Friday, 10 August 2012

Using Focal Points in Photography

The aim of every photographer is to take pictures that stand out of the crowd, pictures that tell a story, pictures that will immediately grab the attention of the viewer.

But what is it that such photos have? What is it that makes them different? Well if you pay a little attention you will notice many things; interesting lighting, great balance, excellent composition etc. But there is something more, it’s something in the picture that immediately draws your attention to it and keeps it there for a long time. It is something interesting enough that it stands out from the rest of the elements in the frame. Do you get it now…. Yes it is the Focal Point of the Photo.

Using Focal Points in Photography
Photo By Nicki Varkevisser

When we look at a picture, subconsciously our eyes are searching for something interesting, something unique to grab their attention, some point to rest. And intelligent use of strong focal points does just that. They attract the attention of the viewer’s eyes and hold it. A plain photo with no focal point will not be able to do that even if it is well composed.

How to use Strong Focal Points in Photography

Next time you take your camera out shoot, ask yourselves a couple of questions.
  •     What is it that inspired me to take out my camera in the first place?
  •     What is my subject?
  •     What is going to be the Focal Point of this picture?
  •     Will it interest others who view my picture?
  •     How can I make it stand out in the frame so that it immediately grabs the viewer’s attention?

Once you have your answers to the above questions, you have actually finished the pre production part. Composition is essentially an editing process where in the photographer decides what to include and what to exclude in the current frame. Always remember to make your main subject your focal point and give that focal point sufficient prominence in your composition. All other elements in the frame should only be given secondary importance. If your main subject is small try giving empty space around it in your composition.

Techniques to Enhance the Focal Point in an Image

We have already said that out main subject is to be our focal point, it could be big, it could be small, it can be a building, a person, a tree… anything… here are some ways to enhance the importance of the main subject in relation to the rest of the elements in the frame.


Compose your shots in such a way that your focus point is in a prominent position.

composition tips for photography
Photo By Anacotta


Pay attention to the foreground and background elements in your composition and use the depth of field to control how much of those are in focus. The more you blur your foreground and background the more importance your subject gets.

digital photography composition tips
Photo By Lydurs


If you are shooting a still subject you can experiment with very slow shutter speeds to create an illusion of movement.

digital photography composition
Photo By Kabils


You can make use of perspective to control how large or small you main subject appears in relation to the other elements of the composition.

photography composition tips
Photo By Robert S Donovan


Make your main subject stand out by using contrasting colours.

photography focal points
Photo By Dicktay


Similar to the technique of using contrasting colours you could use contrasting shapes to make your subject stand out; especially if you are shooting with something like repeated patterns as your background.

photography composition tip
Photo By Shandilee

You may also experiment with various combinations of the above elements. Remember a photo can only effectively tell one story so try to keep you focal points to one or two. Too many focal points will only make your picture confusing.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - Framing Your Shots

Related Reading

  1. Getting Horizon Level in Photography
  2. Rule of Thirds
  3. Photography lighting - 12 Questions to ask yourself before clicking a picture
  4. How To Get Better Lighting From Your On Camera Flash
  5. 5 Tips For Using your Flash Creatively