30-day Manual Focus Photography Challenge

30-day manual focus photography challenge

One of the best ways to improve your manual focus skill and perception is to start a 30-day manual focus photography challenge. In this post, I have created specifically for you a challenge to practice and use the manual focus of your lens every day for 30 days. After those 30 days, you will definitely see the results.

What do you need to have for the challenge? A DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens with the manual focus capability and a tripod. Having a fully manual focus lens is not required but recommended for you to have the best practice and eliminate the urges of using auto-focus. Any focal length will do just fine but I would recommend something between 28mm and 105mm.

In order to get the best out of this post, I would strongly recommend consistency and dedication to finish this 30 days manual focus challenge. At the bottom of this post, you will find a free printable PDF e-book version with the 30 days manual focus challenge.

30-Day Manual Focus Photography Challenge

Before to start this challenge, I want you to do a few pre-checks. Create a folder on your computer with the name “manual focus” and in the folder to be 30 other folders, numbered from 1 to 30. Each of the folders will be associated with the day of your challenge, and after each challenge, you will copy your best photographs from that day in the allocated folder.

If the weather will be not adequate for photography in some specific days, do not skip the day and pick a random challenge from the list to do indoor. Each challenge will be specified and bolded and underlined with either outdoors or indoor. If for some unforseen reasons you skip a day, continue from where you’re left and don’t skip the challenge.

Table Of Contents

nikon 50mm f1.2 shallow depth of field prime lens

Day 1: Outdoors, close-up.

On the first day of your challenge, take your camera outdoors in an isolated area with no many people around so you can do your first practice. Pick a close-up subject to photograph (e.g. a tree trunk or branch) and photograph it from different angles and distances but not too far nor too close. The photographs will be taken using the eye-finder and not the live view mode.

Adjust your aperture or any other settings to be able to take the photos in perfect focus (around f/3-f/4.5). Take a bunch of photographs and have at least 5 to choose and to put them in the first folder.

Bonus tip: A wider aperture creates a shallower depth of field. As in the photo example, the shallow depth of field gives the photo an artistic touch.

Day 2: Outdoors, landscape handheld.

Your second-day challenge will be outdoor also. Pick a scenery you want to photograph (e.g. a pier or beach and the sea) and step down your aperture to at least f/5.6 and ensure that your shutter speed is at least at 1/60sec. You will take this photo handheld.

With your lens and camera set on manual focus, please put the live view on and digitally zoom on the screen on your area of the scenery you want to focus. Your image may shake due to the digital zoom but don’t stress over it too much. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds to reduce the nature of the shake.

Pick about 3 of the photos and put them in the associated folder.

Bonus tip: Use the leading lines and the same rules as in landscape photography to improve the look of the image. Try to create a panoramic view if the scene allows it when is on perfect focus without to touch anymore the focus ring.

Day 3: Indoors, object.

Today’s challenge is going to be indoors. In your house, find an object such as a toy or your TV remote control. Any object will do just fine but avoid flat-coloured objects such as a white cup because you will find it difficult not only to focus but even to check even if it’s in focus.

Use an aperture of f/2 to f/3.2 and the photos to be taken through the eye-finder, handheld. Ensure that the lighting is adequate for the settings you have. Take a bunch of photos and pick the best 3 for the folder.

Bonus tip: You can set your widest aperture and take multiple shots on different focus distances on the element you chose, from the closest point to the farthest, then use the stack focus function in Photoshop to create an image with the object on perfect focus and a very shallow depth of field.

Day 4: Outdoors, clouds.

On the 4th day let’s hope is going to be a bit cloudly outdoors because you are going to photograph the clouds using the manual focus and view-finder. Depending on your lens focal length, it may be a bit difficult as the clouds may not be the best elements to focus on.

You can take the photographs in any angle you like and I would recommend 3 different photographs on 3 different angles for the folder.

If there are no clouds on the sky, pick a distant element to photograph on the same way as above (e.g. a mountain or a plane on the sky).

Bonus tip: photograph multiple parts of a cloudly sky in vertical mode at close distances to each other and stack them in Lightroom to create a panoramic wide lens effect. The clouds look better when captured with a wider lens.

lake panoramic view photographed by Gabriel M. at photornia.com

Day 5: Outdoors/Indoors: Car or motorbike close-up

The 5th challenge will be either indoors in a garage or outdoors. You pick. Your subject to photograph using manual focus and the eye finder would be a car or motorbike (or anything similar). If this is not going to be either your car nor your friend car, pick another random subject to photograph as I don’t wanna get you in trouble by photographing random people cars.

