The Art Of Selective Focus

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Save the planet. Stop world hunger. Eliminate poverty. These mottos bounced around in my naive brain as I entered journalism school years ago. College was my formal photography education; freelancing and world travel was my reality check.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1/2500 at ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, blur applied in Photoshop

One of my assignments in journalism school had a big influence on my photography—an exercise that really made me “think” about what I was photographing. Our professor told us our job was to produce a photo essay that captured mood and emotion. No cliché scenics, hard news or paparazzi portraits. He wanted shots that really connected the viewer and image and struck a nerve.

Up until that point, I thought I knew what creating mood was all about. You went out, found a newsworthy event and captured the moment. But as I thought more about this assignment, I realized my professor wanted us to have a deeper connection with our subject, human or landscape, and spend more time covering the story. He also encouraged us to experiment with different photography techniques to enhance emotion and mystery in our images. And that was when I learned how creative focus could add mood to an image.

Standard selective focus is creating an image using shallow depth of field. Shooting at ƒ/2.8 results in an image with a sharp focus point and soft, blurred edges. But what if you could change the actual focus plane of your lens and stretch out the blurred areas in your shot? This type of selective focus is what I call creative focus and requires special lenses and techniques to achieve. Today, there are many options for creative focus, including tilt-shift lenses, Lensbaby lenses and postprocessing techniques. Whatever method you choose, creative focus will add a new dimension to your photography.

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