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Where Should Focus Lie?

The original image as presented for feedback.


Our Anonymous Photographer asks where should focus lie - and there are several ways we can answer this question. In terms of lens focus, the first question to answer is what is most important in the photograph? I imagine in this shot that the tuft of grass on the black sandy mound is key to the composition - if it weren't important, the photographer could have stepped forward and excluded it. So, in this case, critical focus should be on the grass and if the background mountains were a little out-of-focus, what does it matter, except to reinforce the importance of the grass in its environment?


In terms of compositional focus, the 'tonal mapping' of the photograph (the areas which have been lightened or darkened) creates a strong diagonal composition from bottom left to top right, but I feel the area top left is open and unbalanced. It's too light to balance the heavy foreground in the opposite corner. See the illustration below:





However, if we lighten some areas and darken others, I think we can get the little mound of black sand to work. To begin with, let's lighten the foreground so the mound is separated from the bottom of the frame tonally (see below).



Now the mound is a separate item and the bottom of the photograph is not so heavy. Let's try to balance the top of the frame to the bottom by darkening it down - see below:



To my eye, this tonal adjustment has better balanced the composition. We're no longer hiding the key to the photograph (the grass and mound) in the shadows - it is separate and balanced. So is there anything else we could do to strengthen the image? What about colour saturation?



The final tweak is to increase the colour saturation of the grasses, thus making a strong centre-of-interest - and an even stronger reason for ensuring this is where critical focus lies.


Our e-book on How To Win Photo Competitions isn't just for making better competition entries, it's full of great advice on improving all your photos - you can find it here.


And if you're interested in a photography tour/workshop in the next 12 months, I have trips going to USA, New Zealand, Arnhemland, Georgia/Armenia, Iran, Greenland/Iceland and Mexico. Full details on the Better Photography website!


Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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