Calibrating your lens to your camera body is really important for any professional photographer, especially if, like me, you favour those shallow depth of fields that make your subjects really stand out.

With a fast prime lens, shooting from close up, the depth of field (amount of the image that is in focus) is often only a matter of centimetres wide so if your focus is off, you can easily miss a shot and end up kicking yourself.

There are a couple of free ways to do this yourself, firstly with a Nikon (there may be a Canon equivalent, does anyone know if there is?), there’s the Dot Tune Method. Which involves using the focus confirmation dot on your camera, I won’t go into too much, as this video explains it better than I could. But it essentially involves aiming at a high contrast target, with your camera in Auto Focus mode, focus in LiveView so you know it’s spot on, then adjust the AF Fine Tune setting so that the dot appears in the middle of the “in focus” range. So if the focus compensation indicator appears between -8 and +2 AF Fine Tune then you should set it to -3.

And then there’s also the Battery Method, which involves taking pictures of a row of batteries and seeing which one is sharper, the one closer, further away, or the one you’re aiming at. Adjust your AF Fine Tune point and then taking another image, repeat until you find the point at which the battery you’re aiming at is sharpest. Again, there’s a good blog on this here. So I won’t go into any detail here either.

I’ve had reasonable success with both of these methods in the past, but when I started shooting professionally and using faster lenses (I mainly shoot with F1.4 lenses, so the depth of field is very shallow), they just didn’t cut it.

After a bit of research, I tried out Reikan Focal. It’s a great tool, that’s pretty simple to use. Print out a target, aim your camera at the centre of it and the tool will take a picture and calculate the sharpness of the image. It will do this at several points of your AF Fine Tune, it starts with -20 to +20 in steps of 10. And then if the most accurate point lies between two of those points, it will ask you to take more measurements until it pinpoints the sharpest setting.

All you need to do it, is a USB cable, a computer to run the software on, and a sturdy tripod. I find using my Microsoft Surface Pro is ideal, because I can move it around.

The only difficulty you may face, is having the space to calibrate longer focal lengths. As a guide, you should be between 25 and 50 times the Focal Length from the target. This is easy enough with a 35mm or a 50mm. But less so with a 200mm and I definitely won’t be calibrating my 150-600mm with it unless I want to stand on the other side of the road and shoot through my window! But for the lenses I use for weddings, it’s perfect.

On the face of it, it’s not doing anything different to the two methods described above. However, it takes away the human element and margin for error that that introduces. When the difference between two AF points is marginal, it may be difficult for you to see the difference, but the software will have a much more accurate way of comparing them and clearly show you the before and after points.

The higher levels of Reikan, allow for using more cameras with the tool and will even calculate sharpest aperture for you.

On Nikon, all you need to do is adjust the AF Micro Fine Tune manually when it tells you. But I believe on some Canon cameras this is fully automated too.

The important things to note though are that the camera needs to be on a sturdy tripod. The target must be flat and perpendicular to the camera, and the light source on the target must be constant.

I find in my house, I get the best results using our living room. The diffused light through the blinds on the south facing windows seems to work really well for me, and for the price, you can’t really go wrong.

If you really do hate technology though and really don’t like the thought of doing this yourself, there is a service to have it done for you by CFSS.

But if you’re taking pictures professionally, you really should be making sure your lenses are calibrated to your camera bodies. Whichever path you choose to go down.

If you’re looking for a Norwich Wedding Photographer or Norfolk Wedding Photographer then you may be in the right place. Please see my pricing and portfolio page for more details. For weddings further afield, travel may be charged on top, why not get in touch and see if we click?