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Re: Who to focus on when shooting a family with Nikon...
Anything you can do to increase the depth of field will help. I've found that focusing on the center person in the back row (of say a group of 8-12 in two rows) works better than the front one. F8 minimum @ a distance of 12-15 feet works pretty good with a short zoom.
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Try adjusting the viewfinder diopter. There's a little dial just to the right of the viewfinder. Turn it while looking through the viewfinder. You want to be looking at an unfocused view or a blank wall. Turn the dial until the focus brackets are sharp. Make sure you do this with your shooting eye.
Change your metering mode to spot metering. Focus on your subject with half-press of shutter button...hold that press while you re-compose the picture and press the rest of the way. See if you get better results.
Press Menu, select the Custom Menu Setting (looks like a pencil).
Select "AUTOFOCUS" and move to right.
a1 AF-C Mode Priority. Set to "Focus"
a2 AF-S Mode Priority. Default is "Focus", change this to "Release". This will enable the camera to fire anytime you press the shutter, regardless of if it's in focus or not. Use this setting if your having problems locking up, especially using some different lenses.
Your camera settings may be off. The D200 is very flexible when it comes to personalizing your settings, but they can be hard to navigate.
Try resetting using the built in reset feature. This will not affect your personal settings but may clear any unwanted changes. To do this, find the "QUAL and +/- " buttons on the top of the camera. Hold them both down for a few seconds. The top LCD blinks then the camera is reset.
This resets things like resolution, White balance and ISO settings.
Next, try setting your metering matrix to the middle position. Not the top and certainly not the bottom postion. This switch is located on the right side of the view finder.
If your lens has a "M/A - M", use the M/A setting.
There are three settings for focus. C, S, and M, located on the front of the camera next to the lens. Set your camera focus to "S". This will set it up for still subjects and prevent the sensors from tracking things that move. Also set on the AF area mode switch on the back of the D200.
Try these settings. If your images are still out of focus, you may have other issues that may require servicing by an authorized Nikon facility.
The view finder and focusing screen are separate from the CCD sensor. The mirror reflects the image to the view finder until you take a picture. Then the mirror goes up, the shutter opens to expose the CCD to capture the image.
If you have a lot of dust, you should look into a cleaning kit, or have it professionally cleaned. This will show up on your images as white and/or black specks.
You can only use the viewfinder. If you want to use the LCD, you need to buy an SLR with "live view." However, you'll soon get used to using the viewfinder, it's the best way to shoot unless you're holding the camera somewhere you can't get your eye to the viewfinder.