You are going to photograph at least 5 parts of the car but to be in the frame only the parts while everything else out of focus (e.g. mirror, tire, spotlights etc.). Your best 5 photos are going to the allocated folder.

Bonus tip: Use light reflections on the car’s surface to improve the image (e.g. take the photo during the evening on a public street with many lights around)

Day 6: Outdoors, leaf.

Your 6th-day challenge would be outdoors in nature. You are going to photograph a leaf on the ground using manual focus and the eye-finder. You will step down the aperture at the widest settings and get the closest you can to the subject, even if the whole leaf is not going to be in focus or in the frame.

Try to photograph the leaf by focusing on different sides of it or as a whole if possible. Shallow depth of field it may be present but don’t stress about it. Your exercise is to study the leaf through the eye-finder and take photos while using the manual focus. 3 photos should be fine for the folder.

Bonus tip: Photographing the leaf through the eye-finder is just an exercise but I would recommend close-up or macro to be photographed with the view-finder on and digitally zoomed on the leaf’s surface for focusing accuracy with the camera mounted on a tripod.

macro photography leaf

Day 7: Indoors, fruit or veggie.

Now we are on the 7th day of the challenge. This challenge is going to be held indoors and you, my friend, are going to photograph a fruit or veggie on a white background using the live view mode and manual focus as on the example given (the lettuce I photographed a few years back using the same method).

Good. Pick a piece of A4 paper, place it on a plane surface (e.g. desk) and place the fruit or veggie on it. Ensure that there is enough lighting around and would be preferable to have multiple lighting sources incl the natural light. Manually focus on the subject using the live view mode as mentioned above, step down the aperture a bit and take a few photos until the whole fruit or veggie is going to be in a perfect focus.

The photo will look terrible at first (darken) but as long as this will be in focus on a white background, would be good. Furthermore to this, you will have to edit the photo using any editing tool you may have available. I prefer Lightroom. Increase the exposure a bit until the paper is pure white and cool down the temperature to get a neutral-cold tone as in the image above.

One good photo would be enough for the folder. Congratulation. You just finished your first week of challenges.

Bonus tip: Mount a flashgun on your DSLR and aim it towards the ceiling for a soft reflection on the fruit surface. Use another A4 paper to reflect light back on the fruit or veggie surface.

Day 8: Outdoors, structure.

The 8th-day challenge you are going to be outdoors and to photograph a structure (building) using your widest aperture, manual focus and eye-finder.

You are going to photograph the structure from different distances, up close, farther and different angles. Photographing multiple structures would be fine as well as long as there’s one main to focus.

Pick your best 2-3 results and put them in the folder.

Bonus tip: Use the leading lines of the building(s) to improve the aspect of the photo you are taking.

Day 9: Outdoors, night bokeh out of focus.

On the 9th day of your challenge, you are going to be outdoors as well but during the evening. This challenge is going to be slightly different.

Now, you are going to create bokeh with nothing in focus. You must know that only with the manual focus you are able to create bokeh with everything out of focus, as the autofocus will not attempt to focus on anything.

Locate a few sources of light but with a dark background nearby. Use the focus ring to get out of focus your lens, moving it forth and back where you take a couple of of of pictures. Use the widest aperture of your lens, through eye-finder and handheld.

Pick your best 3 pictures from this challenge and put them in the folder.

Bonus tip: Bokeh is created when the background is out of focus and there is a light source in it. Wider the aperture is, the bokeh will look stronger. Use the presented picture as a reference.

The bokeh you take may look different than the one presented in the picture, and all the bokeh is created by the form of the aperture blades from the lens. If, for instance, your aperture blades are creating the hexagonal form, your bokeh will look hexagonal.

Day 10: Indoors, manual focus and ISO

Day 10. Congrats, you got to one-third of the challenge. Well done for making it so far.

For the Challenge of today, you won’t have to go outdoors. In fact, I want to do an experiment with you using the manual focus and the ISO.

You are going to take several pictures of an object of your choice, like with challenge number 3, but the difference would be as following:

Take a few pictures with manual focus through either the eye-finder or live view (your choice) but with the ISO set to 100. I hope you manage to take the picture handheld and the lighting is adequate, if not, set the camera on a flat surface or tripod to do that, but the ISO has to be set to 100.

