Photography is all about framing. We see a subject – and we put a frame around it. Essentially, that is photography when all is said and done.
The frame, therefore, is significant as it is the limit we set for our images and the elements within them. Everything within theframe is considered by the photographer to be important.
On the other hand, whatever hasbeen excluded from within that frame musthave been omitted for good reason.In other words, put your frame around only what you want, and donâ€™t expect the viewer to have to look for the subject. Tell the viewer inno uncertain terms what your image is about. Their eyes should not need to rove aboutwithin the frame looking for a place to stop.
Composition is about highlighting the subject,and proper composition, whatever that is, will do that effectively. There is much more to highlighting the subject that simply framing it of course, but it is the first place we start. Putting a frame around something and calling it art is hardly photography though,especially if that something is already beautiful in itself. If we simply rely on the beauty of the subject and not consider how we translate that subject within the frame, we are hardly doing anybody any favours â€“ especially ourselves. However, this is the kind of thinking behind so many of the proud â€˜sunsetâ€™ and flower snapshots people take. Yeah, itâ€™s beautiful, but you didnâ€™t make it. You just put it in a frame.When we put a frame around something we are saying â€œthatâ€™s how I see it. You might see it differently, but thatâ€™s how I see it.â€ When we do that, we can begin to call it our own. The placement of subject or subjects within that frame is entirely up to us. How we frame the subject indicates its importance to us in the context in which we find it.
Placement within the Frame
The space consumed by any element with inthe frame is one of the first indicators of the level of importance it has in the image, as does its compositional placement. Sometimes it is the combination of the two that subliminally indicates its importance. For instance,something placed where horizontal the vertical thirds meet is immediately considered important, even though the subject itself may not consume much area within the frame. It is the combination of the two compositional techniques that achieves that. So, the â€˜fill theframeâ€™ rule is not always true where yoursubject is concerned and where it isimpossible to achieve can be overcome by a simple compositional placement.
Format is perhaps the first decision we make when framing and arranging our subjects. This decision will also determine to a large degree what it is we are leaving in, and what we are discarding. Really, – what we are talking about is vertical and horizontal framing. These formats are usually called â€˜landscapeâ€™ and â€˜portraitâ€™, but these names should not be considered the rules of thumb that we must always apply. Just as landscapes can be successfully captured vertically, so also portraits can be photographed in horizontal or â€˜landscapeâ€™ format. There are no hard and fast rules here, and as always, it is in the breaking of rules that some of the most dynamic images are born. It is natural for us to take up our cameras and see everything in horizontal format. In fact, most ameras are designed to fit into your hand in such a way that horizontal format is the default configuration. Only a handful of cameras are designed with a second shutter release buttonon the side of the camera that makes it just as easy for us to compose our images vertically.That being the case, many amateur photographers default most commonly to framing everything in horizontal (landscape) format and this is made understandable when, as humans, we tend to see the world as a horizontal vista with blurred edges. But while both our human vision and our camera may make us tend toward horizontal format, it obviously doesnâ€™t need to be the case with our photography. Letâ€™s examine some of the reasons behind vertical and horizontal formatting.
Format for Landscapes
Landscapes are usually photographed using horizontal framing, and that is usually simply a matter of logic. Landscapes are often vistas, and vistas are horizontal. However, while the term â€˜landscapeâ€™ usually refers to a horizontal framing it is not necessary to format your landscape this way. Strong foreground interest is often the key to a successful landscape image, and vertical (portrait) formatting works well for foreground inclusion. Also, if the sky is a major feature, you may also opt for a vertical format instead of horizontal, perhaps even placing the horizon in the lower third of the frame and accentuating the sky.
Format for Portraits
Portrait format (vertical) is, as its name suggests, the standard for portraits. People are vertical, so our images need to be vertical tooâ€“ or so it is commonly thought. The thinking behind this is logical because horizontally composed portraits are often weakened by a composition that by its very nature will flank either side of the individual with empty space or distracting clutter. Getting closer will remove legs or tops of heads, so portrait formatting simply makes sense with most of our people pictures. However, just as with landscapes there is often good reason to format our portraits horizontally. The subject may be in a reclining, horizontal position for instance, Also, contextual and environmental portraits work well this way, allowing room for the subject to be explained within his or her surroundings. Social comment, travel and documentary portraits also work well in a horizontal format. Consider the reasons for the images you take of any individual and format them accordingly. When framing portraits, a technique allowing for â€œlooking roomâ€ is often employed and tends toward horizontal format – but not always. This technique requires that the photographer allow space within the frame forthe subject to look or move into. This isbecause all subjects – both animate and inanimate, have a visual energy within the frame and space needs to be permitted within the frame for their implied movement or vision. However, the deliberate disregard of this rule often adds visual tension to the image and can work equally well.
An Angle on the Composition
Once upon a time, taking a picture at skewed or tilted angle was a no-no, until someone oneday asked â€˜why not?â€™ Sometimes it is the most logical way to frame a subject. Sometimes it is just more interesting, thatâ€™s all. Working from corner to corner with a tilted angel can be very effective and this skewed view on the world is yet another dynamic to add interest to your image. Either way, ensure that you add this as a third option to your formatting choices from time to time.
Format for composition
Not all of our photographs fall into the category of portrait of landscape. The world is filled with objects to photograph and they may fall into neither category. But the principles used in formatting portraits and landscapes are still applicable. The emphasis must be on highlighting the subject and adding dynamics to the image. Before you press the shutter release button, ensure that you have checked the image both ways â€“ and at an angle – and make your decision there after. Framing is the first step in a series of steps that lead to successful and pleasing images. If that first step is achieved correctly, often the rest follows through more easily.