Fixing Framing Problems
Most beginner photographers don't get close enough to their subjects when shooting. As a result, their pictures have too much space around the subjects. Although you can compensate for this by cropping after the picture is taken, it is better to get the shot right initially. If you practice cropping through your viewfinder, you can overcome this problem quickly.
FIGURE 13-1 The simplicity of this tulip is captured in all of its beautiful detail by letting it fill the frame.
This practice will also result in better quality photos that are easier to print. If you are using film, you won't have to enlarge your pictures and then physically crop them down to create the images you want. With digital images, more information is retained, increasing overall picture quality. The next time you're shooting, take an extra moment before you press the shutter. Check all four edges of the frame in the viewfinder or LCD screen. Crop out background clutter. Move or zoom in so the subject fills up as much of the frame as possible.
It is possible to get a little too close to your subjects. Avoid getting so close that you crop either animal or human subjects precisely at a joint — neck, wrist, knee, ankle, or elbow — or through the eyes; it makes the viewer feel squeamish. It's always better to crop your picture before you take it. Cropping “in the camera” uses the maximum image area, which means that very little is wasted on things you don't want to show in the final picture.
You can see the effects of cropping on your pictures without actually cutting any of them. Make two L-shaped pieces of poster board or another type of flexible cardboard (such as an old cereal box). Use them to form opposite corners of an adjustable rectangle. Place them over your 4″ × 6″ prints to see how your pictures can be improved.
Filling the frame with the image is a key element in improving your photographs. So is filling the frame properly. Many inexperienced photographers make framing mistakes, and the resulting pictures range from the visually confusing to the downright funny.
If you're photographing scenery and want to include a person clearly in the picture, frame the scenery in your viewfinder first, then bring the human subject (your second subject) close enough to the camera to be clearly identified. The exception to this would be if your purpose in including people in a landscape shot is to show the scale of a tree or other object.
Most portraits are shot vertically, but horizontal composition can work as well. Artful framing, using power points, and the rule of thirds further increase visual impact. Positioning the subject's eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame produces a pleasing effect.
If you put your subject's eyes at or below the horizontal middle of the frame, your image suggests the person wasn't tall enough to reach camera level. As you frame your subject for a head-and-shoulders portrait, position her eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame. This works for vertical or horizontal framing and for closeups or full-length portraits. For a powerful horizontal closeup, get close enough so that when the eyes are at the one-third line, you crop out the top of the head. Don't let either of the eyes come closer to the top of the frame than that one-third line.
It almost never works to have your subject looking out of the frame of a picture. Turn the subject's body toward the center of the picture and have him look at the camera, at the scenery, or toward the center of the scene.
Mobile subjects in a static scene leave the viewer unsure of what the picture is about. If the picture is about scenery, do not have people walking across it. On the other hand, if your picture is about the people and the scenery is merely a beautiful backdrop, then having them move across the scenery does work. Putting the direction of travel on a diagonal makes a more interesting, dynamic shot.