Emphasize with selective focus

JJWP369We’ve learned in many previous posts that composition is the process of elimination. Simplify, do away with the clutter, and place attention on the subject. One of the most popular techniques in doing this, and quite easy to learn too, is selective focus – keep the subject clear and sharp, and blur out the rest in the picture. This can be done in two ways, either in-camera or later during post-processing. The latter however doesn’t give you much control and, unless you’re adept at photo editing, the image may look “retouched.” Doing it in-cam during shooting gives a more natural-looking result. And its fun and easy to do anyway. Your camera can even do it automatically for you, or you can opt to do it manually with full control over aperture and range of focus. Now this is as much technical as it is creative, and we turn over the technical side to the expert – Jim Richardson, photojournalist and long-time National Geographic photographer. In his many photography articles at the NatGeo site, one of them – Out of Focus – On Purpose – deals with our topic. Give yourself a couple of minutes to read his enlightening tips on matters such as controlling F-stop, the importance of distance between subject matter and background, choosing the appropriate background, getting a longer lens, and many others. The point in learning selective focus is that it highlights and gives emphasis on your subject. It can be very useful in a wide variety of shooting situations – portraits, landscapes, city scenes, even events such as the bikers parade in the above picture. For festivals and street events I use my 75-300mm lens which provides me the capability to zoom in and focus on my main subject, which in the photo is the lead biker. All those behind him fades out on various levels of blur. JJWP368On the photo below, the focus is on my nephew showing the lanzones fruit he picked off the tree in the yard. His cousins who helped him in the harvesting are softly out of focus at the back. This type of creative technique is so popular that there is a whole line of lenses exclusively manufactured for the purpose of producing selective focus, selective blur and tilt-shift effects. You’ve probably heard of Lensbaby. But you don’t have to buy their $300 to $400 lens. You can create selective focus images with the camera and lens you have now. Oh you know what to do: practice.


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