Most of the time, when you’re out taking photographs, even if it’s a quick snap, make sure your shot has a strong point of interest as if it doesn’t, you’ll find anyone who looks at your image will look at the image, their eyes won’t find anything to settle on and they’ll simply move on to look at another shot. Without a focal point, there’s nothing to draw them into the photograph so they’ll simply lose interest with it. Of course the more interesting the focal point is, the better your shot will be but there are a few other things you can do to make sure your focal point draws the viewer’s attention:
Images can have various points of interest but don’t let them pull the attention from the main subject as your shot will just become confusing and the viewer will be unsure what to look at. Less attention-grabbing points of interest can be used on lines to draw the eye to final resting point.
As mentioned above, by placing minor points of interest along a line you can guide the eye to your main point of interest. Straight lines such as fences or paths work well but other shapes, as talked about in our beginner’s composition guide, can work equally as well. The spiral of a stair case will guide the eye up or down while positioning items along an S curve with the main point of focus at the end will lead the eye through the image. There’s also the triangle where key features appear along the sides and points of the shape and when it’s used correctly, you can create balance in your shot and also guide the eye through the photograph. Repetitive or symmetrical objects such as lamp posts lining either side of a street, a line of palm trees, statues or a series of arches can also be used to guide the eye to a single point.
By using a larger aperture if you’re working manually or by selecting Portrait Mode or Macro Mode if you’re working close-up, which lets the camera know you want to use a larger aperture, you’ll be able to throw the background out of focus, leaving all the attention on your main subject which will be sharp. By putting more distance between your subject and the background you’ll be able to make the effect more prominent too. If you’re a DSLR users, switching to a longer lens (zoom or prime) with wider maximum apertures will make it easier to get the blurry backgrounds you’re looking for.
Photo by Joshua Waller
When your main subject is moving, be it a pet, a person running, a car or bike, try using a slower shutter speed and pan with them, blurring the background into streaks but leaving them sharp. This will mean all focus falls on your main subject and the sense of speed is increased thanks to the horizontal streaks the background now has.
A more obvious way to make sure you have one main point of focus is to fill the frame with it. This works particularly well when photographing flowers but can be applied to portraits too.
Photo by Joshua Waller
Use contrasting colours or take it one step further and have a go at colour popping, where you leave your main point of focus in colour and turn the rest of the image black & white. If you’re shooting portraits, positioning your subject against a dark background will really make them ‘pop’ from the image.
By adding a frame you guide the eye to one main focus point in the scene that you want highlighting. You can also hide other objects you don’t want to be in shot behind your frame and it does have the added effect of just making your image more interesting generally.
If you have images on your computer that seem a little busy try cropping it to see if removing some of the elements makes it less busy and as a result, you get a main point of focus.
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