How to: Peaked Focus

One of my favorite features of my camera is focus peaking.

It is a feature that some cameras have that helps you achieve sharp focus when using manual lenses or focusing on a scene that the camera is struggling with due to low lighting conditions or perhaps not having a clear area of contrast to work with.

First, find out if your camera has it. Some newer DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have this fantastic feature but not many people realize what it is or that their camera even has it.

So, how does it work? It allows you to see exactly what part of an image will be in the sharpest focus with colored highlights appearing over that section of the photo while viewing it on your LCD or within the viewfinder (mirrorless camera) using manual focus.

First, you need to know if it is available on your camera. Check your manual or check the specs on the camera manufacturer’s website.

Activate It

This pecking order pertains to Nikon cameras but other brands are similar. Check your manual for your particular camera.

First, go into the camera Menu and select Custom Setting Menu

  • Select Shooting/Display
  • Select Peaking Highlight Color
  • The color may need to change based on the scene you are shooting.
  • Select a color that will stand out. Choose from Red, Yellow, Blue, and White.
  • The options in the Peaking level menu are 3 (high sensitivity), 2 (standard), 1 (low sensitivity), and Off; the higher the setting, the greater the depth shown as being in focus. (From the Nikon manual).
  • i -button menu can be used to enable or disable focus peaking.

Use It

Set your camera to manual focus. On a DSLR, turn on Live View. Turn the focus ring and watch where the peaking color appears. That is the point of sharpest focus. Try changing the aperture and watch where the focus peaking occurs. On mirrorless cameras, focus peaking can be seen on the LCD and also within the viewfinder. There is no need to turn it off in the menu when you use auto focus. Focus peaking is only active for manual focus. I leave it turned on so it is ready to go when I need to focus manually. This feature is active in any shooting mode, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, etc.


Here’s a basket of nuts. Here I have a Nikon D780 outfitted with a 16-35mm lens. It is set to manual focus. I have focus peaking set to display in blue as it will contrast well against the brown shades of the basket and nuts. The sensitivity is set to high (3). The camera is set to shutter priority. Yes, these nuts sure are fast!

The following images show where the sharpest points of focus are. The areas with blue are in sharp focus. As I change the focus point, different areas display in blue.

The focus point is now set in the background. I turn the focus ring until this area is in sharp focus (highlighted blue). The basket and contents are now out of focus, but the background is highlighted in blue.

Check out focus peaking. It is a feature that is incredibly helpful for all kinds of photography.

Have you found this feature helpful? Let’s hear it in the comments.

© Silvana Della Camera

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  1. […] Focus peaking, if your camera has it, gets you there quicker. If you aren’t familiar with focus peaking, check if your camera has the feature. It only works when you are on manual focus and is incredibly […]

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