Fill The Frame

27 Jan

If you’ve read a photography tip/advice/rules article before, you’ve probably seen this gem. Time and again, it’s doled out…passed down from the photography veteran to the novice photo-slinger as a “must-try” nugget of wisdom. Truly, it’s great advice and should be one of the many, many, many things that a photographer considers when composing a scene. The question is…why? And how do we use it effectively? And where does it rank on list of photo rules?

Filling the frame is a photographer’s way of saying “zoom in”…or “move closer”…and yes, there is a difference! Using a zoom lens will produce a compressed image, in which items – regardless of their distance to each other – seem close. Conversely, walking forward and shooting with a wide-angle lens will change the perspective and the resulting image has more depth, and shows distance between objects in the frame. This small, but meaningful difference can significantly change an image.

The reason people generally fill the frame is to both cut out distracting elements and to show more detail. Cropping out extraneous elements creates an image that is cleaner, and less confusing for the viewer; a well framed, well cropped image should leave little doubt as to who or what the subject of the photo is. Furthermore, the closer we are to the subject, the more detail we can see…and with any good story, the details are the juiciest part!

Just like in the best novels, books and songs, a striking photo is comprised of elements that all contribute to the whole. Determining how much “zoom” to use is often a matter of context.  If your intent is to tell a story, you need to find a balance between including meaningful details that enhance the image and exclude excessive or confusing items that will detract from the viewing experience.  This determination is often based on your vision for the completed image, and the message you are looking to convey through your art.

How much is too much?

How much is too much?

That being said, not all art is intended to tell a story.  Sometimes we create for other reasons…an outlet for our own emotions, capturing a memory, adding beauty to the world, creating a marketable image, creating a commissioned image…  I am of the opinion, however, that regardless of the motivations for taking the photo, the components within the image should be harmonious.

Feathers

Feathers

For example, this photo – an image of the feathers on a wild Canada Goose that strutted by me as I sat on the shore at a local lake – doesn’t tell a story.  There is no moral, there was no underlying thought of sale-ability…at the time, I just loved the texture and curves of the feathers.  It was one of those art-in-nature moments.  However, that didn’t stop me from taking the time to zoom in and out a few times, looking for the crop that would give me some semblance of symmetry and turn some of the curves into leading lines.  On the surface, truly, they are just feathers.  But there are elements within the image, several of which were directly affected by how much “frame filling” I did, that work together to create an image that is pleasing to my eye.

Like anything else in life there is never just one element that creates a striking image.  Filling the frame is certainly a good idea, but it should be just one of many ideas that come to mind when composing an image.  Furthermore, it should be used with purpose.  Remember to see the image as a whole, and determine what ingredients are essential to the image before you press the shutter release.  Learning photography isn’t just memorizing the rules, tips and advice you read in these articles.  It’s about learning to think an image through from start to finish, and find just the right blend of rules and advice that will help bring your visions to fruition.

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One Response to “Fill The Frame”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 10 Minute Challenge | seeingspotsphoto.com - June 8, 2012

    […] to doing this is making sure the scene within the frame tells the story you want to convey.  Fill that frame, friends!  And fill it […]

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