Inspiration Photography

What’s in the frame rules the composition

How do you decide what stays in the frame?

When you find an image inside your camera’s viewfinder, how do you decide what stays in, and what stays out?

The decisions to include or exclude certain things make up how you compose. Because a photographer is limited by the (usually) rectangular frame of the resulting image, framing is one of the most important considerations when making images.

There are two ways you can frame an image—you can shoot it, or you can crop it later. If you can be economical in your framing at the time you’re shooting, you don’t have to crop the image. That means saving time, and saving pixels.

Keeping the resolution and size of the image you captured can have its advantages, like when you want to print it. The most important advantage it has to your craft, however, is that you learn how to compose an image with economy, paying attention to the design you capture within that frame.

To extend what we learn about composition, this post looks at a few things that can affect the design of your image. We’re looking at subject placement and the role of lines and shapes.

Let’s break the lessons down into smaller parts to look at them more closely.

Using The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a simplified version of the Golden Mean, a composition technique that’s been around since before photography was invented. The Rule of Thirds is useful to place the subject in a ‘hotspot,’ or an attractive placement that seems to be pleasing to humans.

When you’re out shooting, keep in mind the grid and the Rule of Thirds. Many simple yet effective compositions have been made with this rule. You can also combine the Rule of Thirds composition technique with other design elements, such as scale.

In this video on landscape composition, Nature TTL looks at using foreground to achieve scale and a three-dimensional look to an image.

Using foreground in compositions video by Nature TTL.

Lines and Shapes

We also learned that sometimes, the Rule of Thirds works along with the placement of lines and shapes within the frame. Lines can be used to lead into and out of the frame. They can be used to push attention to the subject.

Some scenes lend themselves more naturally to the use of lines and shapes. Here are some examples with a bit of discussion after each one.

The triangle is a great way to add dynamic tension to your photo. What this means is that your photo has a way for the eye to enter and move in the frame as the viewer looks at your composition. Triangles can be quite attractive to the human eye.

Lines also enable the viewer to enter and then exit the photo with ease. Giving the viewer a path to view the image is a way to make the experience of looking at your image pleasing, making your image attractive.

Lines don’t have to be straight. They can be curvy, too. A photographer at work isn’t always thinking in a linear fashion.

We don’t have a checklist in our head most of the time. Images we want to make appear in front of us quickly, giving us only seconds to react and press the shutter. But we can be aware that there are certain designs that attract us to add some things to a frame or cut other things out of the frame.

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