Here is an article I published on my website about the selective focus technique often used in photography. I hope it'll be useful to some of you in this forum.

How to Use the Selective Focus Technique
by Gary Hendricks

Have you ever wondered how those professional photographers make their subjects stand out from the surroundings? For example, a flower may stand out against a blurred background, or a small insect is set against a blurred leaf. Well, its not difficult to achieve this effect.

The trick is to use the selective focus technique. With this technique, we can choose one part of the image to be sharp and in focus, while the rest of the image is kept out of focus. It's very useful in macro and close-up photography.

The selective focus technique in action

Note that it is in fact possible to achieve the selective focus effect using image editing programs. You can simply select one part of the photo, keep it sharp and then blur the rest. However, personally, I choose to shoot the image with selective focus because the effect always looks more natural.

So how do you achieve selective focus? Here are some tips.

Aperture size
For selective focus, try choosing your widest f-stops (i.e. aperture size), such as f/2.8 or f/4. Couple this with a fast shutter speed to ensure enough light is present in the photo. I also recommend using a neutral-density filter to allow you to use wide f-stops.

Telephoto Settings
A good tip is to zoom in as much as possible, or choose a telephoto lens. I've achieved much better results by using strong telephoto.

Locate Out-Of-Focus Areas
Another trick to achieve the selective focus technique is to search for an element that can be strongly out of focus. For example, if you're shooting an insect, choosing to have out-of-focus leaves surrounding the insect is a good idea.

Angle To Subject
This tip takes a bit of practice, but is very effective at times. Choose an angle to the subject that causes background and foreground elements to be farther from the focused subject. This causes them to be strikingly out of focus.

LCD Review
With the advent of digital photography, you can (and should) check your composition in the LCD to be sure the in-focus and out-of-focus areas are correctly captured.

Well, I do hope this article has helped you understand how you can apply the selective focus technique to breathe more life into your photos. Try these tricks out the next time you're out shooting close-ups - you'll be amazed at the professional looking results.