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How to Take Better Photos, Pt 7

February 13, 2010


Up to now, my Taking Better Photos posts have focused pretty heavily on settings and equipment. But the thing is, having a great lens or dialing in the perfect settings won’t mean squat if you can’t frame your shots.

So this time around, I wanted to talk about a few framing techniques I use to give my photos that extra pop.

Before I dive in, though, I want to make something absolutely clear. Each photo, each shooting situation is unique, and there’s no one right or wrong way to frame a shot. It’s a highly subjective thing, and you have to find what works for you.

Fill the Frame

A lot of untrained photographers tend to stick their subject in the center of the frame and snap away. In a way, this is entirely natural. After all, we see the world through a 180-degree field of view. The thing is, just pointing and shooting can leave your subject lost in the middle of the frame, surrounded by superfluous information.

Instead, take the time to zoom in or step closer, even if it means only capturing a part of your subject. This will give your picture a greater sense of intimacy and depth.

Now, there are exceptions to be made. If you’re shooting and landscape, by all means zoom out and capture as wide a view as possible. You can also zoom out on your subject if there’s a particular look your going for, as with this photo of Nolan wandering around a farm…

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of those framing techniques that a lot of people tend to make way more complex than it needs to be.

Basically, it involves dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, like so…

…with the idea being that you should align your subject with one of the “power points” where the lines intersect.

Personally, I’ve always found this explanation needlessly technical and, honestly, a bit stuffy. Instead, just remember this:

Keep your subject off-center.

Now…what if you’re already filling the frame? How do you keep your subject off-center?

Simple. Instead of keeping your entire subject off-center, focus on keeping the focal point off-center. For example, if you’re shooting a portrait, try to put your subject’s eyes on those power points, instead of just putting their face smack in the middle of the frame.

Shoot Off-Axis

This is another technique that involves sort of going against your natural inclination.

Most of the time, when we take pictures, we take them exactly how we see the world. That is to say, we take them on a level plane. Sometimes this works just fine…all of the examples shown above were shot on a level plane, or very near to it, and they came out great. But sometimes, shooting from a level plane can result in a shot that’s just plain boring.

You can add an extra element of visual interest to your pictures by shooting off-level.

And that’s a quick roundup of three quick-and-easy framing techniques you can use to punch up your pictures. Stay tuned for more…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kay McDougall permalink
    February 14, 2010 8:39 am

    Great tips. Thanks.

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