How to Emphasise the Subject in your Photography

While it is possible to capture amazing photographs, sometimes you need to help the person viewing the photograph, emphasise the subject and help them work out what you want them to see.

rock with gold lines emphasised

Sometimes what you see with your eyes in the moment and what you get on your photograph is not the same.

Your eyes will see what they want to see, subconsciously making the important things seem bigger than they may be in reality.

Unfortunately your camera doesn’t work like your eyes and brain and so you need to give it a helping hand!

There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful scene while you are out exploring, taking a photograph and being disappointed that your memory does not match the photograph you have taken.

The techniques you use should do four things to enhance your photograph from plain and simple to stunning:

  • Tell a story
  • Draw in the viewer
  • Hold attention
  • Looks good

Tips to Help make the focus of your photograph obvious

A landscape that looks stunning as you stand there may be totally underwhelming on your screen when you finally see the image. So to get the image looking like your mind here are a few starter tips….

  1. Use a wide lens, one that shows a lot of the landscape within the shot. This allows the object to be seen in context. A rock on its own isn’t much to look at but show it within the environment and it tells a story.
  2. Get in close and low. The lower and closer the camera is placed the more important the subject becomes. The subject should be obvious, the key to the photograph and providing clarity to the observer.
  3. Shoot vertical and really emphasise your subject. Changing your position to the object and the landscape around it can change the whole feel of the photograph and take an image from mediocre to beautiful.

Emphasis using colour

Colour can emphasis the subject if the subject you want to be the focus is the only colour within the image.

This could be a flower against a black background or a coloured object against a contrasting backdrop.

SIMPLIFYING the background to emphasise the subject

By making the background one single colour it can highlight the subject that you are trying to make the focus of your photograph. By having colours that contrast with each other can add to the emphasis.

Change your viewpoint if you need to find a clear and uncluttered background perspective.

Selective focus

By using a shallow depth of field and a wide aperture (low f number), it is possible to blur out the background and lift it away from the background.

This allows the background to tell a story but make the focus of the photograph clear to the viewer.


Subject placement

By carefully planning where your subject is in your frame can help with showing the viewer what you want them to see as important.

This is the principle behind the rule of thirds where the photograph is divided up into 9 sections.

By ensuring your focal point is on one of the line intersections you can emphasise what is the focus.

Using Texture

The human eye is drawn to texture and this can be used in photography. By making a small area of texture the focus of the photograph you can draw the observer in to the image and the story you want to tell.

Texture has more of an impact and needs to be the smaller proportion of the image.

Rocks, leaves and structures make for good texture focal points. Water, clouds and sky make for great smooth backgrounds.

Using a frame to focus the subject

Framing the subject with another object is a great way to show the focus of the photograph. This may be a building through an interestingly shaped gate or a landscape through a window.

Whatever you decide to make the focus, this should be sharp and in the centre of your second object which would normally be out of focus.

In the photograph below you can see a rusting piece of metal that on its own is quite boring, but when framed by the rest of the shipwreck it becomes more of a story.