What is Emphasis in Photography: Explained

Emphasis in photography refers to highlighting the main subject or focal point to draw viewers’ attention.

Photography is not just about capturing moments; it’s about telling stories and evoking emotions. One of the key elements that contribute to the effectiveness of a photograph is emphasis.

Emphasis directs the viewer’s attention to the focal point of the image, conveying the photographer’s intended message with clarity and impact.

Techniques to Create Emphasis

Composition Rules

Composition plays a crucial role in creating emphasis. By following established composition rules such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing, photographers can guide the viewer’s eye towards the main subject of the photograph.

Lighting Techniques

Lighting is another essential aspect of photography that can be used to enhance emphasis. By manipulating light sources and shadows, photographers can create contrast and draw attention to specific areas of the image.

Depth of Field

Controlling the depth of field allows photographers to isolate the subject from the background, emphasizing it within the frame. Techniques such as selective focus and the bokeh effect are commonly employed to achieve this.

Understanding Composition for Emphasis

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds divides the frame into nine equal parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Placing the main subject along these lines or at their intersections creates a visually appealing composition that naturally draws the viewer’s eye.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are elements within the frame that lead the viewer’s gaze towards the main subject. Whether they are straight lines, curves, or patterns, leading lines serve to emphasize the focal point of the photograph.


Framing involves using elements in the foreground to frame the main subject, drawing attention to it and adding depth to the composition. It can be natural elements like branches or architectural features such as doorways.

Read More: How to Teach Photography

Utilizing Lighting for Emphasis

Contrast and Shadows

Contrast between light and shadow can create dramatic effects that highlight the main subject. By positioning the light source strategically, photographers can control the intensity of shadows and enhance emphasis.


Spotlighting involves illuminating the main subject while keeping the surrounding areas in relative darkness. This technique creates a sense of isolation and draws immediate attention to the focal point.

Manipulating Depth of Field

Selective Focus

Selective focus is achieved by using a wide aperture to blur the background while keeping the main subject sharp. This technique isolates the subject from its surroundings, making it stand out prominently.

Bokeh Effect

The bokeh effect refers to the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in a photograph. By creating pleasing bokeh patterns in the background, photographers can enhance the visual impact of the main subject.

Examples of Emphasis in Photography

Emphasis can be observed in various genres of photography, including portrait and landscape photography. In portrait photography, emphasis is often placed on the subject’s eyes or facial expressions, while in landscape photography, it may be on a prominent landmark or natural feature.

Final Thought

Emphasis is a fundamental aspect of photography that enables photographers to create compelling and impactful images.

By mastering techniques such as composition, lighting, and depth of field, photographers can effectively direct the viewer’s attention to the main subject, resulting in visually stunning photographs that resonate with viewers.

Read Next: What is Emphasis in Photography

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