The Basics – Selective Focus

Selective focus is another tool you should add to your photographic tool bag. When you’re a landscape photographer being able to focus to infinity is important, but is that skill really important for toy photography? What happens when you play with the focus point on your toys? Can you tell a better, or different story? In the fast paced world of social media, can you create an image that stands out when it’s initially hard to read? Lets find out…

What is Selective Focus

Selective focus requires a shallow depth of field. This means photographing using  a wide open (or nearly wide-open) aperture setting. Something in the f2.8 – f3.5 range rather than the other end of the spectrum; f11 – f16. You can also effect your depth of field with a longer focal length on your lens or getting closer to your subject. Both a longer lens and getting close to your subject will shorten your focal plane.

A shallow depth of field allows you to blur the surroundings. When you’re able to do this, you can pick out one part of the image to bring into focus. You can isolate one aspect of the image that you want the viewer to focus on; to see first.

Even though you’ve isolated one aspect of the image to be in focus, you shouldn’t ignore the rest of your composition. By changing the angle you can draw your viewer into the image. You can also create pleasing blur around your focus point that will allow the viewers gaze to roam and linger on your image. Even though the image may be primarily blurred, you want to create a reason for your viewers gaze to wonder through the image.

Which tells a better story?
Option A: with the fairy unicorn in focus the story revolves around the chase and the details of the figure.
Option B: with the butterfly in focus, the story revolves around his presumed escape.
More Examples of Selective Focus

I asked my friends in the Toy Photography Moderators group to contribute their images of selective focus. When you’re looking at these images think about the following questions:

  • How does the focus change how you relate to the image?
  • Do you find yourself slowing down to look at the image closer?
  • By leaving out the details, can you tell a more complex story?
  • Do you need to see a toy clearly to recognize their identity?
  • Is there still a feeling of depth in these images with a shortened depth of field?
  • Are you drawn into the image by following the path of focus?
Ninja by Julie Blair
Thanks for 55 years Spidey! by Jason Nvrmore
I find your lack of faith disturbing. By Tony Tulloch
Mondays by Brett Wilson
Boba Fett by James Garcia
Misunderstood Children By Jennifer Nicole Wells
Stormtrooper by Kristina Alexanderson
Move beyond focus

I would encourage you to play around with what is and what isn’t in focus. Decide in advance what you’re trying to say with your image. Once you determine that, you will be able to decide what your primary focal point should be. Play around with angles and point of view. Mix it up. Make your audience work for it. I assure you, they will thank you for it.

And once you get comfortable with selective focus, considering moving into blur photography.

By Tom Milton

Because who says anything has to be in focus to tell a good story.

Shelly

While this post is primary aimed at photographers using DSLR cameras, you can emulate this effect by using the Tilt Shift option on your editing app. There are also stand alone apps like Big Lens that will help you emulate this effect. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You’re creating art; there are no rules. 🙂

And if you’ve made it this far I encourage you to sign up for our weekly email round-up. Or join our G+ Community were we hold monthly contests with prizes for the winner! 

The Basics – Close-up filters

What is a close-up filter? Close-up filters are basically reading glasses for your camera lens. They are a nifty, and extremely inexpensive, way to turn any lens into a macro lens.

You heard me right. You can change the focal length of your lens by simply screwing on a close-up filter. Think of them as reading glasses for your lens.

I love my 90mm Sony lens. In fact I adore it, but it never seems to get me as close as I want to be to my subject. While I love the incredible details in LEGO mini figures, i’ve been unable to capture them adequatly. It is these small details and flourishes that inspire me to photograph these toys. Continue reading The Basics – Close-up filters

Raging Rancor Deconstructed

When I present or post an image like this I get a lot of questions on how I made it. So I’ve made an effort to take a few behind the scenes photos as I shoot or prep a shot. Here’s my first attempt at deconstructing an image and the process that led to the final result. Hopefully, this will help answer a few questions regarding my editing process.

ELEMENTS

  • Rancor
  • Flashlight
  • Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector
  • Light Painting Brushes 9 inch White Fiber Optic Tool
  • Red gel (dollar store gift wrap)
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 50mm Macro f/2.5
  • Manfrotto 190X Pro B

Continue reading Raging Rancor Deconstructed

And then there was light

“Light comes in flickers, defining the darkness, not dispelling it.”
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

Although lighting is crucial in the Noir series, I never payed attention to how exactly I proceed. I do not know much about light. I only have a general idea of the look I want to achieve. And then I kind of play around, which at the end of the day leaves me with lots of pictures that are ‘same but different,’ as they say.

However, since the lighting in this series has been commented on a couple of times, I tried to pay more attention to the process. Here’s what I think I do:

It all started with ideas about lighting

At one point for example, I wanted the central person to be illuminated by light falling out of a door or a window, casting a long shadow. That’s how Noir started, and you can tell from the first pictures of the series that in the beginning, there was the light, and then the story followed. Continue reading And then there was light

The $5 Photograph

I’ll readily admit I have a lot of supplies for my toy photography – various toys, camera equipment and other gear.

I don’t have the latest and greatest anything, but I make what I have, and what I can further source, work for me.

This concept can be true at any range of your budget. While social media can make it seem like you need a $2000 camera and $300 figure to make it in this field/hobby that’s far from true. Continue reading The $5 Photograph

6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk

Discouragement, fear, demotivation, I’ve discussed these way too much at this point here (I promise I’ll write about something else soon). But no matter how many posts I write (which end up being extensions of lectures I’ve given myself) about forgetting the world and creating for yourself, there is always more to say.

I am very good at not taking pictures. I’ll have tons of ideas itching at my brain, the supplies to make each one and absolutely no motivation. Whether stress, general creative discouragement, or a world of other thoughts in my head, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to create. The problem there, is that then I mentally beat myself up for not making photos and the cycle continues. Continue reading 6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk

Growing little worlds

A strolling Brett gathers mo moss

“Growing little worlds” sounds like a cheesy song title, but it’s a way to create little living habitats for toys to roam.

I was intrigued to see Luigi’s ‘Killer Score’ and ‘The Are Not The Droids’ setups, in particular the scale, or lack of, that he utilised to create these shots.

It was interesting to read Shelly’s post on the outdoors being studios. I especially liked reading that Kristina had shown Shelly that you ‘can do a lot with very little’. Continue reading Growing little worlds

How and when did you find your photographic expression?

How does a photographer find their own photographic expression? Have you ever wondered? I often wonder if or when I’ll ever find or be content with mine. I often feel that I’m in search of my own expression, or for the right expression. This search has gotten me to see that there is some advice that I believe has helped me to define my style… Continue reading How and when did you find your photographic expression?

The dream is free   

If you’re only taking photos for fun, this post is not for you. If you’re happy sharing your images to social media, this post is not for you. If photography is your creative release from the drudgery of day-to-day life, then this post is definitely not for you.

But…maybe your like me and you’re driven to take your work farther. Continue reading The dream is free   

Behind the scenes of “These are not the droids…”

Another photo which I created for the Stuck in Plastic Star Wars contest is “These are not the droids we are looking for” and you can easily understand why I titled it that. What? Wait a minute? Haven’t I just written that I tried something different from my usual Benny and Mr. Robot adventures? Well, that isn’t exactly 100% true, as you can see here. I woke up one morning with this idea in my mind and I couldn’t help but take this photo. I kept chuckling. 🙂 Continue reading Behind the scenes of “These are not the droids…”