Photography Composition Tips - Fill the Frame
Image © Randy McKown

Do your photography compositions look a little boring? Is the subject not jumping out at your audience? Maybe all you need to do is take a step forward and give your images that extra boost.

Photography Composition – Fill the Frame

A common mistake made by photographers just starting out is having the idea that they must get everything in the shot. They try to showcase their subject by stepping back and including every single detail in the frame. In doing so, they often overlook the distracting elements surrounding the subject. These distractions help make their photos nothing more than amateur snapshots.

Photography Composition Tips - Fill the Frame
Image © Randy McKown

Photography Composition – Simplification

Simplification is one of the most fundamental techniques in photographic composition. It is also one of the most important techniques you will ever learn. Before you press the shutter release, you should first evaluate the entire scene to determine what elements lie within it.

Go through each element, one by one, and ask yourself “Does this element support the theme of my subject?” If an element does not support the subject, apply the process of simplification and remove it from the scene.

One way of applying this technique to your image is by filling the frame with your subject. Eliminate all surrounding elements and let your subject dominate the frame. This is done by getting extremely close to the subject or by using a longer focal length.

The photo of the elephant above is a tight composition of the face. This is your typical zoo situation. The elephant was on the other side of a metal cable fence surrounded by man-made objects on the ground. Filling the frame was the first composition choice in simplifying the scene. By shooting through the cables I avoided the additional work of removing them later in Photoshop. This tighter crop also helped to eliminate the man-made objects which distracted from the universal theme of the image.

I also made sure to throw the background out of focus because it was obvious that the foliage was native to the region I was in and not to the native habitat of the animal. This is something to keep in mind when shooting zoo life.

Photography Composition Tips - Fill the Frame
Image © Randy McKown

Photography Composition –  What’s My Subject?

The wall of plates is actually fixed to the side of a building in an old ghost town here in Colorado. One of the most critical traits of being a pro photographer is stopping to think about what you are seeing and how you feel about it. The second I saw this building I loved it – but before I reach for my camera – I need to understand why I love it?

Taking the time to study the building, without even holding the camera, is what allowed me to realize that the building itself held absolutely no fascination to me. It was only a small portion of a wall covered in license plates that my sub-conscious had latched on to when I first saw the building. Once I realized this I was able to emphasize my true subject by using a fill the frame photography composition.

Always take the time to study your subject before shooting it. Sometimes you will discover that what you thought was your primary subject is really just a distraction from the true subject.

Photography Composition Tips - Fill the Frame
Image © Randy McKown

Photography Composition – Capturing Emotion

As photographers, we are always trying to capture emotion in our photography. Fill the frame compositions can often be the tool you need to help capture that emotion in your frame. Take a look at the image of the girl kissing her horse.

This was taken during a senior portrait session. So naturally, a lot of compositions that showed more of her and the horse were taken for the client to choose from. However, those were posed portraits. Our goal as photographers is to capture emotion. In this case, that emotion is the bond of love between a girl and her horse.

As a viewer, you do not need to see the horses entire body to know it’s a horse just like you do not need to see the girls entire body to recognize her as a human. She was giving the horse a lot of attention and affection to keep it calm during the photo shoot and simply because she loved her horse.

Filling the frame is what allowed me to capture a special moment between them and it’s what made this image. The composition is what emphasizes the true subject which is not the girl or the horse but the bond between them.

So, next time your shooting, don’t forget to stop and take a closer look at your scene. Think about what your true subject is and then allow it to fill the frame in your photographic compositions.

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