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KID’S PHOTO BASICS: CHOOSING A FOCAL POINT

kid's photo basics focal point

If there’s one thing you need to learn in order to take great kid’s photos – it’s this.

What’s the difference between a kid’s photo that you remember and one you don’t? Generally speaking, an image that makes a concerted effort to choose a focal point and reinforces it by using various photography techniques makes for a more memorable image, as it gives the eye something to focus and linger on. So how do you incorporate focal points into your photography? Here are some suggestions:

Step One: Determine your subject

What is the subject of your photo? Or rather, what is the dominant person or thing in your image? It could be your child, pet, car, house, etc., or it could be a tree, barn, stream, and so on. Decide what part of your image is the most important, as that will usually lead you to your focal point. For kids’ photography, the subject is your child or children most of the time – but that doesn’t mean you stick them in the middle of the frame and shoot. Keep reading!

Step Two: Where’s the focal point?

Wait, didn’t you do this part already above? Sort of. Whether your subject can double as your focal point depends on how much room the subject takes up in your image, as the focal point is usually a small part of the image. If you were capturing a vast landscape and used a red barn as your focal point this would work well, but if the barn was taking up most of your image it couldn’t be a focal point, but something on the barn – a weathervane, window, door, etc. – could be.

The same goes for kids’ portrait photography, if you are taking a photograph of your child up close, then your child can be the subject, but not the focal point. Rather, something about your child – a smile, an eye, something they are holding – can serve as the focal point of the photo. For pulled back images (such as the feature image in this post), your child is also the focal point. Make sense? Now all you need to do is make them stand out from their surroundings.

kid's photo basics focal pointStep Three: Highlight the focal point

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply decide on the focal point, you have to make it obvious to others. There are a few techniques you can use to “draw the eye” towards the focal point, such as:

  • Framing: Use branches, windows, doors, or natural borders (mountains, etc.) to frame the focal point.
  • Leading lines: Use lines that appear in your image to lead towards the focal point.
  • Contrast: Make use of contrasting colors or shades to make your focal point stand out.
  • Soft focus/shallow depth of field: Use a larger aperture so your focal point is in focus, but the surroundings are blurred (also known as bokeh) – you’ll see this technique used primarily in close up portrait photography.
  • Position: How you position your focal point can draw more attention towards it – photographers use the rule of thirds to decide where to place focal points in an image.

Not sure how to employ these techniques in your photography? Stay tuned for more photography techniques to improve your images (or follow the links above to learn more about each technique). For now, practice incorporating focal points into your photos and see how it improves the resulting image.

Bonus tip: It can help to review images of other photographers – see how they place kids/people/objects in their images and use it for inspiration.

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Shoots take place in Jane's Larchmont, NY studio, on location and in homes in Westchester and NYC

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