Where Should You Focus?

May 27, 2010

Most amateur photographers will have the main subject of their photograph in the middle of the frame. When you’re composing a scene, this is not always the most creative option available. Achieving an accurately focused image is a fundamental aspect of photography. If the image is out of focus the image is virtually unusable. Luckily, digital cameras have a variety of ways for dealing with focus.

The first thing you want to do is isolate the focal point. The focal point is the main subject of your picture, such as a building or perhaps a person. In other words, the focal point is the main point of interest in the photograph that draws the viewer’s eye to it when looking at your picture..

You should always strive to consider what the focal point of your picture actually is and then plan your photograph accordingly. The single biggest problem with photographs taken by new photographers is that they fail to consider what their subject really is..

Photographing children

What is the focus of this photograph?

When you’re not sure what you’re taking a picture of, it’s hard to emphasize that in the final composition. That leads to muddy, confused arrangements in your photographs because there is nothing specific for the viewer to look at.

When your subject is simply too large to be considered a focal point in and of itself, try to figure out a focal point and add some interest for your viewer. Remember, when someone wants to look at your photographs, and they pick them up, they expect to have their eyes drawn to the main subject of the photograph immediately.

One way to picture this is to think about photographing a landscape with a mountain in it. As you look at this scene try to pick out a single object such as a mountain cabin, a group of hikers or perhaps even a vehicle somewhere on the mountain to focus on. Think about where to place this object within the frame, but don’t lose sight of the mountain itself.

Technically, this is what we would call a secondary focal point. Remember, photography is subjective, and while we may not want that single object to be the photo’s subject, but rather the mountains to be the photograph’s subject, the mountains by themselves alone simply wouldn’t make a very interesting photograph.

Many amateur photographers don’t really think much about the organization of what they see through the viewfinder of the camera. Therefore, it is important to develop a system to provide some balance to your photographs. You don’t want to forget how to get the most mileage out of the frame in which you’re working. What I’m saying is, you should minimize the amount of dead space in your photograph. Once you decide what the focal point of your image is there is no reason to relegate it to a small portion of the picture.

As you’re thinking about how to compose your photograph walk around your subject, look at it from some different angles, get close, move to the side or perhaps move further away. No matter what you do it will change your perspective, and therefore the viewers perspective, of your photograph. The more interesting you can make your photograph, the more interested others will be to look at it.

With children this may be a bit more difficult because it is hard to get them to stay still. Moreover they may not co-operate with you and take a particular pose. This is where innovation really comes in. Enter into a game with them, become playful, and gently coax them into the position you want by involving them in the process.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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