Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Deciding Where To Focus

This week the Boost Your Photography 52 Week Challenge  is focusing in on Focus. Previous articles have covered the topics of Why Won't My Lens Focus? and Focusing on Focus: setting manual focus point selection and focus modes. This article will discuss the deeper issue of deciding where to focus when shooting.
Deciding Where To Focus | Boost Your Photography

Where to Focus: people, pets, and yes, statues

The old saying, "The eyes are the window to the soul," is never more true than in photography. If you are taking a photograph of a person, then the question of focus is an easy one: you want the eyes in focus. (Like any so-called "rule," there are, of course, exceptions.) We tend to look immediately at the eyes in a photograph, and out-of-focus or blurred eyes are one of the quickest ways for your brain to tell you that something is not quite 'right' with your photograph.

Look quickly at the two photographs below of the sandhill crane. Do you have a favorite? (You can click on the image to enlarge.)

Did you find that you were more drawn to the photograph on the right? Take a look below at the close-up view of the two photographs and specifically the eyes. You will see that the eye in the left-hand photograph is out-of-focus (due to the slight movement of the bird's head), while the eye in the right-hand photograph is sharp.

Your eye can detect tiny differences in sharpness and focus | Boost Your Photography

Now, you may be wondering, "What if there is more than one person or animal in the photograph?" The answer then is that you want to make sure that the eye nearest to the camera is the one in focus. Our brains are generally much more forgiving of blur if it is in the background of the image, rather than in the foreground. We often find background blur interesting and pleasing, but foreground blur seems distracting or even irritating. (Again, this is a broad generalization. Rules are meant to be broken.)

Focus on the Nearest Eye | Boost Your Photography

With this image of two cranes, the tack-sharp focus on the nearer eye is what makes this photograph work. Had I focused instead on the farther back eye, having the out-of-focus bird in the foreground would have been a much more awkward composition.

Focusing on the nearer/nearest eye works for any type of subject with eyes. Think beyond people and pets to even inanimate objects like statues or stuffed animals.

Admit it, the out-of-focus eyes bug you in the photograph.
(Focus is on the basket, behind.)

Where Do You Focus?

Agree? Disagree? How do you decide where to focus when shooting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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