Saturday, July 19, 2014

Is Your Frame Half-Full or Half-Empty?

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Like many aspects of photography, composition is quite subjective. What looks good or right to one set of eyes -- your eyes, for instance -- might not look so good or right to other sets of eyes.

Fortunately, there are some rules or guidelines that take some of the aesthetic subjectivity out of composing your shots. I know, I know, rules are for the less creative. (Keep telling yourself that and, chances are, your photography isn't going to "wow" too many people. Leastwise, not in a consistent and overall sort of way.)

I'm not going to list or describe any of the rules or guidelines regarding composition. You're probably aware of them already. If you're not aware of them, I suggest you get busy learning them. You might not always use them. You might sometimes purposely break them. You might, at times, ignore them. But overall, you'll likely become a better photographer by knowing them. (And often using them.)

Having said that, there's one rule that will help many of your images. Are you ready for it? You don't need pencil and paper to jot it down in a note. It's real easy to remember. Here it is: Fill your frame!

Yep. That's it. Fill your frame. How easy is that? Easy as pie, that's how easy. Easy peasy. Easy like Sunday morning. Simple. Real simple. How simple? So simple even a cave man could do it.

Filling your frame isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Actually, none of the rules of composition are hard-and-fast rules but, in general, this simple rule about filling your frame (with your subjects) will, more times than not, improve your people photography whether you're shooting glamour, tease, wedding photography, or almost any sort of portraiture.

When I'm shooting people and my frame is half-full -- you knew I'd finally get around to the words I used for this update's title, right? -- I'll often decide to fill it more. Doesn't matter if I'm working with a zoom lens or a prime. If it's a zoom lens, I zoom in. If it's a prime lens, I move in. Heck! Sometimes I get a little crazy and, with a zoom lens, I'll zoom in and move in! How crazy is that? Crazy man!

So, if that's half-full, what's the half-empty thing all about? Isn't half-empty the same as half-full? You know, frame wise? Nope. Not to me. Not in mind.

When I think of my framing as being half-empty, that's a whole different story. To me, a half-empty frame is one where I'm framing in ways that are using negative space as a compositional construct.

Let's review: When my frame is half-full, I know I need to fill it more. When it's half-empty, I don't. In fact, when it's half-empty, I might even zoom out or move back (or both) and make it even emptier. I know. Crazy, right?

This half-full/half-empty stuff might sound like semantics or photo-philosophical drivel and maybe it is. But it's the sort of thinking that works well for me. When I'm shooting, I like to describe my pictures in words. In my head, that is. I don't simply apply words that describe whatever story I might be trying to convey with the photos, but also regarding things like lighting and composition. Conversely, when I'm writing -- and I generally do more writing than picture taking -- I like to think of my words in terms of pictures. Does that sound weird or confusing?  Perhaps it is. But it works for me. Why? How? Haven't a clue.  It's how my mind works; creatively speaking, that is. And when things are working for me, creatively or otherwise, I don't usually try to change them. I leave them be. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

By the way, I'm referring to how I frame my pictures in the camera with this half-full/half-empty stuff,  not simply how I might later crop them.  I'm a big fan of framing my shots as close as possible to how I think they'll end up after I've applied some post-production work to them, like cropping them.

Sure, I often leave myself some wiggle room for a finished crop, And I sometimes need to frame in ways that provide extra real estate to later allow a graphic artist to do his or her thing, e.g., adding text, graphics, or what have you. But, for the most part, whatever compositional elements I (or someone else) includes in my finished photos after they're cropped were, for the most part, already indicated when I originally framed the shots with my camera.

It's all part of that 'get it right in the camera' thing I've written about before. It's how I work, right or wrong, weird or not, because it works for me. Who knows? It might even work for you as well.

1 comment:

Bill Giles said...

That's an interesting way of looking at it. I usually try to fill the frame as much as possible without cutting off the subject, but sometimes leave space where I feel that it will improve the picture. I see so many people taking snapshots where the subject will be such a small part of the photo. I think that they are afraid to get close.