Thursday, June 1, 2006

Fill the frame for maximum impact


By David Gewirtz

Here in Connected Photographer, we've talked often about the importance of image composition. A large part of the photographic art is how you compose your image. When you fire your shutter release, you're snapping a fraction of second of time, preserving it for posterity. Of all the possible pictures in all the possible places at all the possible times in the universe, you're choosing just one. Make it count.

One of my favorite tricks for turning what might be a ho-hum picture into a high impact picture is filling the frame. If you just move in close to your subject, your image will appear more compelling.

To illustrate this, we'll pull two pictures from our trusty clipart library. In the first, the photographer took a fine picture of a marina, but nothing stands out, as you can see in Figure A.


A quite fine marina photo. (click for larger image)

However, in Figure B, the photographer zoomed in on the foreground boat, virtually filling the frame with it.


You can see the difference. (click for larger image)

You can certainly see the difference between the two pictures. Filling the frame is a very simple process. Simply zoom in on your subject, making your subject take up the bulk of your frame. Let's use one of my photos as an example. In Figure C, I zoomed in on the front of the airplane, and it gives you a completely different view of the craft than you'd normally see.


Let's zoom in on the nose cone. (click for larger image)

As we zoom in on the nose cone and use our imaginations, we can see a nose (the cone), eyes (the lights), and even a mouth (the grill). We know that Japanese car designers have been known to use living creatures for inspiration. Did the designers of this small plane do the same?

If you look closely at this image, you can see some dirt and grime on the cowl. Removing it would have been relatively quick work in Photoshop, but I chose to keep the original visage of the craft, feeling that the verisimilitude led credibility to this almost whimsical photo. And yes, I had to look up the spelling of "verisimilitude".

Let's use one more example from my own work. As you can see in Figure D, I filled the frame with the lifeboat.


I filled the frame with the lifeboat. (click for larger image)

Taken at Mystic Seaport, this was a challenge to save. Although the boat does fill most of the frame, much of the original image, shown in Figure E, was hidden in shadow.


This is the original image. You can see where reconstruction was needed. (click for larger image)

While I could dodge and burn most of the image to bring out the details, I actually had to recreate by hand, digitally, much of the wood trim the boat's sitting upon. You can see some of where my digital work intersected the original if you look very closely.