Focusing on the details

So, as my boyfriend was equipped with his newfound knowledge of the basics of photography, I would ask him little quiz questions as we were strolling along. I said- okay… so you are at f2.8 (the lowest that lens goes) and your shutter speed is 1/50*… and your photo is still underexposed– what do you do? He thought about it a minute and answered “Raise the ISO?” I said “Yes! You are so smart!” and beamed with pride at my new little student. (*I had told him that 1/60 was usually about the slowest shutter speed that is very safe when you are handholding, as a very general rule of thumb.)

So, it was on to his next assignment. I said… you see these leaves? I said I want you to focus on *these* leaves… and none of the others, but I don’t want them in the middle of the shot.

And he did it!


So, I was teaching him a couple of different, basic things.

1) The rule of thirds— For some reason, things are aesthetically pleasing to the eye when they sit at the intersection of a photo that is divided in thirds. So, when composing a photo, you should think of a grid like this in your head. One of the places where the arrows point should be the focal point of your photo


So, at least he didn’t put it smack in the middle of the frame. I told him that I’d recently heard that Hitler was a painter, but he was always criticized for putting his subject smack dab in the middle of the pictures. Let’s see if we can find an example, internets.

I found some. Interesting.


They are a bit middle-ish.

So, that was the first thing Lee (and not Hitler) learned– for an interesting composition, most of the time, it will be aesthetically pleasing if you remember the rule of thirds.

**feel free to skip the jibber jabber below if you are not a photographer. Otherwise, you might want to punch me in the eye and tell me to stop talking. And well… that’s just not pleasant for any of us… ;-)*

2) Focusing– I hope that somewhere, this helps just one photographer.

You have to realize, internets, that I’ve had nobody to teach me the fundamentals of photography. Just a bunch of blogs and a couple books, and of course, my camera manual. (Okay, let’s be honest. I didn’t actually *read* the manual…) So, when I got my Rebel xti I first began by putting the dial on the little green square (Automatic) and started snapping away… elated at the quality of photos it could produce. Once I graduated to shooting in Manual mode, I had to figure out this focusing thing. I first began in Automatic Focus with all 9 of the focus points selected. When your camera is set this way, your camera chooses what it thinks you want to focus on and picks those things. But sometimes (like in the above leaf picture) it would NOT have chosen the leaves I wanted.

And so, I moved onto phase three– I started adjusting my focal point. I would move the focal point to the one on the left (if I wanted the above shot) and then would switch it to the one on the right if I wanted to compose my shot with the subject on the right of the frame. Switching the focal point for every shot got real old real fast. But I didn’t know what else to do! Until I went to a photography workshop my buddy Stephen Seward had in St. Louis. He was incredibly generous to donate his time for a good cause, and answered a bunch of my amateur questions.

He rocked my world with this (totally duh!) trick. I leave my focal point on just the center dot. You focus on what you want focused on (if it is a person, it is the eyes) with your button only pressed down halfway. Then, without lifting up your finger you recompose your shot and then press the button the rest of the way! Genius!

Like I said, this is something that hopefully you are saying *duh* about… but it was such an eye opener for me that I thought maybe it might help somebody just starting out.

I processed the leaf pic, shot by my uber-cute boyfriend, a couple of different ways. Which do you prefer? I think I’m diggin the color one. Isn’t the bokeh from the twigs behind just so, so beautiful?



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