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Fill the frame

Created date

February 21st, 2014
close-up photo of man
close-up photo of man

When a painter creates a painting, he puts precisely what he wants on the canvas—only those items that express his vision.  So, too, should you try to include only what you intend the viewer to see in a photo. One way of accomplishing this is to fill the frame as best you can with objects of importance by cropping out unwanted clutter and distracting background objects. Cropping is the best way to improve a photo.

There are several ways to do it: 

• Zoom in with your lens.  

• Walk closer to your subject.  

• Pan the camera left or right. 

• Ask the subject to step sideways one direction or the other. 

• Reposition yourself to show a different background. 

Your purpose is to fill the frame with the subject or object of interest and try to eliminate everything else that does not make a meaningful contribution to the photo.

Orientation and cropping

If you’re shooting a full figure of a person (head to toe), hold the camera so the picture on your LCD screen is taller than it is wide. This is called portrait orientation as opposed to landscape orientation. This view allows you to better fill the frame with the entire figure, thereby avoiding unessential objects.

If you want a closer shot of a person, crop at the middle of the thighs, not at the knees.  Here’s an easy rule of thumb to remember: do not crop at any joint—ankle, knee, hip or elbow. 

When shooting close-ups of people, you can crop the top of the person’s head, but not the chin. I often crop part of the shoulder or a portion of the head, even the ear. This is filling the frame to the extreme, but can make a very strong portrait. 

I’m not suggesting that every photo has to be jammed edge-to-edge with information.  A landscape or a panorama should be spacious, but should also contain elements that hold the viewer’s interest throughout the frame. 

Remember, fill the frame with objects that matter. Include information that communicates the story you want to tell. Get rid of everything else.