In this class I want to focus on the Frame. How do you compose your images inside a frame. In the past frames were viewed by the edges of the print, or by the actual frame in which the art was displayed. Today, we have our images framed on the screens of our devices, whether it’s a computer, phone, tablet, or even a flat-screen TV. These frames do play a role in decisions about framing, but mostly only when you know what and where you are going to publish. For learners or hobbyist the good news is that the rules of framing are general enough to apply across all frame ratios and orientations.
Here is a short list of rules for framing to get you started on well composed photographs:
- Fill the Frame: it is usually best to make your subject bigger in the frame of your image, if you can. Fill the frame with your composition, this can include intentional empty space, but avoid unintended empty space. When in doubt, move in closer.
- Rule of Thirds: divide your image into thirds so that it looks like a tic-tac-toe board. Put your point of interest on one of the third lines, or better yet where two of them meet. This off-center composition will help draw your viewer’s eye into and around the image. It will give the image an overall sense of balance, as well.
- Patterns and Leading Lines: framing is mostly about geometry. If you see a line or any kind of a patterns, look for ways to make that shape lead your eye into and around an image. A leading line is one of the easiest photographic geometry concepts to see. Look for lines that start in the foreground and lead your eye into the image–that is a leading line.
Often what makes these images work is a combination of these elements. And there are other tips like making sure there’s clear space around the head of portrait subjects and using a foreground framing to draw the eye into your focal point. Ultimately these rules are guides to help you start making images that draw the eye in. If you practice with them and use your judgement you’ll begin to see how these general rules are just to get you started on noticing and re-arranging the order of all the elements with in your frame. Sometimes just a slight movement one direction to one side or up and down can make a big difference in your final image.
So shoot a lot. When you are covering a subject or event, intentionally move from one angle or position to another and keep trying new options, using the rules to help guide you toward good compositions. Especially today where digital film is virtually endless you should overshoot, and then discard the extras later. But don’t let abundance of film make you sloppy about your care and intention. 100 photographs sloppily or carelessly composed are not nearly as good as a few images made with skill and intention. But when you are making an image you care about don’t give up after you capture just a couple of frames. Chances are that if you keep moving, and adjusting and shooting you’ll bring home a better selection of options. Then you can choose the best in editing and discard the rest.
Zoom lenses can help you explore framing by allowing you to adjust the framing of your images by changing the focal length of your lens. Not every camera has this options but you can always move in closer by “zooming with your feet.” Focal length of lenses does also have an effect on what kinds of options are available for framing.
In the end, the Frame is a great place to begin growing your photographic skills. Most cameras today provide you with automatic exposure and the Moment, is something that take practice and trial and error. The Frame is a great place to start being more intentional about your photography. So go out and make some pictures using these rules to guide your eye.