The Artistic Foreground-in-Focus Effect

by | Jun 17, 2014 | Tips & Tricks | 0 comments

Here’s a recent snippet from the Lenspiration Forum. SarahLeePhoto submitted two images and I thought the discussion was really insightful.

Photos by SarahLeePhoto

SarahLeePhoto: I would be interested to hear any critique or opinions about these draft horse shots. Thank you!

buddingphotographer: Well, I must say, to me at least the first picture is rather distracting. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was an accident, just a poorly focused picture. I assume this is an experiment in “selective focusing”? Although, if I was trying that I would have experimented with lowering the aperture as low as it would go to really blur out anything that wasn’t intended to be in focus. Nice cabbage patch though!

Now the second picture really appeals to me. First of all, it’s in focus! To me it looks like a picture from the Country Magazine or something! I like the close-up view, but I can’t help wondering what it would have looked like with a more wide-angle view. Of course considering the lens you had on, it wouldn’t be possible to get a wide shot without swapping lenses. (I know the feeling of not having the right lens at the right time.)

SarahLeePhoto: Thanks for the feedback. These were just two from an entire photoshoot I did for a client who farms with horses (I got some wide angle views of the process but did not think they were “striking”). The first image was focused on the cabbage on purpose, but I can see how it might look like an accident since the horses are still recognizable. That’s why it is helpful to have different perspectives and opinions!

Any other thoughts are welcome!

Lenspiration: I really do like the mood these shots render. Like buddingphotographer, I like the second one better, but I can see something artistic about to happen in the first shot.

Right now, in the first shot, the subject appears to be the horse and plow because of their relative size and prominent position in the image. Because they are out of focus, it does sort of look like a mistake. However, if you had been able to get up very close to the foreground foliage and included more of it until it had become a very prominent part of the image, then it would make sense that the plans were the main subject and thus should be in focus.

To do this, you would have to find an attractive shape or stand-alone plant to anchor the eye and help the viewers understand that your main subject is the garden, not the plow. I tried to do this in a cabbage patch in Alaska. I was trying to give the idea that Alaska isn’t all mountains; the valleys can be quite fertile. So, I was trying to show a garden with mountains in the background. The image on the left, below, had really cool mountains in the background, but there was nothing to grab the eye in the foreground other than color. Plus the mountains didn’t offer much exciting texture. So I walked to the other side of the patch in search for more interesting cabbage heads. The image on the right, below, has a cool foreground anchor, but the mountains in the background are not as impressive. I like the light-angle better, but I don’t think I worked the scene long enough to really get what I was looking for. Yes, the foreground is better, and I have a nice background, but I don’t feel I really followed up on composing it all properly. Bummer.

But I think it gives you the idea: if you’re going for the artistic look with an integral-to-the-mood element blurred out in the background, try and find something in the foreground that could work as an anchor and subject.

A word on the second image: love it. Wish I could see a little more above the heads of the horses and the rest of the blurred out chicken in the foreground. Excellent shot though.

3387_Palmer-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-320 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 2003416_Palmer-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-500 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

Feel free to add your own comments to the Farming with Draft Horses discussion!

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