Pepper and Salt

Yes, pepper and salt. That’s exactly the similarity I’d like to use. . viz a vie photography. So what is the pepper and salt in photography? Focus. Just one word, FOCUS. And what does focus mean..well..the area in an image that is sharp compared to rest of the elements in it. Having said that, depending on the lens you choose to use and aperture setting dialed in, an entire image can be in sharp focus. As shown in “Project Excercise” a higher/more narrow aperture renders more of an image sharp than a smaller/wider aperture would. So, what you want in focus is totally upto you. For that although, aperture and the amount of light does play a crucial role, another vital component of photography in general is the focus ring. Let me explain a little more after this image.

The aperture setting for the images were set at f/5.6. In manual mode and manual program, focus was adjusted with the focus ring, keeping the camera to subject distance also constant. Lens used: Nikkor 18-105mm VR ED @ 105mm focal length.

With referance to food photography, where food is the ‘hero’, most concentration of sharp area in an image has to be on the food. But obviously. Pots, pans, props and supporting ingredients come in at a second. As the above images indicate a change in focus area can distract the viewer from the main subject and even if the food is outstanding or prepared with great attention and detail, it loses its purpose. Although, there is no ‘real’ food in this image on the left, it is simple to see that the bright blue mug in the foreground deserves more attention due to its catchy print. What happens, is that although the mug takes maximum space in the image because it is out of focus, the broken blue and white cup in the background has gotten more eyeballs. As a natural nature, the human eye will first look for the most sharp area in a frame, be it in the real world or via the visual medium. This causes a slight imbalance and the viewer is left wondering what the image was meant for. If the person taking the image had a sale of the mug in mind, he would totally not accomplish his goal. In comparison, the image on the right is more probable to afford him a sale. The details of the yellow flowers are clearly visible and because the background objects are now out of focus, the attention is on the mug alone. Sometimes, focus selection is important and intentional..if you are focussing on a background image, either use the off focus foreground image to its minimum possible size in the image or use it as a leading way to the sharp object set deeper into the frame.

Even a slight movement, while hand-holding your camera can cause a shift in focus which will be more obvious once you decide to wrap up the shoot and download them to your editing machine. And then it might be too late to go back and re-do the shoot. Train your eyes first before you take the image. ‘Focus’ your eyes after you have laid out the frame without the aid of the camera. Decide what is your image about..and then focus on that part. If you feel something is not enough or on the other hand too much and is not giving you your envisioned the frame, re-do the eye excercise till you are fully satisfied. Once you are ready, make sure, while seeing through your viewfinder, that part is in sharp focus, stand still and fire away.

In autofocus modes, in most dSLRs there are many focus points to choose from on the viewfinder that will aid you in getting a precise focus area. Just place a selection point on the subject and half press the shutter release. In manual operations, a little more advanced way is to turn the focus ring and set your preffered focus but do remember that you should not move before you click or you will have to re-set the focus, as focus will change depending on the distance the camera/you is/are from the subject. This distance however, will be determined by the focal lentgh of your lens. In P&S cameras, you choose where to stand..point the camera at your subject, half press the shutter button, recompose for the desired frame and click! But again, make sure you do not move from where you choose. Or else, here too, you will have to reset your focus. I understand that there are a few words here, which you are not familiar with. Also, in future posts you will need a quick guide. I will try and do a quick reference page for these terms to help you understand their functions better. Meanwhile, practice your focus, for it is crucial and like said above, all photography is about focus! Whether selective or in entirety!


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