Selective Focus

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I’m sure many of you have seen photos where the subject is tack sharp but the background is totally out of focus. This technique is called Selective Focus and is a simple one to master. Here’s all you need to do. First, put your camera in Aperture Priority mode. Second, set the aperture to the widest setting which is the smallest f-stop of the lens. Now, you are ready to do what’s called shooting wide open.

This photo was taken in Mickey Mouse’s living room as I was touring Mickey’s Country House in Toontown Fair found in the Magic Kingdom. It looked like Mickey was getting ready to host a big Superbowl party with popcorn, candy, TV remote and a football helmet on the sofa. However, all I wanted to do was focus attention on the not-so-hidden Mickey shape on top of a bannister overlooking the scene. To do that I first put my camera in A mode (Nikon’s Aperture Priority setting. Canon uses Av). I had the Nikon 50mm lens on my camera so I moved the aperture setting to f/1.8, the lens’ widest aperture. In aperture mode, the camera will select the shutter speed for me. Next, I half-press the shutter release to focus on the Mickey shape. You won’t see the background go out of focus in your viewfinder so concentrate on the subject’s focus. Keeping the shutter half pressed to lock in the focus, I recomposed the scene you see below.

Mickey's living room inside his Country House in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mickey getting ready for some football!
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 1400, EV +0.3

See, wasn’t that easy? The selective focus effect gets more pronounced the wider your lens can go. It’s a great way to eliminate busy backgrounds like crowds of people behind your family when taking photos in the parks. For more on using selective focus, click on the reference links below.



Creative Uses of Aperture

Watch Your Back(grounds) Again

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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One Reply to “Selective Focus”

  1. Thanks for the info! I’m am amateur with no time to read the camera book (but plenty of time to read!) I’ve always wondered how to do selective focus shots…now I need to plan another trip to the World to practice (that is the only place to practice, right?)

    Scott replies: Now, Annie, you should try and find time to read your camera’s manual and you should practice before you go to WDW. That way, you won’t have to guess to get the photos you want when opportunities present themselves as they often do while enjoying the resort.