“The less descriptive the photo, the more stimulating it is for the imagination. The less information, the more suggestion: the less prose, the more poetry.”
I can still remember being a student in Bryan Petersonʼs online Understanding Exposure class when I was a newbie, learning about depth of field and how to control it. I was just blown away by the fact that I could decide how much would be in focus in a photograph! I thought that was just the coolest thing, and I still do! Thereʼs nothing wrong with shooting at f/22, and I do that when itʼs necessary for the photo, but I am far more comfortable shooting with large apertures and creating shallow depth of field. Itʼs a style of photography that makes my heart sing and I often love to see just how little in focus I can get away with.
Selective focus works because we are drawn to contrast in photos. The elements you choose to have in focus are those with the clearest contrast between themselves and the out of focus areas surrounding them. There are two decisions you need to make every time you shoot this way- where to place your focus, and how much to have in focus. These are equally important factors!
Using selective focus should make you slow down and really look at your subject. Decide what is the most important or interesting part, and then draw the viewer’s eye to that area. Deciding what to highlight is the first step. You can draw attention to just a small part of a subject, and blur everything else in the frame.
My very favorite lenses for shooting selective focus are my Lensbabies. If you are not familiar with these lenses and you like shooting selective focus, I strongly suggest that you check these out (lensbaby.com).
I photograph flowers often using selective focus. I begin by studying the flower, I examine it from every angle, looking for what is special about it. Is it a shape, a line, an irregular petal, a small detail? Once I decide what draws me to the flower, I use selective focus to highlight that area, to make it the star of my photograph.
If you’ve never photographed this way, try it out. Slow down, really look at your subjects, decide what you want to highlight and how much needs to be in focus, experiment, have fun!
The women of f/4 Studio feel very fortunate to have Kathleen Clemons as today’s guest.
Kathleen Clemons is a New England based professional photographer, living on the beautiful coast of Maine. She is known for her creative use of natural light and unique, stunning compositions. She has a passion for making photographs, and loves to teach others how to improve their photography skills. Her work is represented worldwide by Corbis and Getty Images.
Kathleen is a photography instructor at The Bryan Peterson School of Photographywhere she teaches five online classes. She is also an instructor for the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops as well as Creative Live and Craftsy.
She has been named a “Lensbaby Guru” by the wonderful people at Lensbaby.com and they recently described her as the “Georgia O’Keeffe of Flower Photography”.
Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your thoughtful insight and beautiful imagery.