Select Your Focal Point for Close-Up Portrait - dummies

Select Your Focal Point for Close-Up Portrait

By Thomas Clark

In macro and close-up situations, depth of field generally becomes shallow, so it’s critical that your focal point is exactly where you want it to be. Getting your focal point right helps to get your message across and to draw viewers to the point that you find to be most interesting in the frame.

When composing an image and selecting a point of focus, you’re choosing the point at which you want viewers to notice the most. With people, this usually means the eyes. We make eye contact with each other naturally to make a connection, and so photographers attempt to draw viewers to the subject’s eyes to make a similar connection.

In a headshot, or a portrait of someone’s face, you most likely want to make the eyes your point of focus. Otherwise, something will seem wrong to viewers when they look at the image. They’ll wonder why it’s difficult to connect with the eyes. Of course, you can choose to keep the eyes blurred as an artistic decision, but you need some good reason for doing so.

If you find that the smirk a person has says more about her than the look in her eyes does, then maybe you can place your focal point on the mouth area rather than the eyes. Or, you could compose your image so the eyes are cropped out of the frame completely, drawing even more attention to the mouth area.

When photographing an intimate detail, you most likely want to place your point of focus at the area of interest. For instance, if your subject’s hand is gently touching her shoulder and you wish to show this in your frame, then compose your image to emphasize the relationship between the two, and position your focus at the point of contact.

Doing so helps viewers to see exactly what you want them to see, as this photograph shows.


50mm, 1/160, f/2.8, 50