Further to this, set the ISO to 500, 2000, 6400 and 12800. If the lighting is too strong, dim the light, pull the curtains of your room on. Make sure you always use the same aperture and manual focus.

If you get through your photographs and you notice, increased ISO = more noise. But at the same time, compare the first photo with the ISO 100 and the last with the ISO of 12800. Increased ISO = more difficult to focus and the element will be nearly out of focus.

Put two photos on your folder, the ISO 100 and ISO 12800 ones.

Bonus tip: I want you now to realise that higher is the ISO, harder is for you to use the manual focus. Do not increase the ISO unless it is really necessary when you further capture your photos with the manual mode.

Day 11: Outdoors, water reflection.

On the 11th challenge, you are going to use the manual focus outdoors on a water surface. I hope you can do this challenge and find a puddle/water surface clear enough to see your reflection on it.

We are going to use the eye-finder and the widest aperture. Focus on your face’s reflection (camera) and not the water. Then focus on the water and not face reflection.

You will have two photographs to put on your folder, with you (your camera) in focus and with the water in focus.

Bonus tip: Creating black and white photographs in special with your reflection will create a mood, a story to be told. This method is often used by different photographers around the world to highlight mistery.

Day 12: Outdoors, autofocus vs manual focus

This challenge will be held outdoors. Pick a destination of your choice and elements to focus on, with the camera on aperture mode and the widest settings. Let’s pick a tree here, shall we?

Now I want to switch back to autofocus and take a dozen photographs, but after every photo, you took, move the focus ring for the camera to focus again on the subject you picked. Then switch to manual focus and do the same thing, focus, move your focus ring, focus again etc.

Pick a few photos from the ones with autofocus and rename them such as a1, a2, a3 etc. where the photos you are going to pick from the manual focus are going to be as m1, m2, m3 etc. Now compare those photos and see if you are getting anywhere close or better with manual focus than the autofocus (depending on the camera model, of course.)

Bonus tip: A cheaper camera model and lens will mostly fail to autofocus perfectly most of the times, depending on the lighting conditions. A more professional camera and lens will probably focus every time. This is just an exercise, do not be disappointed if you are not going to be better than the autofocus, in general, nobody can be unless special circumstances where the precision of the manual focus with LV on and zoom is more important than speed.

long exposure f1.2 aperture iso 100

Day 13: Outdoors, EXERCISE A

This is day 13th already of the manual focus challenge and today, you are going to do a few speed exercises, outdoors.

The location is going to be your choice but I would prefer somewhere in nature, ruins, somewhere with a complex scene and elements. You need to have subjects (e.g. trees) closer to you and some other subjects (e.g. more trees) farther from you.

Use the widest settings of your aperture, a very fast shutter speed (if this means to increase the ISO a bit, that’s fine) and eye-finder of your camera.

Now, you are going to be very active, moving around the scene and quickly photographing everything you can on different focal distances, closer to you, farther, closer, farther, a different angle, closer, farther etc. But do this, as fast as you can. Focus on the subjects as fast as you can.

This, again to mention, is a speed exercise. Many of your photos may be a bit out of focus but some of them would be in focus. Do this exercise for about 30-60 minutes. Check all the photos at home and pick the best 3 in focus for your folder. Discard all the others (if you want).

This type of exercises, the speed exercises, I will call them EXERCISE A

Bonus tip: doing this exercise not only on this challenge but regularly, will increase the speed and the accuracy of your manual focus!

Day 14: Outdoors, EXERCISE B

You are just about to finish your second week of the challenge. Well done. Today, we are going to do some accuracy exercises outdoors, similar to day 13, but this time I want you to do the following:

Pick the same location as on the challenge 13 if possible. Use the widest aperture of your lens and the eye finder. Get in the spot and start photographing everything around for the next 30 to 60 minutes. But this time, take your time, about 20-30 seconds per photo, only to focus. Don’t use the live-view. I want you that today, you are going to train your accuracy and not the speed.

This type of exercises, the accuracy exercises, I would call them Exercise B

Bonus tip: Holding your breath when photographing will decrease the shake induced, therefore, your photos will probably look sharper than before and you can take photos on slower shutter speeds.

Day 15: Outdoors, EXERCISE C

On day 15, you are going to have a 3rd type and last of exercises. The difference exercises.

