7 Reasons Your Camera Won't focus
(And What To Do About it)



So, you're frustrated because you camera won't focus. You missed a great photo op. Don't fret because it's happened to all of us, but fortunately it's something we can easily fix or avoid all together. Sometimes it's user error. I've been guilty of that. Sometimes it's camera error.

Why your camera won't focusFeel free to share this

I'm going to give you a few helpful fixes to getting your camera to focus properly and give you good sharply-focused photos. Here are the top 7 reasons your camera lens won't focus and the easy ways to fix them. Also, if you prefer a video to learn about them, I added that for you at the conclusion of this article. 


Your camera lens tries to use contrast areas of the photo to help focus on your subject. The issue arises when the focus point(s) of your lens are aiming at any area that is smooth and lacks contrast.

Focused jet flyoverGood spot to focus on

Missed focus exampleMissed contrast area to focus on

SOLUTION: You can aim your focus point at a spot with more contrast that's at a similar distance from your camera. Press the shutter button halfway down to focus, then re-aim your camera to compose your photo, then push the shutter the rest of the way down to get the shot.

Try focusing on the edge of your subject, or a bright spot, or their eyes if it's a person or animal-anything that has an edge or contrasty area between light and dark.


Another situation where your camera won't focus properly is in dark situations. There simply isn't enough light for your lens to use. It's too dark.

SOLUTION: There a few possibilities on how to remedy the situation when your camera won't focus because it's too dark. Try live view and zoom in the view if your camera allows it and there is sufficient light. Use an extremely high ISO setting to take a test shot to check your focus. Adjust if necessary, then take your photo with a more normal ISO setting.

Some cameras have a focus assist mode. It will use a quick burst of light from your camera's flash to aid your camera's focusing system. Can you add a light source, such as a flashlight to temporarily find the focus, switch to manual focus, then get your shot.


lens manual focus switchFocusing Switch on Lens

This is not a rare occurrence for me. Have you ever either switched your lens or your camera to manual focus and forgot to switch it back?

SOLUTION:  Many photographers leave their focus on automatic because it's easier, and it makes sense to take advantage of such a convenient feature. That brings up a possible reason for camera focusing issues.

Some advanced and pro photographers-I do this too-periodically switch to manual focus to get more control of the exact focusing point in certain situations. We can simply fail to return the camera to one of the auto focusing modes. Make sure to check both your lens and/or your camera. You want to be on auto-focus before you frame in your photo.


Lenses have a minimum focusing distance. If you've positioned yourself in too close for your lens capabilities, you'll either get a blurry photo or your camera won't take the shot.

close focusing exampleYour camera won't let you focus closer than its minimum focusing distance

SOLUTION: Here again, you've got options. First, you can simply back up just enough to allow your camera to focus, then crop the photo with software afterwards to get your desired tighter composition.

You could also equip yourself with a screw-on, close-up filter or get yourself a set of extension tubes and enjoy some true macro photography.


If there's a poor electrical connection between your lens and your camera, your camera's focusing system won't work. It's unusual, but it could be dirty contact points on your lens or your camera. More likely is that your lens was not fully locked into perfect registration to allow the communication between your camera and your lens.

Lens to camera contact pointsCheck the contact points on your lens

Camera to lens contact pointsCheck the contact points on your camera

SOLUTION: Sometimes the fix is simply a matter of detaching and reattaching your lens to make sure it's fully engaged with your camera. Usually you can hear a distinct click and feel a distinct stop when attaching your lens to your camera.

It's also possible, but unlikely, that those tiny little electrical contacts on your lens or your camera need to be cleaned as well. That's an easy fix with a cotton swab and a drop of isopropyl alcohol.

6. Moving Targets

Another situation where cameras may struggle to find the right focus is with moving targets. Particularly with smartphones and budget cameras where the focusing technology is not as advance, it may be difficult or impossible to get a clear photo.

SOLUTION: On budget cameras look for  a sports or wildlife setting. Depending on the specific camera model you're using, these modes may help your camera focus faster on a moving target. On more advanced cameras look for a continuous focusing, focus-tracking or Servo mode. Advanced cameras, especially the newer mirrorless cameras, are remarkable adept at focusing on fast-moving subjects.

7. Lens Condition

The condition of your lens may come into play if your camera is struggling to focus or not focusing at all. The worst case scenario is a damage lens, which often is more expensive to repair that to replace it. A dirty lens can be a factor, but it would have to be severely dirty to cause a focusing issue.

SOLUTION: Clean your lens, get it serviced or get a new one.

what else causes blurry photos

If your lens seems to be focusing with no obvious problems, but your focusing accuracy is just slightly off, you may benefit from doing a micro lens calibration. 

I hope these tips will help you avoid the frustration that can come with missing a great photo because your camera won't focus properly. If none of these work, any blur your images have could also be due to motion blur.

video on camera focusing issues

Here's a video explaining 5 common reasons cameras sometimes struggle with focusing. It covers a lot of ground and I encourage you to watch it twice if you need to. 

Thanks for visiting my site. Auto-focusing technology has come so far in the last couple of years, but it's still not perfect. That's why some photographers will just switch over to manual when they run into a focusing challenge. Have a blast! It's an amazing time to have an interest in digital photography.

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

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