5 easy composition rules to improve your photography: #3 fill the frame

what is the ‘frame’ and why should you fill it

In a nutshell, the ‘frame’ refers to the edges of your photograph. To ‘fill the frame’ means to get in close, to make your subject a significant portion of the final image.

Filling the frame adds instant impact to your image. You’ve excluded the unnecessary distracting background elements and have given your subject a ratio of the frame that is directly related to his or her importance.  Filling the frame encourages you, as a photographer, to really spend time thinking about your subject and how best to feature that subject in your photograph.

Filling the frame also encourages you as a photographer, to really spend time thinking about your subject and how best to feature that subject in your photograph.

why does filling the frame work

Two reasons that filling the frame work so well are:

1.details

By filling the frame with your subject you leave no doubt about what the focal point of your image is.  Any details that might steal the spotlight are eliminated.  This is one of the reasons macro and close-up photography is so interesting—we see details we are not usually aware.  Think about photos of the elderly, the lines and wrinkles on their faces, and the stories that they tell.  Alternatively, the fresh young skin and faces of young ones…  These types of details are important.

2. background

Backgrounds are often cluttered with information that is not relevant to the subject and only diverts attention.  As with details above, being visually close to a subject or situation helps the viewer to feel physically close and emotionally connected, and of course, it allows us to see expressions and details that we’d otherwise miss.

focusing on my Boy’s hands opening the knife is a reminder for me of just how important working wood is to him

by zooming in close – and yes, chopping off the top of her head! – your eyes are drawn to the young girl’s eyes and their innocence

by focusing on the leaves, the colour and sense of movement here evoke memories of an autumn afternoon

even though you can’t see the grooms face, you get a sense of his personality in the way that he holds his stick

by filling the frame with the Boy and the Dog, it shows their bond and a companionship that needs no words

As with rules #1 and #2, the fill the frame rule is just a guideline.  It won’t work for all images, but don’t be afraid to move in close, and then move in closer again to see if your subject has the makings of a ‘fill the frame’ image.

Looking for the first installment in this series? You’ll find #1 the rule of thirds here.

And you’ll find #2 framing here.

In the comments, I’d love to see:

Your favourite fill the frame image.  What photo have you taken that fills the frame and really tells a story for you?

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