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Using Focal Points in Photography

Monday, March 30th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography, Multimedia, Uncategorized

Do you know what the focal point of a picture is? The next time before you take a picture, pause and ask yourself: “What is the Focal Point in this Picture?”

The other ways of asking the same question would be – What is the central point of interest? What will draw the eye of the viewers of this picture? What in this image will make it stand out from others? What is my subject?

A focal point is important because when you look at an image, your eye generally needs a ‘resting place’ or something of interest to really hold it. Without a focal point, people will jus glance at your pictures before moving on to the next one without paying any attention to them.

Focal points are important depending on what is being photographed. Street photography, for example, less relies on focal point. If, however, there is a focal point, it doesn’t distract from the main objective of the photo.

An important point to keep in mind is when taking a close up of a person; the key thing to focus on is the eyes.

While selecting a focal point, keep in mind that you need to select one that gives you the composition that you desire, without having to move the camera. Allow for fine composition changes later on while cropping for print etc. The tighter the composition of your image, the sharper your focal point becomes keeping the eyes pin-sharp.

Many beginners and some intermediate level photographers fail to take advantage of adjusting the aperture for the optimal range of sharpness between the subject and the foreground/background.

Once you’ve identified a point of interest or focal point, ask yourself how it can be enhanced.

6 Techniques to Enhance the Focal Point in an image:

A focal point can be virtually anything ranging from a person, to a building, to a mountain, to a flower etc. The more interesting the focal point, the better. There are also other things that can be done to enhance the power of the focal point, including:

* Position – Place it in a prominent position – start with the rule of thirds for some ideas.


* Focus – Learn to use Depth of Field to blur out other aspects in front or behind your focal point.


* Blur – If you really want to get tricky, you could experiment with slower shutter speeds, if your main subject is still and things around it are moving.

* Size – making your focal point large is not the only way to make it prominent – but it definitely can help.


* Color – using contrasting colors can be a way of setting your point of interest apart from it’s surroundings.


* Shape – similarly contrasting shapes and textures can make a subject stand out – especially patterns that are repeated around a subject.

It is imperative to remember that a combination of the above elements work well together.
Last but not least, do not confuse the person looking at your pictures with too many focal points that overwhelm the main focal point. Secondary points of interest can be helpful to lead the eye, but a number of strong ones together will just clutter and confuse the viewer.

~Zahid H Javali

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