Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finding Your Focus

Of all the questions I get about the basic how-tos of photography, the one that's asked the most is how to get that creamy, dreamy background.
By Tracey Clark Of Shutter Sisters Published in Point Of Focus
Finding Your Focus

3. Be mindful of the entire frame. Just because we're dealing with a single focal point doesn't mean we can forget about the rest of the frame. Every single part of your viewfinder is important. It all matters so pay attention to the big picture. What surrounds your focal point can add or detract from the point itself. It's easier when you're working with a shallow depth of field because all you're dealing with beyond your focal point is out of focus. This can allow you to pay attention to simple shapes, color and light. All of these things can help to better highlight your point of focus.

4. Use the background to your advantage. Since the possibilities are endless as to where in the frame you can position your point of focus, take cues from the background as to where to place it. Paying attention to the whole frame means you're seeing all that's offered beyond your focal point. Perhaps it's lovely soft light or even the bold bokeh (the small circles of light that can show up when shooting wide open). Use it to effectively fill the frame, create overall balance and stimulate visual interest. This can help enhance the main focus of the shot. And keep in mind that a soft foreground can be just as effective as a soft background in bringing attention to the focal point.

When making decisions about your point of focus, let your instincts and intuition guide you. Sometimes it's hard to articulate the reason for the creative choices you make, but chances are, when you shoot something you really like, you've done it right. Keep in mind when experimenting with focal points and shooting wide open, play with the size of your aperture. It's not always easy to use an extreme depth of field well. Try stopping it down a little (using a higher number) and shoot the same subject to compare the different aperture settings. Play with that setting and with your focus, and eventually you'll find the shot's sweet spot.

SHUTTER SISTERS is a collaborative photo blog (www.shuttersisters.com) and a thriving community of women, passionate about photography. Photographer, author, teacher Tracey Clark (www.traceyclark.com) is the founder of Shutter Sisters and the author of Elevate the Everyday: A Photographic Guide to Picturing Motherhood (Focal Press).

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