Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121: Focus on the Subject

We often have a subject in mind when we raise the camera to our eyes and click the shutter.  Maybe we see an object or person that is interesting or beautiful or remarkable.  Maybe we want to capture a moment in time or an event we will treasure for a long time.  But sometimes when other people look at our photos, they might have trouble figuring out what the subject is.  There may be several objects or people in the image competing for their attention.

This week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121, I’d like to share some helpful techniques from the experts that can help us create images that lead our viewers to our subject.

Using Leading Lines & Repeating Patterns

When I took this photo recently at the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine, I was focusing on the man running towards the lighthouse.  I framed the shot using the boardwalk and its railing, which create lines leading directly to the man and then the lighthouse.   The zigzag pattern in the railing also “invites” our eyes to take a closer look.  The lines and patterns help draw us into the scene and guide our eyes towards the subject.

Running to the Marshall Point Lighthouse


Using Selective Focus

In this next photo, the purple dahlia is the subject.  By zooming in close, I reduced the distracting elements in the background into a colorful blur.  This technique helps the viewer focus on the flower.

Using Color

I took this shot of the Portland Head Light last week just as the skies started to lighten and the white and red structures were highlighted against the blue sky.   In this case, the colors help draw our eyes to the main subject of the image.

Using Contrast & Focusing on the Eyes

Contrasts in color, patterns, textures, old and new, fast and slow (for example) can help guide our viewers to focus on the subject.  In this photo taken in Venice, my subject was the medieval angel.  I liked the contrast between the modern-day stickers and the mural that was hundreds of years old.  I also liked the difference in textures in the stone.  Did you notice anything else about the subject?  Did you look at the angel’s face?  Humans are social creatures. Most of us are drawn to faces, especially to the eyes.


Freezing the Action

In this shot of a waterfall in Watkins Glen, New York, I used a high shutter speed to freeze the action.  Our eyes are drawn to action and speed.   We wonder where the water is coming from and where it is going.  Our eyes also take note of the stationary objects surrounding the rushing water–in this case, the people climbing the stairs that lead up and around the waterfalls.


Framing the Shot with Arches, Doorways, etc.

A final technique to draw attention to our subject is to use doorways, arches, tunnels, and windows to create a frame around it.  In this image, the subject is the remarkable blue sky, which is highlighted in and around the arch.

Meijer Gardens, Sky and Arch. Shot with a Canon 40D


In this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121:  Focus on the Subject, we invite you show us an image that uses leading lines, patterns, color, contrast, selective focus, freezing the action, doorways or arches, or the eyes of humans or animals to draw our attention to the subject. In your post, include a link to my original post and use the Lens-Artists tag so that everyone can find your post in the WP Reader.

Looking back at last week, we loved your visual treats, including images of Halloween, celebrated this week in parts of the world, as well as special trips, surprises in the mail and in the neighborhood, and unexpected finds.


Many of you shared your preference for knowing our themes in advance versus enjoying a surprise. Beginning in November we’ll test advance sharing of our themes.  In the final challenge of the month, we will post the theme for the first week of the new month.

Looking ahead to next week, we’re thrilled to announce our next guest host.  The talented and creative Ana who hosts the blog Anvica’s Gallery is going to lead LAPC #122, so be sure to visit her site on Saturday, November 7th at noon.

In closing, once again I’d like to give special thanks to all of you in our creative community for your continued participation, support, enthusiasm, and creativity.  You always inspire us!   I hope you have a wonderful, creative week and please stay safe.

This post was inspired by this wonderful article by Peter West Carey from the Digital Photography School.


217 replies »

    • I love that, Janet…I am focusing on having a beautiful Saturday after 5 days of rainy and snowy weather (believe it or not)! Glad you like the photos here. It’s good to hear that they illustrate what the experts say. I always wonder!! Have a great weekend, too. It’s time to get outside and take some photos, isn’t it?? Take care and stay well.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Once a teacher, always a teacher??? Thanks, John. Glad you like that photogenic flower. It’s wonderful how they pose for us. And the sky that day (with the arch) was so beautiful. I love having a visual reminder of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Patti, your suggestions are both needed and appreciated. I’ve been trying to work on blurring the background in some of my photos since I love that technique. I’ve used my iPhone’s Portrait with some success, but I’m learning how to do this better with my DSLR. I’m getting there, but slowly. Thanks for other good suggestions and techniques.

    Here’s my post that has a different angle — it’s on what subject to focus on and when as we watched Prague’s Astronomical Clock tick off the hours: https://ohtheplaceswesee.com/2020/10/31/lens-artists-photo-challenge-121-focus-on-the-subject/

    Thanks again for a wonderful subject for this week. Rusha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Rusha. I’m delighted that you are enjoying the challenge this week. It’s true what you say. Using the techniques, for all of us, is a work in progress!! The camera phones really have improved so much that they often can take great shots. That’s a good way to learn, I found. Glad you’re joining us, too. I’ll look at your post next.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Those are really handy photography tips, Patti. Your photos are fantastic especially the vibrant flower and the arch. I was also surprised to find a mention at the end and when I say I’m twirling in delight, it’s all true. Thank you. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

