Remember, the frame refers to the edges of your photograph or the edges of the viewfinder of your camera when you are shooting. The advice to fill the frame means to get in close, to make your subject a significant portion of the final photograph. Fill the frame encourages you, as a photographer, to really spend some time thinking about your subject and how best to feature that subject in your photograph.
How can you bring forward the details or the patterns or the most critical element(s) of your subject? How does the background add to or take away from the story that you are trying to tell?
This advice is articulated in a lot of different ways such as “Get close. Then get closer.” Photographers tend to leave too much ‘stuff’ around their subject. The viewer gets lost in the chaos and doesn’t know where to look. Less is often more to put it simply.
Let’s look at a few more examples of filling the frame in photo composition ::
Magic is in the air with this clever image of the person levitating above the leaf covered ground. There are a few elements that make the photo work nicely with regard to composition. First, the frame is indeed filled as much as it can be given the person’s feet not touching the ground. Secondly, the line of the barren shrubs frames the person beautifully. Thirdly, the colours work together beautifully. The exposure could be improved, but we are discussing composition. The photographer succeeds in creating a strong composition.
Is this a friendly conversation over a cup of tea? The relaxed body language tells us this is so. We don’t need to see the faces of the tea drinkers to know there is little or no tension. Beyond this, we are left to tell the rest of the story.
Why do we know this about the photograph? We may have been in a similar situation and draw from our own experience. More than this the photographer has filled the frame in a way that our eyes are drawn to the relaxed nature of the subjects and the cups of tea.
What elements make this photo composition effective? Yes, the frame is filled. You’re right.
Notice, too the background is used effectively, the bright colour of the flowers pop right out at you amongst the other muted colour and the young lady is slightly off- centre. We will discuss the importance of colour, avoiding the middle and backgrounds in future blog posts.
Even if you are anti-smoking, you must notice this image is strong with regard to composition on several levels.
Yes, the frame is filled beautifully. Do you also notice the young lady’s face is framed by the blue hoodie and her blond hair? That’s right. The photographer has achieved a frame within a frame giving this a nice composition.
Additionally, the background has been kept to a minimum so the viewer’s eye goes directly to the young woman’s face.
Take a closer look at this photo. The intense stare from her eyes to the left leaves us to wonder what is outside the image frame. What is she looking at or we might ask, “what is she thinking?” Remarkably, the photographer has left us to tell the rest of the story. The photo has a certain intensity that keeps us looking, thinking and wondering.
Take some time to study these two images.
Overall, the photographer has achieved a simple composition. In the first version of the photo are you certain there isn’t a bit of clutter that makes the eye wander? Indeed there is clutter and it is the silhouette of the building in the top right of the image. This silhouette is unnecessary.
Do you notice in the second version of the photo the building silhouette is gone? Do you also notice your eye goes where it should and that is the hands holding the sparklers against the muted sunset?
By eliminating that small bit of clutter, the frame is filled as it should be and our eyes are directed right where the photographer intended.
Do note, however, it is always best to crop while you are taking the photo. This means you are making the right decisions while composing your photograph so there is no need at all to edit in a photo editing program later.