Focus on Travel Photography

Photography Composition Rules Close-Ups Simplifying Filling the Frame Choosing a Format Placing the Horizon Line The Rule of Thirds Lines Taking Pictures Through Frames Patterns Textures High and Low Camera Angles Abstract Composition Establishing Size Color
Filling the Frame
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Filling the Frame

There's an old adage in photography that says if you want to improve your photographs 100 percent, move closer. It's true. The one sure way to keep from including too much extraneous information in a photograph is to fill the frame with your subject and nothing but your subject. Filling the frame from edge to edge leaves little doubt about what your intended target was. There are two ways to get closer: Use a telephoto lens or put some more wear on your walking shoes.

The simple act of making your subject bigger in the frame involves the viewer at a much more intense level. A chin-to-forehead portrait of an interesting face, for example, immediately puts the viewer eye-to-eye with your subject. A very tight shot of a bear—even if you made it with a long lens at the zoo—creates breathless drama.

A common problem here is that we often think we're filling the frame when in fact we're not even close. If the guy at your local one-hour lab had a nickel for every time he's heard a customer say, "Gee, that waterfall seemed so close in person but it looks so far away in my pictures," he'd be the one doing all the exotic traveling. What's happening is that when you're standing in front of a scene, you're concentrating so intently on your subject that your brain is tricked into thinking your subject is closer than it actually is.

The solution? As soon as you think you're close enough to your subject, take a few steps forward (provided you're not on the rim of the Grand Canyon) and try again. Just before you snap the shutter, roll your eye around the frame and see if there's anything you can eliminate. When in doubt, take a few more steps closer.

Next: "Choosing a Format"