Same location, outdoors. Or it can be some other location but you will need two elements now: a very close subject to you (e.g.) a tree chunk, branch, pillar, big rock etc. and a very far subject from you but not to the infinite line (e.g. a building)

Set yourself very close to the first subject, 30-80cm away (a few feet), use manual focus with the eye-finder to focus on it, where then you will focus on the very far subject (building). Now focus back on the close subject, then the far one. Balance the exercises A and B, a balance between speed and accuracy to be used.

This exercise is to get you used better with focusing from a close distance to a far distance and as accurate as possible.

This exercise type, the difference exercise, will be called Exercise C.

Bonus tip: Doing all three exercises, A, B and C daily for about 30 minutes will train your skill level of manual focus by a lot in a very short period of time. This will differ from person to person, and during the next half of the challenge, we will start with an extra 30 minutes earlier for the exercises.

Day 16: Outdoors, Relaxing steps.

This challenge will be held outdoors, in a park (or any other location similar to a park). For this challenge, you will need an object, something to cover one of your eyes, the one you are not going to use through the eye-finder. A pirate eye-patch would do just fine.

We start by doing the exercises A, B and C for the first 30 minutes as normal, without the eye-patch.

After we did this, the next step is going to be a relaxing step: you are not going to take any photographs, at least not in the beginning. Put the eye-patch on the opposite eye and watch as normal through the eye-finder.

I want you to relax now both your eyes. You don’t need to keep your other eye closed when watching through the eye-finder, and relax your other eye when watching through the eye-finder.

Just look around for a while, focus on different elements of your scene and look around with both of your eyes relaxed. I need you to get relaxed and for the eye-finder to be your friend for now. Enjoy the photography, your camera and the progress of manual focus.

Whenever you want, you can snap a picture or two to a subject of your choice and put them on the folder.

I don’t want to call this to be an exercise, but a relaxing method, to feel the camera, to feel photography.

Bonus tip: Just a reminder tip, your diopter level plays a very important role in manual focus photography. Having this diopter level set for your eye to focus on the subject when relaxed is the best approach.

Day 17: Indoors, fruit or veggie exercises.

During the day 17, we are going to be indoors. I want you to do the 30 minutes exercise A, B and C with 10 minutes allocated for each but this time indoors and not outdoors.

After you did these exercises, I want you to repeat the day 7 challenge, but the only difference you are going to do is that you are going to use the eye-finder instead of live-view mode, and after each shot, you are going to rotate the focus ring to get the elements totally out of focus before doing it again.

After this, edit 2 or 3 f your photos by increasing the exposure and change colour temperature as explained in the challenge no.7 and put those images in the folder allocated for this day.

Bonus tip: If you have attached a flashgun, put the flashgun on the manual mode and increase the flash level to 1/8, 1/4 or even 1/2 sec flash power in order to diffuse more light. Then compare the photo with the ones taken during the challenge 7.

Day 18: Outdoors, landscape on a tripod.

During the day 18 challenge, you are going to be outdoors, in a landscape area. Start with your 30 minutes exercises, allocating 10 minutes to each, A, B and C.

We are going to do landscape photography and using the manual focus on live view mode. Remember that you need a tripod, and although you are able to do landscape photography without a tripod, I strongly recommend you to do with one.

The reason I want you to do landscape photography now is that you have to use the manual focus but here the accuracy will matter the most over the speed.

Set up your camera on your tripod facing the landscape you want to photograph. Do not worry if you don’t have any ND or polarized filters with you. Put the live view mode, manual focus and aperture mode.

Step down the aperture to f/12-f/16 and ISO to 100. Depending on the lighting and scene, your shutter speed may go down to one second and beyond. But you have the camera on the tripod.

Furthermore, with the live view on, I want you to zoom pressing the + near the live view screen. to a maximum and manually focus the farthest point of your landscape you are able to focus. Take your time and ensure the scene is on perfect focus.

Now take a shot using either a remote shutter release or a timer from your camera settings. (2s or 5s). You can pick one photo for your folder.

Bonus tip: A polarized filter will allow you to increase the contrast and colours of the sky or decrease the reflections seen in the water, where an ND filter allows only a portion of the actual light to go through, increasing the shutter speed duration to at least couple of seconds for a long exposure.

The Red Trams in Brno, Czech Republic, selective colour photography

Day 19: Outdoors, Street Photography

During the 19th day of the challenge, you will go outdoors. First pick a remote area where you can do your 30-minutes manual focus exercises (10 minutes for A, 10 for B and 10 for C) then head over to a street zone where street photography may work just fine.

