Lesson 19: Using Focal Points

16Next time when you are about to press the shutter button on your camera, take a moment and ask yourself: “What is the focal point in this picture?” Some other ways to ask the same question might include – 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?

The reason a focal point is important is that when you look at an image your eye will generally need a point of interest or something that will really hold attention. Without it you’ll find people will simply glance at your shots and then move on to the next one. Once you’ve identified a point of interest or focal point you then should ask yourself how you can enhance it.

A focal point can be virtually anything ranging from a person, to a building, to a mountain, to a flower etc. Obviously the more interesting the focal point the better – but there are other things you can do to enhance it’s power including. Basically there are 6 techniques to enhance the focal point in an image:

Position: Place it in a prominent position, you might want to start with the rule of thirds for some ideas.
Color: using contrasting colors can also be a way of setting your point of interest apart from it’s surroundings.
Blur: If you really want to get tricky you might want to play 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.
Shape: similarly contrasting shapes and textures can make a subject stand out, especially patterns that are repeated around a subject.
Focus: Learn to use Depth of Field to blur out other aspects in front or behind your focal point.

Keep in mind that a combination of above elements can work well together.

Lastly, don’t confuse the viewer with too many competing focal points which might overwhelm the main focal point. Secondary points of interest can be helpful to lead the eye but too many strong ones will just clutter and confuse.

One Response to “Lesson 19: Using Focal Points”

  1. Virginia says:

    Your organization of photography skills is very well done. I intend to read all 22, but I will start with #1. Bought a Panasonic dmc-lx5 and need to learn more than I thought