Lesson 18: Filling Frame

Filling FrameThere is a rule in photography that says if you want to improve your photographs 100 percent, move closer. It’s true. The one sure way to keep from including too much extraneous information in a photograph is to fill the frame with your subject and nothing but your subject. Filling the frame from edge to edge leaves little doubt about what your intended target was. There are two ways to get closer: Use a telephoto lens or walk closer to the subject.

While empty spaces can be used effectively in photos to create stunning results you’re much more likely to get a positive appreciation from those looking at your photos if your shots are filled with interest. This technique is particularly important when taking pictures of people whose facial features tend to disappear when you move away from them. While it can be appropriate to take shots that put a person in context with the environment that they are in, if they get lost in the picture you might as well just take a shot of the scene and leave them out of it.

The simple act of making your subject bigger in the frame involves the viewer at a much more intense level. A chin-to-forehead portrait of an interesting face, for example, immediately puts the viewer eye-to-eye with your subject. A very tight shot of a bear, even if you made it with a long lens at the zoo, creates breathless drama.

A common problem here is that we often think we’re filling the frame when in fact we’re not even close. What’s happening is that when you’re standing in front of a scene, you’re concentrating so intently on your subject that your brain is tricked into thinking your subject is closer than it actually is. The solution? As soon as you think you’re close enough to your subject, take a few steps forward and try again. Just before you snap the shutter, roll your eye around the frame and see if there’s anything you can eliminate. When in doubt, take a few more steps closer.

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