Shift your Focus. How You Can Emotionally Influence Your Audience

Did you know you can control the mood and direct the attention of your viewers with the way you focus your video camera lens? This is a production technique you can experiment with during your pre-production process (before you shoot your video presentation).



Focus your Viewer’s Attention

For example, a “sharp focus” is where everything within the camera frame is in clear focus. This is the typical way for a presenter or product to be filmed.

However, a “soft focus”, achieved with a lens, or with the application of beauty filters, etc can place a soft, dreamy effect over the footage.

On-screen the technique is often designed to:

    • Recall a dream or memory
    • Visually enhance tender moments or memories
    • Minimizes wrinkles and skin texture onscreen. So that you’ll appear soft, flawless, and dewy on-screen (often seen in TV Soap Operas)
    • However, it does not represent the truth of reality

A Word of Caution

There are some instances where the application of lenses and filters may not best serve your brand message.

For example, if you are a fitness or athletic brand, and you want to present a sharp-looking physique with high muscle definition, you would avoid this production technique. Doing so will make you look soft, or less conditioned onscreen. Instead, a better choice would be to opt for a “sharp” focus and a high contrast filter to enhance your physique and video message.

Likewise, if your brand message discusses serious topics i.e. domestic violence, using a soft-focus or beauty filter may serve to romanticize violence and soften (weaken) the impact of your video message.


Selective Focus

 Subconsciously “pull” the Viewer to the action. 

When you have people or objects in the camera frame which are different distances from the camera lens, then it gets more complicated. It’s called “depth of field”.

You now have to make a choice as to how much of the scene is in focus. This is called “selective focus”, a common filming technique.

Here the camera is sharply focused on one specific visual element (the one the director wants us to focus on) and fuzzy on everything else in the scene.

Force the Attention – The Emotional Tug of War

Often the director will alternate the focus, changing from an actor in the foreground to one in the background and vice versa. This quickly forces our attention where the director wants it.

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If you watch a daytime soap opera, you will see this racking focus technique used in a blatantly obvious manner once you know what to look for. When the camera moves in on (or changes focus) on a person or object, we the viewer are more likely to be subconsciously “pulled in” to the action and the internal, emotional world of the character. When the focus shifts or the camera moves out, the director is visually signaling to us, that we’ve seen all we need to, and it’s time to move on. Here we are more likely to subconsciously drawback and become emotionally detached from the scene.

Try this On-camera Presenter Technique:  Gaze Motion 

Another technique to focus the viewers’ attention is what is called “gaze motion”. We the viewer will tend to look in the same direction where the video presenter appears to be looking on-screen.

Again, this happens at a subconscious level; viewers can’t help but follow the presenter’s gaze.

TV Advertisers also use this technique to get us to focus on objects or areas of the screen that they want us to pay attention to.

Arrange the Visual Elements Onscreen

For example, a pharmaceutical commercial will probably want us to look up at the brand name and product packaging, not down at the mandatory side-effect warnings that are displayed at the bottom of the screen. To do this they will have the actors looking up, and arrange other visual elements of the scene to make sure we are focused on the brand, not looking down at the side effects!

It’s these subtle elements that can help you and your message stand out. Think about the different ways could experiment with these production techniques in your video presentations.

If you have a question or you want me to cover a topic for you let me know. I’m always listening!

You can also book a time with me to troubleshoot your video creation or a production challenge. See below for details.

Keep creating and putting your best out into the world! You’ve got this.







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