      • It’s tough Patti. I’m not really a photographer, just one of the many whose phone comes with a camera. My method is simple- “looks good ” , “hmm…maybe edit it to save it” or “utter rubbish”. That’s why, it is a joy to see beautiful pictures that makes you stop scrolling and read the science behind it . Plus, I’m a sucker for words so bonus , your posts are food for thought as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting topic and practical technique. Your images are perfect and beautiful for these elements. I love the arch and the flower images especially. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Loved your challenge this week Patti and your examples are wonderful. I loved them all but the one that really drew me in was the angel and the stickers. Such an unusual capture, not one I’d have thought to take and yet somehow it is really compelling. In light of Halloween, perhaps even a bit spooky because of the angel’s eyes – which did indeed pull me in! And of course I’m ALWAYS a sucker for a beautiful lighthouse image! Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Tina. I just discovered the angel this week in my archives and I have a vague recollection of stopping to photograph it because the eyes just drew me in. They’re so penetrating and a bit spooky. And I’m delighted you’re a fan of lighthouses, too. My obsession with them continues..😀. I always appreciate your insights. Enjoy the day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, IJ. Yes, it’s true about Venice and other old cities. It’s a way of looking back in time. Glad you like that angel, too. Something about those eyes…a bit spooky and very penetrating, I think!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, SH. Thanks for spreading the word about the challenges on your site and joining us. And thanks too for your thoughts on the images here. Glad you shared your thoughts on the first one. I was wondering if it was still too dark. I bumped up the light and contrast quite a bit, but the shot was taken at noon, so there were heavy shadows. And the arch….it was such a gorgeous sky. Glad you like that one!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Una gran lección de fotografía, muy bien ilustrada con sus hermosas imágenes. Una clase magistral!

    I have to admit I’ve been a little nervous, reading your announcement of my participation for next week… I hope I’m up to it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You see I have betrayed nerves, sorry now if, in English…

    A great photography lesson, very well illustrated with your beautiful pictures. A master class!
    I have to admit I’ve been a little nervous, reading your announcement of my participation for next week… I hope I’m up to it.

    I promise to do better next week hahaha

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have absolutely NO worries, Ana, because you have already done the hardest part…which is to write a beautifully photographed and expressive post! The rest is easy! Now you’ve just got to post it!😀. I am sure it will have a great response.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Terri. Thanks! I’m delighted you like the topic and my images. I really appreciate your feedback. It’s good to know when the images “work”! I’ll look at your post next. Glad you joined us!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, James. Your contribution to the challenge is fabulous and your explanations will really help others understand how you succeeded in drawing our attention to the subject. Well done! I’m so glad you joined us and enriched our photographic conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I pay attention to detail (more than most). I have questions (such as how “on earth” was the arch constructed). I am Brand New TODAY (but not really) I am anxious to shed fear and replace it with a sense of wonder and amazement. While it’s hard to admit to myself (without feeling ashamed) that I Am Deserving of Love. A partner to protect me and walk a tad bit ahead because he already knows the Rocks are intimidating….until I learn be free from the conditioning. I have never had true love. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Problem is and much like the photos, I have a particular “subject” in my minds eye and ear that is more than likely interfering with the process.
    With Love

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A great lesson, Patti – and as usual so well illustrated! Of course I have to pick the flower as my favorite…you know…but all are great examples for this enjoyable challenge. I had to return to the angel and the stickers a couple of times extra…love contrasting constellations and pictures that make me think. That angel too is mysterious – the impression to me is that it looks angry. It’s something about the eyes…

    Liked by 2 people

      • We still don’t have internet. All the seasonal residents have left, there’s just the handful of year round residents left so it could be next spring before the WiFi is hooked back up. I’m currently using a WiFi hotspot in town whenever I go through town but my regular journeys through town will end on Friday.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You’re most welcome, Sue! I’m glad this post is helpful. The Grand Rapids Arch is famous. It’s quite a feat of engineering and it’s really a work of art, too. Take care. I hope all’s well with you.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Pingback: Lunch At The Lake
    • Hi, Philo. I loved your collection of images, too. Glad you like the one of Venice. I just discovered it in my archive last week and I was intrigued by the angel’s face. It’s a bit mysterious! Thanks again for joining us and for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Lindy. Many thanks! I loved the sky that day we went on a photo shoot of the Grand Rapids Arch. I’ve also decided to take more freeze action and panning shots. I don’t have many of them…except for waves and the waterfalls. I enjoyed your collection, too. That bald eagle image is amazing.


    • Hi, Andrea. Wow! Thanks. I appreciate the smile you just gave me! Yes, that’s a great way to put it. “Eyes go to eyes.” We are inherently social creatures! I enjoyed your collection this week. I hope all’s well with you. Take care.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Patti. You are most welcome. We are definitely social creatures, that’s for sure. You take care as well! (btw – the NH Art Association gallery in Portsmouth is holding a special month long exhibit with a virtual opening tonight – all media including photography. One of my macro shots made the cut!)

        Liked by 2 people

  10. A good post, Patti. It’s always helpful to be reminded of the basic ideas, as it’s too easy to think complicated when simple works best.
    Leading lines work so wonderfully well, sometimes subtly, but I found some very bold ones on a sunny walk yesterday: https://travelwithintent.com/2020/11/06/plough-this-way/

    And on the topic subject, I like to know a bit in advance – that makes it easier to plan new images rather than just going back to the archives. Though new is a challenge itself at the moment with the new UK lockdown.

    Happy coming weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Debbie. I love those bold, green lines in the fields. Lovely images. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes simple is the best. It’s better not to over think things too much. Thanks for your thoughts on getting the topic in advance. We’re going to try it the last week November when we’ll announce the first challenge of the new month. Take care. I heard about the lockdowns and restrictions in your part of the world and fear that we’re not far behind you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Grammy. I’m delighted you like those two images. I absolutely loved the flower garden in town. I walk by it now and the flower beds are completely dirt! I’ll have to be patient. Glad you joined us, too, this week. I really like how all your shots focus on the same subject. Great idea.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Patti, Thanks for the fabulous lesson in focus. I loved the arch and the flower. The colors of both of them those pictures made them stunning. Sorry I missed participating last week. 🙂 Hope you have a lovely week this week.

    Liked by 2 people

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