By Ashley Manley on | No Comments
The first time I created a softly focused (ie out of focus) image, it wasn’t on purpose, but my heart skipped a beat when it popped up on my computer screen. I could barely contain my excitement as I called my husband over to see the image. His reaction was less than an inspired, “That’s nice hun, but why is it blurry?”
I was still learning to use my camera and he clearly was trying to stay positive…I think.
“KEVIN! Doesn’t it look like a memory?! I was elated, and he was confused - which pretty much sums up my art and his reaction to this day. But looking back, I know the image was a blurry photo of my dog, and the unintentional soft focus was due to low light and the inability of my camera to focus, not some artistic vision, and it was not brilliant, but it did spark something within me.
Something whispered to me that I don’t always need a perfectly sharp photo and golden light to create a beautiful image that I love.
Fast forward 3 years later. I now know how to use my camera very well, but I still regularly create softly focused images, not on accident, but as a way of telling my story the way I feel it happening.
Memories, like photos, will fade with time. Details will be bleed together and morph into something different and beautiful. For me, creating a softly focused image causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me. The image becomes more than just a photo. It becomes a story and a memory that will last for years to come, even as the details run together.
A soft focus image speaks to me in a sweet voice, reminding me how quickly time goes and how sweet memories are, even when those same memories can be difficult.
The hardest part is soft focus photography is switching your lens from auto to manual focus. The rest is listening and letting your eyes guide you.
Personally, I like to barely soften the focus so some details are still visible but not sharp. Find your own preference. Remember, it’s for you, and no one else.
This is also a perfect time to get creative with editing. I love editing soft focus images in both color and black and white. I also love adding extra grain to my softly focused images to give them a little more dimension and add another layer to the story. You might even discover something new and different you want to apply to all your editing!
I love shooting with a soft focus in nature. Part of it is because I’m not much of a landscape or macro photographer and this is my way of feeling creative when I go for a walk or I'm on vacation. Flowers and tall grass are my favorites to soften!
If you’ve shot the same scene, say your kids playing in the backyard, 8 gazillion times, this is a great opportunity to try something different and keep yourself inspired.
Some scenes just feel softly focused to me. When the weather is dreary or when my soul is so filled with something we are doing, my heart feels almost forced to create images this way. Not every photo. Just a couple. To me, they just work.
Again, you have to find what inspires you. Maybe it’s when it’s warm and sunny or if something is really loud and overwhelming. Listen for that soft focus inspiration and let it encourage you when you pick up your camera.
It might seem weird at first, especially if you have never tried something like this, but stick with it and keep practicing…You just might surprise yourself :)
A note for professional photographers: If you shoot for clients (which I don’t anymore), when you feel comfortable enough with the technique, try it at your next photosession.
Maybe your clients will love it like I do, or maybe they will think it’s a little weird like my husband does, but either way, you will be able to diversify their image collection and offer them something different. When I was in business, I tried to include a few soft focus images from every session and my clients always loved them.
Do you have any questions or comments about Soft Focus Photography? Leave us a comment below - I would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (We really appreciate it)!