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Fill Your Frame

I’m constantly amazed by how the most simple photography techniques produce the most effective results.

One such lesson that I always start new photographers off with is among the simplest you’ll ever find:

Fill your Frame

Time and time again I’m approached by people to look at their photos and time and time again I’m amazed that people continue to take shots where you almost have to squint to make out their subjects because they are so distant.

While empty spaces can be used effectively in photos to create stunning results (we’ll cover this in a future tip) you’re much more likely to get a ‘wow’ from those looking at your photos if your shots are filled with interest.

This technique is particularly important when taking pictures of people whose facial features tend to disappear when you move more than a few meters away from them.

While it can be appropriate to take shots that put a person in context with the environment that they are in, if they get lost in the picture you might as well just take a shot of the scene and leave them out of it.

Here’s an example of this applied with a couple of shots that I took at the Australian Open, a couple of years apart.

In the first year I only had a little point and shoot camera with me which meant despite being in the front row the following was as close as I could get with it’s 3x Optical Zoom lens.

This year I had my DSLR with me and was shooting with a 200mm lens.

I also spent less time shooting in the larger courts and more time on outside courts where I could get in much closer to the action physically.

The difference in the quality of shots was remarkable.

This was mainly due to the use of the DSLR and better quality lenses, but it was also a vast improvement due to the fact that I was able to fill my frame with the players.

Shots came alive with rippling muscles, grimaces on faces and even sweat spraying off players as they hit balls.

Here’s a couple of shots to compare with the one to the left.

Tennis 2-1Tennis 3

Still Life
Having said that filling your frame is important when photographing people, it’s also a very effective technique when photographing ‘things’ or scenes. I learned this lesson on my first trip to Europe a number of years back when on returning I was surprised to find that the shots that got the biggest reactions from people were not the shots that I thought were technically the best shots.

Instead what people responded to were shots that I’d taken on the run in market place situations by putting my little point and shoot digital camera up close to food. While many of the shots were poorly framed, badly exposed and had little planning – they were the shots people ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ about. Here’s two of them.


So how do you fill your frame?

You’ve largely got three options:

  1. Use your Optical Zoom – most point and shoot digital cameras these days come with a zoom lens and all DSLRs are able to be fitted with one. Use them.
  2. Use your Legs – most photographers have a built in zoom in the form of their legs. Don’t just rely upon your cameras zoom but actually position yourself effectively for close in shots.
  3. Crop your Shots – the other option is to zoom in manually at home after you’ve taken your shots. This is a handy option to have but I personally prefer to use one of the first two options where I can because cropping shots later means if you want a large image that you’ll find that it becomes more pixelated. This is a good option if you’re just trimming shots but any major cropping will result in a loss of quality of your image.

Digital Zooms – Another option that many digital camera owners use is to utilize their ‘digital zoom’. Most digital cameras these days have boast about having digital zooms but don’t tell you that to use them will decrease the quality of your shots in a similar way that cropping your shots can. In essence a digital zoom fills your frame by increasing the size of pixels in your shots when can leave you with a grainy impact. I would highly recommend switching off your digital zoom feature and relying upon option 1 and 2 above. If you still need to get in closer you can always crop your shots and achieve the same results as using your digital zoom.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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