In contrast to manual focus, the auto focus provides “automatic“ focussing. On most cameras this function is activated as the standard setting and on many compact cameras it cannot be deactivated. The camera focuses on the active focal area or areas when the shutter release is depressed. If more than one focal area is activated, the camera tries to determine where the main focal point is using the colour and contrast distribution. Generally autofocus focuses on the object nearest to the camera.

It is clear that a camera is, as of now, incapable of determining a human’s creative intention. To ensure that the correct focus doesn’t happen by sheer luck, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the various focussing techniques.

The two following images show you two almost identical subject scenes that are, however, accentuated differently by focussing on different objects.

Image 1 – Focus on background
Fokussierung auf den Hintergrund

Image 2 - Focus on foreground

Fokussierung auf den Vordergrund

Your camera has to decide on one of these two variants without any input by you. Therefore you may “get lucky” and the camera will focus on the correct object. Should you want to accentuate an image in a certain way, it is important that you familiarise yourself with different focus options that are available.
I recommend learning more about focal areas.

Example of the positioning of focal areas

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