TAOP Introduction – Project: Focus

10.1.11 Exercise 2: Focus with a set aperture (p.17)

The aims of the exercise were to :-

  • Find a scene which has depth.
  • From the same place take 2 or 3 pictures, each focused on something at a different distance with a wide lens aperture.
  • Compare the processed photographs.
  • State why you prefer one photograph over another.

a- Setting up the scene

I had two trial runs to begin with.  The first involved shots of a stone table and two birdbaths beyond.  The second was of a bird feed stand with two bay trees beyond it.  When I looked at the two sets of images they didn’t convey the effect I was looking for in terms of a sharp focus/subject.  Neither did they fill the frame sufficiently.  Here is an example from the first trial run:

To me there were too many other things catching my eye.  I could have cropped the image to bring out the objects more clearly but, somehow, that would have been defeating the object.

Instead, I decided to photograph two books and a dvd box standing upright and partially open so that the lettering on the cover/spines could be seen.  I placed them outside in natural light on a garden table. The camera was set at 80mm focal length; f5.6, ISO 200 and used a tripod.  I also used manual focus and live view on the camera so that I could magnify each part of the book I wished to focus upon and, hopefully, gain a sharper focus.  When I checked the exif data afterwards I established that I was 1.3metres away from the front book 1.5 metres from the middle book and 1.8 metres from the end book.

b – Photograph comparison

1st Image – book at 1.3 metres

The back cover of the front book is readable, although there is some distortion here.  However, the spine stands out very clearly.  The centre book and end box  are definitely out of focus.

2nd image – focus on middle book at 1.5 metres away

The front book is now out of focus.  The spine of the middle book is quite clear. The end box is out of focus, although not as much as the front book.

3rd image –focus on end book at 1.8 metres away

The front book is out of focus, the second book less out of focus with the letters on the spine being just about readable.  The spine of the end box is now clearly in focus.


The sharper focus of each picture does draw my attention to begin with.  Overall, I prefer the third image where I can clearly see the lettering on the dvd box.  My eye is drawn from left to right which seems more natural and it looks more interesting than if it was standing alone I think.

I do feel slightly drawn though to the second image. Which might be because it is standing taller.  However, I find that my eye keeps searching from left to right to find another focus and they still tend to settle to the dvd box even though it is out of focus. The first image appeals to me the least.  My eye is drawn towards the front book but only because I can see it clearly.  There is little interest in the picture for me.

I have been wondering if I would have the same reaction if it was someone else’s photographs.  I’m always curious as to other people’s reading matter so, even if the photograph was slightly out of focus. I might keep looking to see what the titles were.  In fact, the other day I was looking at a Flickr picture which was of someone’s room and I did find my eyes drawn towards the bookshelf to see if I could see the titles.

Going back to the outcome of this particular exercise.  I’ve learned that how I focus on specific aspects of a scene determines the focus of interest and that I need to be clear about the intention of an image and how I should fill the frame.

3 Comments on “TAOP Introduction – Project: Focus”

  1. Dave says:

    Hi – I like the clean, uncluttered layout – looks good to my eyes at least!

  2. ljr69 says:

    Yes, nice clean layout. I agree.

    Good examples of focussing at different lengths.

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