Today we are going to do street photography using manual focus mode.

On the place / street / area you are, you want to step up your aperture a bit to a value between an f/2 to f/5.6 and work around to choose random elements from a street to photograph using manual focus and eye-finder. I will put a few examples below:

Street as a whole, shops, signs, libraries, pillars, surfaces, sides of buildings, tables & chairs, dogs and people (but beware of doing this) etc.

In the end, I want you to pick at least 5 of the best of your photos from today and put them in the allocated folder.

Bonus tip: Doing street photography doesn’t mean you have to photograph a street but to create a story through your photographs taken in an area.

Day 20: Outdoors, Feel the focus ring.

Today’s challenge is going to be outdoors in a remote area (e.g. park, forest, free zone etc.) where you will start with your 30 minutes manual focus exercises, 10 minutes for each A, B and C.

Now you are going to “feel” the manual focus. I want you to pick a subject to photograph (e.g. a bench, branch, tree, log etc.) and set up your position relatively close to the element and don’t change it.

At first, we are going to set the aperture to the widest and take a few photos using the manual focus and eye-finder. After each time you take a picture, move your focus ring to out of focus.

Practice this way a bit and try to feel the focus ring and how much it rotates. Do this until when you are going to “stop” rotating the ring, the subject is on perfect focus.

It may take a while but eventually (or maybe you formed your skill until this point) you will feel the focus ring as being part of your fingers and when trying to focus on a subject, you will just know when to stop rotating the ring before you see and realise that the subject is in focus.

Bonus tip: Following this practice mode which is somehow related to the exercise C, you will be able to feel and know when to stop the focus ring rotating, without for this to be either too far focused nor too close. This is the best approach which can improve alot exercise A.

Day 21: Indoors, perception training.

During the day of today, we are going to be indoors. This is another exercise from the category of strange exercises using the manual focus. But before that, I want you to do the warm-up for 30 minutes following the exercises A, B and C.

Now you are going to pick an object (I hope the lighting will be adequate for handheld photography indoors) not too big, to be able to hold it on your left hand while you have your camera on the right hand.

Your left-hand object which you hold it will be at a distance of 60-70cm away from your camera which is the arms-length distance. Now, you will try to photograph it while holding it in one hand, your camera to the eye, on the other hand, using manual focus. How are you going to do that?

Now, we basically use perception to learn the distance of the object and we will attempt to use the same left hand with the object to move the focus ring, but when you move it, you won’t see the object through the eye-finder. Only after you take your hand away with the object from the focus ring and you will put back on arms-length you will know if this is in focus. If not, try again and move the focus ring a bit more back or forth. But don’t cheat here moving your arm with the object closer to the camera for this to be in focus. :sigh:

Bonus tip: Exercising this method will increase your perception and make the whole manual focus process easier, whilst combined with all the other exercises provided, it will help you absolutely master the manual focus.

Day 22: Outdoors, a long walk.

On the day no. 22 challenge, you will go outdoors. Now here’s the thing. You take this day exercises off to rest your senses, and the only challenge for this day of today is to take a bunch of photographs and put in your folder 10 of your best in-focus photos. I know that 10 photos may seem a lot, but believe me, you can choose any subject or scene to photograph.

Take a long walk and start shooting everything you see, using the manual focus, eye finder and other settings at your choice. You pick your scene, you pick your subject.

Bonus tip: Taking a short break from some things such as the exercise will help your brain restore and help you think clearer, to process the past informations, and will help you increase your skill level when you will continue with it.

fire pit photography

Day 23: Outdoors, reflective surfaces.

23rd day of the challenge! Well done. Today, we are going outdoors again. First, do your 30 minutes of manual focus exercises.

This challenge will be somehow similar to the challenge 11 but we are not going to choose any puddles today, but a high-reflective surface (window), could be either a car’s window, a house (I hope your house though) window, anything. Now you try with the manual focus and eye-finder to take a few shots of the reflection of the window to nearby objects or scenes such as a table, yourself, clouds etc while if indoors is visible, to be out of focus.

Pick 3 of the best photos and put them in the allocated folder.

Bonus tip: More you increase the aperture values to f/1.8 even f/1.4 here, better will look the element you choose to focus, in focus, while everything else, from reflection to the indoors and the scene around will remain out of focus.

