Rules of Composition are all around us, and we are reminded of them all the time.  Terms like Rule of Thirds are bandied about by everyone (including yours truly, having blogged about it myself here, here and here).  Other terms and compositional “best practices” and rules of thumb include things like “The Golden Mean”, “Sunny 16” and many many more.  But one that I have found to be most successful is the one of “filling the frame”.  This holds true for many types of photography.  For instance, there’s floral photography:

Filling the Frame in Downtown Denver
Filling the Frame in Downtown Denver

There’s also portraiture:

Filling the Frame with a Face
Filling the Frame with a Face

Architectural work also can use this concept:

lamp post

The one that probably does not lend itself too well to the compositional approach of “filling the frame” is landscape work.  But, as we all, know, exceptions often prove the rule!  And as much as I hate to admit it, and agree with the rules, here’s one that can almost always be used to improve your photography.  Here’s three reasons couple reasons why filling the frame works a lot of the time:

  1. It eliminates distractions – everything else around it becomes cropped out of the scene, leaving the viewer with nothing to grab their attention but the subject of the photo.  In the first shot, what else can you see besides the flower?  The second?  The third?  There is literally nothing else to look at.
  2. It accentuates lines and points of focus or interest in your pictures.  In the first shot – your eyes can’t help but go to the center because that’s where all the lines are pointing.  In the second, the girls eyes are a natural point of focus, and then in the third – the flame naturally draws you in as well as the sharp lines of the lamp itself.
  3. Backgrounds become blurred and/or beautiful! Bokeh, or soft blurring of out of focus areas is a natural side effect of getting up close and personal.  And if your f-stop is set lower to catch more detail, you are likely in close enough where the entire background is one consistent color like in the latter two shots.

This is, of course, just my 2¢.  What are your thoughts on filling the frame?  Does the approach work or is it too “in your face”?  These are questions that will likely be posed until the end of time, because they are by their very nature, subjective.  nevertheless, in sharing our thoughts, we can increase our appreciation of, and become more cognizant of the works of others and grow as artists.  So, share your thoughts in the comments!

In the meantime, happy shooting, and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

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5 thoughts on “Filling the Frame: Flowers, Faces, & Fixtures

  1. I agree that using the space as much as possible is usually a strong way to convey a message. As you note, here are exceptions, such as when you need size perspective with more than one object or other emotion such as loneliness, etc.

    Particularly like the floral shot.

  2. Another good one with good examples Jason. When I shoot people (oh so rare) I find the best looks are often achieved with a full frame. 🙂

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