most cameras have functions that make our lives easier:


  • Use the AF-On button to focus on subjects. It allows you to focus independently of pressing the shutter button and in turn speeds up the photo capturing process

  • Switching the AF mode to AF Servo/AF-C (Continuous) focuses on a moving subject automatically as long as the AF-On button is held down

  • Switching the AF mode to One Shot/AF-S (Single shot) allows for you to focus on a subject with the AF point and holds that point of focus while you recompose your shot

  • Using a smaller area of AF points or a single AF point allows for more precise focusing

Visit this link for alternate but helpful tips on focusing your camera and achieving sharper images out in the field.


In terms of focusing mentally, there are various things that you can do to improve that as well:

  • Deviate from the group and shoot by yourself. Your attention is heightened and you notice more enticing frames

  • Think of a shot or situation or a certain landmark that you’d like to photograph beforehand and seek that shot. It allows you to narrow your focus on something your searching for. Try to make photos that showcase those scenes

  • Stand still and wait for others to walk into your shot. You can focus on your settings and allow the pictures to come to you.

  • Take time to zero in on faces in the crowd that could tell a story.


Maxwell Shavers taking pictures at Tu Endie Wei | Photo by: Andres Warren
  • Most of all, be patient. There is no rush and interesting situations will always present themselves. If there’s a hectic environment around you then the best thing to be is calm, collected and patient.

In the midst of staying on the track of your objective, make sure to always keep an eye out for distracting images within the frames you capture. Here are some things to look out for in your shots so the viewer is able to focus on the subject as well.


While all of these tips might serve as great advice, the only way to get better is through experience. So go out into your town, city, culdesac, or whatever and get shooting! Only then will you be able to experience the difficulties and rewards of shooting genuine, raw moments.


My name is Maxwell Shavers, and I am a photographer for the BrandJRNY brand storytelling team. Whenever I’m not at school, I’m normally in my apartment plotting my second mixtape. Yes, I said second. Follow me through our journey — @mahweyll

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Housed at the WVU Media Innovation Center, BrandJRNY is a community branding initiative that is a grant-funded collaboration between the American Electric Power Foundation and WVU Reed College of Media.

The Initiative was previously funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for our three pilot projects.

Original website designed by Mariah Elliott, under the direction of PI and Director Dr. Rita Colistra.

Photos and content may not be used without written permission by contacting brandjrny@gmail.com.

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