Day 24: Outdoors, night light.

During the 24th day of the challenge, you are going to be outdoors during the evening in a street or illuminated area with as many lights as possible as in challenge 9.

Before to continue, please do not forget the 30 minutes of manual focus exercises.

As mentioned above, this challenge will be similar to number 9. You are going to create bokeh using manual focus but the only difference would be that not everything would be out of focus. You will focus on a source of light through eye-view on the widest apertures with some other lights on the background.

Keep in mind that further you are from the light, harder is to create depth of field and bokeh, but closer you are, harder is to get anything noticeable behind the light if the light is strong and bright.

Bonus tip: If you have an A4 paper (pref. darker colour not white) and you cut a shape smaller than the diameter of your lens front element, a shape like a heart, star or moon when creating bokeh if you place that shape from the paper in front of your lens, the bokeh will take the shape you created.

Day 25: Outdoors, night long exposure.

What would be better this challenge than to take a long exposure during the evening outdoors, to your city/town, a street or building where are lights? This will require you to have a tripod with you but you will take a break today from your exercises.

All right. long exposure, manual focus, live-view mode. Take the photo I took as a reference. Place your camera on your tripod and set everything to manual mode. ISO to be 100, your aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed, set it to 10sec, 15sec, 20sec, more or less, experiment until you get the right exposure.

But before this, with the live view mode, manual focus and the digital zoom, zoom into the strongest source of light you see and fine-focus until this is in the perfect focus. Do not touch the focus ring anymore now.

Take a couple of pictures with different exposures/shutter speeds, and pick the best photo for your folder.

Bonus tip: More you step down the aperture to f/16, f/22 etc with longer exposures, the sources of light will take the shape of a star as in the second image represented. But this has to be in perfect focus.

Day 26: Indoors, glasses

Today we are going to take this challenge indoors. Before this, I want you to do your 30 minutes of manual focus exercises.

I want you to take about 3 empty and transparent glasses for this challenge and each of them to have marked something or a sign on the other side of the glass. Put them altogether in a nearly perfect line to each other and for you to be able to see through all 3 at the same time.

Now use manual focus and eye-finder to focus through the first glass on the first sign, through the first and second glass on the second sign and through all 3 glasses for the third sign.

Take a photo of each and put them in your folder.

Bonus tip: if you fill your glasses with water, you will have a clearer but distorted image of the sign.

Day 27: Outdoors, leading lines.

This challenge will be held outdoors. First, have your 30 minutes of manual focus exercises. I want you to go somewhere where are leading lines from near you to infinite (e.g. train lines, street continuous line divider etc.). Beware of what you are going to choose, do not put yourself on any dangers as most of the leading lines from you to infinite are the examples given.

Widest aperture, eye-finder. Lower yourself with the camera as closest to the leading line as possible and try to manual focus on the closest point you can. Then focus further and further until you will last focus on the farthest point of the leading line. Pick 3 photos, the closest focus, middle focus and the farthest focus for your folder.

Bonus tip: This challenge is more for you to see and understand the power of the manual focus as if you ever had autofocus on, you won’t be able to focus on any point you want from the leading line. You control the focus, you control the photograph.

Day 28: Outdoors, portrait photography

In this challenge, you will go outdoors (or even indoors would be fine) and you will do portrait photography using manual focus.

The biggest challenge from this is probably to take another person with you. Your 30 minutes exercises you will do after the session as you don’t want to let the other person wait for you too much though, but wherever possible, this can be done before the session.

Following this LINK, you will find more information about how to do portrait photography to another post I’ve written. Although the post is related to the 50mm lens, the same rules mostly apply to any focal lengths.

Photograph the person or person’s face to a wide-open aperture, wide enough to create some depth of field but not too wide for this not to be in full focus. Play with the aperture a bit and then take some shots using the eye-finder and manual focus only.

Up to this point, day 28, you should already master the manual focus and you should not find any difficulties to use the manual focus in portrait photography. Pick your 3 best photos and put them to the allocated folder.

Bonus tip: Although most of the photographers are using autofocus in portrait photography, me, personally, I prefer only manual focus in special when I am photographing the subject close-up. I have control over the exact point I want to focus on the model’s face.

Day 29: Outdoors, macro photography handheld.

Today, we are going again outdoors in nature and attempt to do some macro photography handheld. Before this, please don’t forget about 30 minutes of manual focus exercises.

