Selective Focus: Less is More

Bob brought up an excellent topic for discussion yesterday on our Facebook page:  Plain and Simple.  Too often we clutter up our photos, and our vision, with elements that detract from our subject, and therefore, our message.  Using Selective Focus is a dramatic compositional method to keep things Plain and Simple.

As photographers we seek light.  Light shapes every photograph but, for me, it is composition that defines the final, compelling image.  We have many tools at our disposal in the field but, none more essential than our emotions.  How can we expect our audience to feel our images if we, ourselves, can’t express them?  Following the fundamental principles of photography will bring good results but, making great images comes from within.  Our job as photographers is to communicate.  Our images are meant to tell a story or invoke an emotion within our audience.  Using selective focus will draw your viewer into your subject.  Using selective focus creates drama, interest, and value in your vision.

Isolating your subject is simply a matter of picking out an element of your scene and capturing it with a narrow depth of field.  I love to do this with longer lenses but, any lens can be used.  Determine the composition for your whole scene, landscape or vertical, and then open your lens up and use large apertures such as f2.8, f4, and f5.6.  The results can be very dramatic and have immediate visual impact.



In this image I found a lone wild lupine growing, alone, in a field.  I composed my shot first to put the Lupine in the right hand third where it appealed to me.  I purposefully got to my subjects “eye level” and shot through the surrounding grasses for a more natural view.  I shot using my Tamron 180 macro lens with an aperture of f4.5 to intentionally pick out the colorful lupine.








In Acadia it is quite easy to focus on making large, sweeping images with great depth of field. However, along the Loop Road I narrowed my vision and used composition to convey a sense of environment and weather in Acadia.  In this shot I used my Nikon 70-200 lens shot at 200 mm and f5.6 to isolate the small pine while also maintaining a background with some detail and story telling interest.  To me the final image  has impact while still giving the viewer a sense of place.






In the shot of Tiger Woods I positioned myself intentionally to ensure a clear background with no distractions.  I used my Nikon 300mm lens with an aperture of f4.5.  Given the collapse of his career in the past few years, I chose a dramatic composition that captured him all alone in the fairway with no crowds, no security, and no fans.


Every photographer should move around, use different lenses, and change your perspective repeatedly.  Be selective:  each frame should be composed with purposeful intent.  This practice will not only reward you with a variety of quality images but, more importantly, a more profound experience in your creative growth.  Keep it plain and simple and in time you will realize you shoot less but come home with more “keepers”.

Less is More.

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