First Light: Focus

Our lovely Stacy is back to talk to us about Focus in garden photography.  Are you enjoying this as much as I am? ….

Sometimes I feel like Focus is to Photography as Location is to Real Estate. You’ve heard the adage. .. the 3 most important things…. Location. Location. Location. Focus. Focus. Focus.

magenta flower

I expect almost every photographer has suffered that sinking feeling when you discover that “perfect” image (and the only one you have) isn’t sharp. I’ve lost sleep over it a time or two. There is no question that focus is essential in photography but in particular with garden and botanical images, I want to encourage you to challenge what you’ve always thought. Namely…

rose haze

The focal point of an image need not (always) be in the center of the frame. If you allow yourself to depart from this belief, it will free up your images and give you more flexibility in the frame. If you are manually focusing your camera, experiment with taking roughly the same image but altering the focal point. If you are using your camera’s autofocus feature, play around with the toggle that allows you to move the focus around the frame. I find that in doing this, you begin to see which image is the stronger and that it’s not always for the reasons you would have anticipated.


In fact, if you deliberately pull the focus to a part of the image or subject that is not the natural or obvious point, the image gains strength and confidence from the unexpected and helps to distinguish your image from any other one.


I’ve written before about how critical it is to be shooting on a tripod at dawn or late in the day to avoid camera shake and unintentional blurring but . .. I also have to confess that at the end of a shoot, when I am tired and the light is coming up. ..sometimes I like to take some risks with this. If I know I have already accomplished what I needed and wanted to with the shoot, I will allow myself to roam a bit, and unleashed by the absence of the tripod, I am often able to find angles and perspectives that I would have otherwise missed. Plus, more often that not, I come up with an image, soft and blurred, where the visual and emotional effect of that blurring is very compelling and beautiful. The image can even feel more romantic and alive.

hydrangea antique rose

For editorial purposes, those images don’t always fly but. . .for personal or fine art work, I find them very effective. Someone once said that “One photo out of focus is a mistake, ten photos out of focus are an experimentation, one hundred photos out of focus are a style.” I’m not suggesting we abandon focus altogether but only to consider the idea, that rules.. . while important. .. are sometimes made to be broken.


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One Response to First Light: Focus

  1. These photos are lovely, I’ve not tries taking many photos of flowers yet – probably due to just having a garden for about a month but I’m going to give it a try this weekend.

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