Although you may not own a macro lens, any lens would be fine, a macro or close-up photograph of a flower would be perfect for this challenge.

Most of the times, in fact nearly every time, the live view would be the best to use in macro photography, but today we are going to do it through the eye-finder.

You will probably have to step down the aperture to get some elements from the flower in focus and increase the ISO a bit to be able to take this shot handheld. It all depends on the lighting conditions you have.

But the trick with this challenge would be that we are going to use our focus ring to focus the element (e.g. flower) and furthermore, don’t touch the focus ring but move ourself back and forth to adjust the focus.

By doing this you will learn how to readjust your body position in concordance with the focus, as in some situations you will not always need to re-adjust the focus ring but use your body to change the focal distance and get the element in focus.

Bonus tip: the depth of field you see through the eye-finder and the live view mode would be different than the one resulted in your images.

Day 30: The Final Review!

Congratulation on reaching out the last challenge. Today’s challenge would be the hardest: To review all other 29 challenges 🙂

Well, do you remember that at the beginning I told you to create 30 folders and put a number of photos in each folder representing the day of the challenge?

Starting with the first day, the first folder, I want to get through each folder and pick the best photo per folder, then rename the photo with the number of the folder/day of the challenge. E.g. first day, the best photo will be named 1, the 5th day, the best photo will be named 5, the 22nd day, the best photo would be named 22. Copy each of those photos in the folder 30.

In the end, your folder 30 should have 29 photos, each the best of days 1 to 29 in order. If they are not in order, order them by name.

Now I want to take every photo one by one in order and study it. I want you to see the difference and the progress you’ve made from day 1 until the last day of the challenge.

Once more, congratulation for finishing the challenge and I am so happy for you. Would be golden if you leave us a comment on the comment section below in the post, or if you followed the challenge via the free e-book provided, please check HERE our original post and let us know of your success.

The Results!

By the time you finish the 30 days manual focus photography challenge, it would be impossible not to see any real results. It took me a very long time with the best approaches and trials ever to create this challenge.

I own a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 manual focus lens and this is the only lens I have for a very long time. Before this, I had a bunch and arsenal of lenses, but I fell in love with this lens and with the manual focus. Since then, I even forgot that my camera has autofocus.

Very many of the challenges and other I didn’t list here, I lived them on my own skin related to the manual focus. Now you are wondering, why the exercises started only the second half of the challenge.

Yes, I am sure you’ve noticed that the exercises A, B and C as listed on challenges 13, 14 and 15 started only by second half of the challenge and this is for two reasons: the first reason would be that I wanted to give you some time to get used with the feel of manual focus, to slowly learn how to use it before jumped to the exercises, while the second reason would be that if you followed head to bottom the challenge, you won’t need more than 10 times per total to use the ABC’s. If you still feel unsecured about using the manual focus after this, I would recommend you to carry on with the exercises as long as required.

That would be it! As promised, below I had attached for free the 30 days manual focus photography challenge.

Thank you for everything and I hope to see you around. If you want you can check our other blog Expert Binoculars if you are interested about binoculars.


Follow Us on:

Publish your photos with the hashtag #photornia on Instagram! It would be great to share your results with us and others!

Thank You 🙂


Pin it!

This is a Pinterest-friendly post. You can easily share it using the Tailwind Publisher or Pinterest Save Button, and you can choose one or more vertical images created for this post.

Subscribe to get your Monday Morning Photography Dose

This 30-day manual focus photography challenge would be probably without exaggeration the most complex manual focus challenge from the internet written with over 6700 words, 30 extra tips and a free e-book to offer.

About Gabriel Mihalcea

Howdy! You’re here! Great things to start! Hi, I’m Gabriel I live in the UK in the beautiful town of Hastings. I am a photographer, and I do DSLR and drone photography. I always loved to capture everything I could see through the eye-finder of my Nikon, or the bird-eyes of my drone. My expectations are to share everything I learned about photography and help anyone in need to reach their potential. Honestly, nobody ever reached their maximum potential as there would always be more room for improvement, more information to achieve or new technologies in photography released on the market. But leaving that aside, I am here to help anyone in need.

Check Also

What does it take to build a photography website

Hello my photographer friends, have you've been wondering how is to build a photography website and what does it take to do it? To build a photography website can be either easy or hard, cheap or expensive. If you want to read more about how to build a photography website, follow the link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to content