F is for FOCUS

Coffee Plantation

High grown coffee trees dot the hillside.

Taking a picture should be as spontaneous as possible.

Learning to shoot FAST makes it possible to take better pictures by providing you with a quick mental checklist of important choices. These four simple thoughts will prompt you to consider that you can make your pictures better if you take a moment to apply them to your decisions. FOCUS is the first step.


  1. What is the FOCUS of attention?
    If your picture is about a person do they really need to be in the middle of the picture. Perhaps you could FRAME them differently to convey a more powerful message?
  2. Make sure that image area is also in crisp FOCUS.
    Just because the camera determines FOCUS on the central part of the image does not mean that is where you want crisp image FOCUS.

FOCUS attention by FRAMING your composition

  • What is the most interesting part of your picture?
  • How does that area relate to everything else?
  • How can you make sure the viewers eye is drawn to that area?
  • Can you emphasize that area by moving it in the frame?
  • Does it need to be smack dab in the middle?
  • Will your subject mean more if balanced or framed with other elements to create interest?

Be selective and intend to increase your pictures impact by FOCUSING your audience on what you want to emphasize. Move about to see if you can frame the subject with a more powerful composition.

FOCUS crisp image detail

  • Learn how your camera sets FOCUS
  • Practice presetting FOCUS if your camera has that ability
  • Smartphone Tip:  Tapping an iPhone 4 image preview will set the focus at that point!
  • Compact Digital TIP:  DSLR Tip:  Often your camera’s trigger button has two steps
    Press lightly to set focus by FRAMING on subject. Then RE-FRAME and press further to take the picture

Always make crisp FOCUS on the subject you want the viewers attention to be focused on. (Seems obvious but often the best FRAMING is not in the center of your image so you may have to FOCUS and then RE-FRAME.) This takes intention and experience so get FAST by practicing.

Feet nailed to the floor?

  • Avoid always shooting from eye level
  • Move about and watch the background and foreground relationship change
  • Try a low angle looking up
  • Can you climb up on something and look down?
  • Is there a detail you can bring into the foreground to frame the subject?
  • Is the background distracting?

This link to a creative framing trick will really help you with composition and bringing your subject into attentive FOCUS.

Make Sharp FOCUS

Technically getting an image in crisp FOCUS is not as easy as it seems. You will need to spend time getting to know how your camera focuses. Even with manual focus there are lots of ways to improve image sharpness.

Take note!

The single fastest way to improve FOCUS and FRAME is to learn to squeeze the trigger gently. Really gently. Many photographers jab the trigger in their excitement. This jerks the camera and can be the cause of blurry and crooked images. IT will often cause the camera to take a picture without completing its focus and exposure tests. This “lag time” is what makes a professional DSLR expensive with near zero lag time.

Try exhaling as you mentally ask if your are FAST and then gently press the trigger firmly through to that “click”.

In the example above, creative FRAMING of the image for visual interest composes a beautiful landscape with a blurry branch in the foreground. This selective FOCUS helps to inform the viewer that we are on the other side of a lush valley.

Smartphone Tip:  Compact Digital TIP:  DSLR Tip:  This type of framing can be difficult for auto focus programs to manage. Learn how your camera sets focus and practice deciding where you want to focus attention and focus the image.

  • You can find something at the correct distance to focus on and then lock the FOCUS in and RE-FRAME.
    Do you know how to do this with your camera?
  • How would your smartphone manage this photographic opportunity?
    It might focus on the nearest branch!

With your digital camera, do you know how to set FOCUS and lock it so you can RE-FRAME with the image focused the way YOU want it?

  Shoot FAST
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