Tutorial: Fill the Frame
Fill the Frame
Fill the Frame
Make your subjects more important by giving them the largest portion of your image, to maximize the impact of your travel photos' composition
Filling the frame refers to making your subject take up a major portion of the frame, or image. It's very easy, particularly if you have a basic point and shoot camera, to shoot photos like the following picture from a Civil War reenactment in McKinney, Texas.
There is nothing really compelling about this picture. The soldiers, trees, foreground and background, all get about the same visual treatment, when the soldiers are really the only interesting part of the image. Here is another shot of the same group that is much better.
What's the difference? In the second shot, I zoomed in on the group and filled the frame (the entire area of the photo) with the subjects. The background is slightly blurred because of the zoom, and the subjects are accentuated. The subjects are interesting and they dominate the image. That is the strength of filling the frame.
This is a sculpture at the Vatican. Most people will get a shot of it like this.
Here is the same sculpture. Simply by moving in and filling the frame, the extraneous background is removed and your attention is drawn more closely to the subject.
The Pieta at the Vatican. I took the photo on the left to include the large cross over the sculpture, so in that respect the picture serves its purpose. But the cross is poorly illuminated so it isn't strong as a subject, and the sculpture is somewhat lost in the image. The photo on the right is a much stronger image of this incredible sculpture by itself.
This is one of the many lion sculptures in Venice. Not a bad photo at all, about what most people would take. Filling the frame and changing the perspective can make this type of picture much stronger, however.
Here is another lion sculpture in Venice. This is a much stronger photo. I filled the frame with the lion and changed the angle to accentuate the fierce face. This is a terrific example of why you should not be afraid to move in close to a subject to make it stronger.
A bell in the bell tower in Venice. The bottom third of the image on the left is distracting - who cares about an elevator? The shot on the right is much better. The bell is clearly the subject of the photo and it dominates the image with fewer distractions.
As with any other rule of composition, filling the frame isn't a universal rule. There are times when the subject should not dominate the image. For example, the gondola is the subject in this photo from Venice, but the photo is much stronger because the boat is shown in context. The amazing setting of a Venice canal is as much a part of the subject as it is the setting.
As you take your travel photos, be conscious of how much of your frame you're filling with your subject. If the space around the subject isn't interesting, minimize it and fill your image with the subject itself, and you'll find that your photos are much stronger and clearer as a result. When in doubt . . . shoot both. Take the wider shot to include more background, then move in with the zoom to emphasize the subject.
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