I am using Nikon D5600.

While on street photo shoot, I clicked a couple of photos and submitted on one of the stock photo website. Few photos got approved whereas few were rejected with a comment.

In most photos the comment was:

"The subject is not in focus"

In general, I wanted to click a photo of a shop with artificial jewelry. Similarly, a photo with a man crafting a stone. Both the photos got rejected.

I am unable to determine how to set focus on the subject when you are taking a photo of a shop. There is no particular subject like a Bird, Fruit etc.

For a wider subject, for instance jewelry in a shop, which focus mode to be used ? I probably used: AF-S, Single/Wide point.

Photos given below: enter image description here enter image description here

  • 1
    The top photo is blurry all over (tool vibrations?): paint on the tool, hands. In the second picture, I have trouble finding a "subject".
    – xenoid
    Sep 10, 2019 at 6:38
  • @xenoid This is what I want to ask. In such photos, like the second one, how to determine what is the subject? I just wanted to capture the shop items, not specific to any one item.
    – RKh
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:12
  • 2
    At that point it's a matter of framing. Either the picture is restricted around a given piece, or you shoot the whole display, but this haphazard accumulation of jewelry has no subject: your eyes wander all around.... It also has a lot of problem with reflections. I wouldn't have kept it, and much less tried to sell it.
    – xenoid
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:33

3 Answers 3


The subject in the first photo is the cutting tool on the stone. It is out of focus. The hands are mostly in focus, and the paint on the grinder is in focus. But the cutting is not.

The second photo has an ambiguous subject. None are exactly in focus, making the subject identification more difficult.

You may wish to setup your focus to a single spot, and then set your focus on the subject spot, lock it, and then frame your picture. For the first photo that may solve the problem of clear focus on the subject, which is not the grinder and probably not the hands, but rather the spinning abrasive disc on the stone.

For the second shot, you may wish to play with setting your depth of field. This might involve clearly focusing on the jewelry of interest, and having the aperture set to a large opening, like 2.8 or 1.4. Sometimes you can accomplish this with a faster shutter speed, or perhaps a ND filter. But by making your subject crystal clear, and the rest of the image compromised, it communicates your subject.

An example you didn't have, is a bird flying with a fish it just caught. The fish may be the interesting part of the photo, with the talons dug in, and the water dripping off. That may be the subject, but this is an exception to the rule, because the eyes of the bird must be in focus. That is what our visual processing and the related Human Visual System (HVS) work for. When the bird's eyes are in focus, it draws attention to the bird, and what it is doing. The talons into the fish, in this example, are the exception, in that while they are the real message, focus on them, and not on the eyes of the bird, will loose points in the exam.

PS: While you are learning all this stuff, I suggest that you use manual mode on the Nikon, as it will help you better understand the parameters. You can over or under expose the image for your subject by just throwing in or taking out a few clicks of aperture or shutter time.

  • I like your bird/fish example. I generally agree, but consider the fish's eyes (usually, you only get a good shot of one fish eye). Because of the defining characteristic of fish eyes (big, round, bulging, always look surprised), I think a great composition could focus on the fish eye, perhaps even having most of the bird outside of the DoF (this would require a very fast lens). The surprised look of the fish's eye, in conjunction with its plight, having talons dug deep in its back, being plucked from its environment, speaks for itself.
    – scottbb
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:57
  • @scottbb There are lots of viewpoints (no pun intended) in photography. I can't say that I could identify surprised eyes on a fish, but your perspective is noted. Defocusing the bird could be accomplished in post-processing more easily than an apparent change in focus. Post the shot when you capture it, as I am sure it will be unique and remarkable.
    – mongo
    Sep 10, 2019 at 16:09
  • "Post the shot when you capture it". Thank you for the "when", rather than the much more likely "if". =)
    – scottbb
    Sep 10, 2019 at 19:56

Well, I can't say for the particular model of your Nikon, but if you have live view, you can zoom in, and check the sharpness of the details of your subject. I suggest trying manual focusing, as sometimes the autofocus of cameras cant identify focus on objects that dont have contrasting edges, such as the spinning disk of the saw above.

Also, if you plan on becoming more accustomed and experienced with your camera, try not to use the preset modes, and use Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program and Manual. You can start with Program, its the closest to auto mode, while still allowing you to choose settings.

For your current problem, I suggest using aperture mode, and increasing the aperture to between f6-f8, which will increase your depth of field so that more of the subject is in focus, and in case your focus is off by a bit, the depth of field will make it less noticeable

  • In the first photo, is it possible to set the focus on the spinning saw using any tool with Lightroom or Photoshop or GIMP ?
    – RKh
    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:10
  • 1
    The time to get the focus right is at the time of exposure.
    – mongo
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:14
  • 1
    @RKh see: How can I fix an out-of-focus blurred photo in Photoshop? From the accepted answer, "some by-hand touch-up and blending will make it look nicer. It's not ideal, but decent for social media sharing and just fine for small prints." Note that the out-of-focus image in question had much worse focus issues than your cutoff saw example. I doubt you can do much to improve it to the point of being accepted (or at least sold) by stock photo services.
    – scottbb
    Sep 10, 2019 at 20:02

Use higher f-stop, and possibly higher iso.
For example, try f8 with iso of 400.
Take a multiply number of shots to improve your ability to get a shot in focus.

"The subject is not in focus" is a standard response for everything wrong with a shot, including they do not like the image subject.

Take more interesting photos.

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