A strong focal point is one of the most important aspects of a composition. Without a solid point of interest, photos tend to look cluttered and disjointed. There’s nothing to grab the viewer’s attention or hold their interest, and few clues to what the purpose of the image is.
Finding Focal Points
Sometimes, your focal point will be obvious. When you’re doing portraits, for example, you’ll usually want to ensure that the focus is on the eyes. With landscapes, it’s often the disappearing point at the horizon. Other times though, finding a focal point can be a challenge. Let’s look at some ideas to help you find and create strong focal points in your images.
1. Take It All In
Before snapping, consider pausing for a few minutes to take in your surroundings. It’s difficult to do, but spending a few moments to quietly observe will force you to become more aware of your surroundings, and will give you a chance to soak up all of the details around you, helping you to find a strong subject or focal point for your images.
2. Look for the Main Point of Interest
Finding the main point of interest in a scene usually means looking for elements that interest you – or grab your attention. In an urban environment, this could be a person, interesting architecture, a vehicle or bicycle, or even a pigeon. For landscapes, you’ll want to look for eye-catching details like a boat at sea, a house nestled into the trees, or a sunset in the distance. Or, if you’re using a wide angle lens, look for interesting elements that you can feature in the foreground as your main point of interest.
3. Look for Contrasting Colours
Any time you come across contrasting colors, you know that you’re in for a compositional treat! Our eyes are naturally drawn to contrasting tones, and being able to create a composition that features a strong color against a complementary backdrop is a great way to create a powerful image with a strong focal point. While bold, bright colors are great, keep in mind that colors don’t have to be vibrant in order to be effective – black and white can also add powerful contrast to an image.
4. Find Fascinating Shapes
Form is important, no matter if you’re doing landscapes or macros. Look for fascinating shapes as well as interesting patterns and textures that grab your attention. These make excellent focal points for images, especially when coupled with good color contrast.
5. Change Your Perspective
Finally, if you can’t find a good focal point, try changing your perspective. Sometimes, moving just a few steps can help you to find a great point of interest. Other times, you may want to look a bit closer. Close-up or macro photography can draw out hidden details that often make great focal points. Sometimes, you may need to scout out a different location altogether. Keep your eyes open, and you’ll be surprised at what you discover.