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Successful photographs usually have one thing in common – an obvious point of focus or a subject that is the dominating element.
One of the main reasons a photograph falls flat is because there is no central or main feature to draw in the viewer’s attention.
One very easy way to combat boring, flat photos is to practice the simple idea of filling the frame.
Of course, you might say – I always fill the frame; it’s impossible not to!
With this idea, though, you are working on being a lot more intentional about how you compose.
When we “fill the frame,” we are attempting to make a photo’s intention completely clear. The viewer should have no doubt as to what the photograph is about.
Instead of getting fixated on your subject, and focusing your attention almost totally on that (something I see people doing all the time on my workshops), we are considering every single part of the frame.
We are looking at the corners. This is probably the most common thing many of my students don’t do – look at what’s in their corners.
Often there are things that don’t need to be there which you only realize afterward when studying your images.
We are considering what is running alongside the edges. What’s poking in that shouldn’t be there? It’s amazing how a stray branch or a bit of litter can make its way into your image without you noticing.
We become aware of every part of the frame to make sure that every single element is working to complement our subject.
Now, this is key. Every single thing in your frame needs to be working with, or complementing your subject.
If it’s not, you need to move around and try to work the subject and surrounding elements into a better composition.
Sometimes a photographer will react too quickly. They make a photo from where they are standing instead of thinking about the most favorable position to be in and how it can greatly improve the image.
I mention position here because I believe it is the first option when it comes to filling the frame with a subject.
Usually, what happens when we do not fill the frame with our subject is we end up creating a lot of space in the photograph. This is all fine if you are using this space with intent. However, if you are not, then it just looks vast and empty, and your subject is competing with the “bad space.”
Changing your position and getting closer to your subject is your best first choice. Remove that unwanted space by physically moving closer or zoom in if you must. (I will always prefer moving to zooming).
Have a look at the photos of mine that I’ve included in this article. They are all images where everything in the frame is 100% relevant. Even with a complex image like this, I have considered every part of it:
In general, bad photographs have way too much wasted space. You can easily remedy this by thinking about your position relative to your subject.
Do you need to get closer to reduce wasted space around your subject? This also has the added benefit of making a photo more intimate when you get closer.
If changing position is not possible, then now would be a good time to switch lenses. This method is not as good (I think) as changing your physical position, but it can allow you to fill the frame, drawing interest to your subject.
This is a very common mistake for beginner-photographers.
Some do not put enough effort into looking at the entire frame and what lies on the edges of it. When you shoot this way, you find yourself cropping a lot more to remove those things you overlooked when shooting.
It is better to learn to see the whole frame than to get good at cropping because you didn’t see it in-camera.
Let’s say you moved in closer to fill that frame. Now is a good time to ask yourself – is there anything else that does not need to be in the frame?
You can find the answer to this by asking if it is helping or hurting your subject. If you decide the element does not need to be there then take it out.
This usually requires a change of position or some movement from you!
If you are really dedicated to filling your frame and making better images, then my one ultimate piece of advice is to NOT fixate on your subject.
This is the #1 reason photographers are dissatisfied with their images later.
Sure, be in awe and wonder of what you are shooting, that’s part of the joy of doing photography. However, don’t lose yourself to the point your composition is not it’s very best.
Remember to always shoot with intent.
I would love to know what you think of my tips and ideas about ways to improve your photos. Please let me know in the comments below.
Is this an idea you practice? Alternatively, is this new and you think you might use this in the future?
Thanks for reading.