When it comes to the rules of composition in photography there are two things you need to know: 1) all the basic rules of composing a good photograph and how to execute them and 2) when to disregard those rules.

To start, composition in photography refers to how the elements in the frame are constructed and arranged to result in the desired final image.  There are a lot of these rules and a lot of expert opinions on how and when they should be executed.  Knowing them will help you be a better photographer and help you know when they do not apply to the image you are trying to construct.  I have already talked about framing the subject, leading lines and vertical vs. horizontal composition so up next is filling the frame.

Photo of a red bird in Arizona Example of a subject filling the frame in a photograph

The image on the left has distraction that takes away from the main subject, the bird.  The photo on the right works better because it fills the frame and nothing else in the image takes away from the bird.

Filling the frame is about making your intended subject the center of attention by doing just that, filling the frame, from top to bottom and left to right with nothing but your subject.  By cropping out the background “noise” and distraction you bring the subject to the forefront and leave no doubt as to what your photograph is about.  But as with all of these photography composition rules this is not an absolute rule.  You can’t zoom in on the intended subject and cut out everything in the background and expect a good rule obeying photograph.  Sometimes the background is part of the story or it enhances rather than distracts from the main subject or maybe that “distraction” gives your particular image the creative touch you were looking for.  This is where part two comes into play, know the rule and then know when it does not apply.

Example of a fill the fraem photo
In this photo the branches of the tree go from top to bottom and left to right completely filling the space within the borders of the image frame.  This technique makes it clear that the tree is the central subject of the photograph.

2 Responses to “Photography 101 – Composition in Photography – Filling the Frame”

  1. Greg Taylor

    on March 2 2010

    I love photo 101 posts. They always remind me of the basics that are the cornerstone of great photography. Thanks for your series.

    My recent blog post deals with three tips for beginning photographers.


  2. Mike

    on March 2 2010

    Hi Greg, Thanks for the comment. Writing about the basics is always a good refresher.

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