How to use selective focus in photography

What does selective focus mean?

Selective focus is a very popular technique in the photography world nowadays. It’s basically a way of drawing the viewer’s attention to the most important part of your photograph by blurring the rest of the elements in the particular scene.

Through this technique you’ll be able to put focus on the main subject and guide the viewer’s eyes to the point that you wish to be observed.

Keep reading to learn how to use selective focus and which genres are most suitable for applying it!

How to use selective focus 

Selective focus requires setting your camera on low f-stops or in other words: choosing a large aperture. 

This will cause the separation of the subject from the background become more visible. A low f-stop is typically considered to be f/2.8, as well as numbers much lower than this e.g f/1.8 or even f/1.4.

A word of caution here: shallow depth of field can be a great idea if you intend to use it for taking portraits for example, but it may also turn out to be a bit of a tricky venture.

F-stops which are lower than f/2.8 will place the focus only on certain parts of the model’s face – the eyes, the nose, the lips, depending on what you’re aiming at.

In some situations this could be a creative resolution, but it could also look like an unintentional mistake on the photographer’s end if you haven’t given it some thought beforehand.

When to use selective focus? 

Selective focus is undoubtedly great to use in some genres of photography.

Let’s have a look at a few of them and see what advantages it has to offer and how it can create mood in the image.

1. Product photography  

Selective focus in product photography can really add a premium look and emphasize details.

When used properly it can make the product pop and focus the attention of the viewer on the right place.

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2. Portrait photography 

By using selective focus in portrait photography you have the chance to convey your message in a powerful way. You may place the focus on the eyes or even on the hand of your model, while creating mood through the defocused elements in the background

3. Macro photography 

Macro photography is the genre we most often see shallow depth of field used.

If you’re taking a picture of a flower or an insect, you’ll want to get rid of the distractions that lay in the background area and to show colour and texture in their full magnificence – selective focus is the best technique to go for in this case!

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4. Food photography 

In food photography selective focus can be very beneficial.

In this genre it’s important for the photographer to translate the perception of taste and the scent of the meal into a two-dimensional image.

In some situations this could be quite challenging, but the use of selective focus can be of significant help!

Photo of author

Polina Raynova

Polina is a freelance photographer, always on the lookout for creating simple images with deep impact. She loves observing the details around her and giving everyday scenes and objects a touch of cinematic feel.