Wait a minute, isn't that a contradiction? I thought the auto focus was the thing that got the image in focus rather than having to manually focus?
You are correct and you are not! You are right because most cameras have an autofocus system that does a pretty good job of getting your subject matter nice and sharp in the view finder so you can take a nice clear image. Very easy for your camera if your subject is still or moving slowly.
You find out the limitations of your camera and lens when you try to photograph things that move. Probably one of the first things you will try and photograph that moves is people, members of your family, especially the kids because they can move!
How good is your auto focus then? When the kids are playing football or just running round having fun, how well does your auto focus keep up and how many of your images are still sharp?
If the kids are running parallel to you then you are probably being quite successful as kids running parallel to you is an easy track for your autofocus system. How successful are you when they are running towards you?
How well does your autofocus keep up then and how many of your images are then sharp?
Getting to know your camera is one thing, how often do you shoot in manual mode? That is the only mode I will shoot in now because I have full control but it took time to be comfortable with being in full control and making decisions on the hoof about shutter speed, aperture and ISO but I am much happier now shooting manual mode and my success rate of good sharp images has increased!
Why? Because I have taken the time to learn about my camera, a Canon 1DX. I have read the manual hundreds of times, I have read the auto focus guide hundreds of times and I have taken literally thousands of practice images which I store in a folder in Lightroom called exactly that, practice images. I have a potted history of my photography journey and I look back and cringe at some of my earlier work, the benefits of hindsight but also an example of how much I have learned.
Learn from fellow professionals, don't be afraid to book yourself onto courses run by professional photographers but choose wisely so you get the most out of the day. Days with professionals should not just be practice days, you should learn more during the day and do not be afraid to ask questions and the quality of the reply will tell you about the professional and how much they want to teach you.
Practice what you have learned over and over again but you will not get to where you want to be until you truly understand auto focus and how your own camera uses it. You can help your camera focus better by knowing how it works and you will take better photographs because of it.
You may consider booking one of my dog photography workshops so I might have the pleasure of overloading your brain with the knowledge I have gained and help you take better photographs.