Your first thought when taking a photo, (and it happens like lightening in the brain) is “what do I see”. Second is “how do I capture it”. This part of the thinking process takes a bit longer but with practice, comes naturally every time you pick up your camera to shoot. Building on the idea of composition from my previous blog, it’s time to take a look at how to “frame” your picture. No, I don’t mean a physical frame, but your visual frame.
As you all know, a frame consists of four corners and four sides. Well, a square or rectangle one does, anyway, which is what you will be using. Your camera has a frame inside the viewfinder or on the back screen. Even those of you using a cell phone camera have a “frame” already in place to work with. Here’s an exercise I do every time I look through my viewfinder. Before I snap the picture, I look at the four corners and sides. Do I have what I want in the image? Are the corners set the way I want? Do I have an object in an area along the frame that interferes with my vision? (It takes longer to type this that than to actually think it!)
As you can see in the image above, I did not notice the leaves on the left because I was so intent on the boats I completely missed them! It happens…
My next shot was without the leaves. This time I checked the “frame” to ensure I didn’t have any “stragglers” along those lines. But then the image became “boring” for me. No oomph or specialness. Just a touristy picture of some boats.
So, I expanded my view inside the frame (I had been using a Canon 18-135mm zoom lens) and came up with an image that really was what I was looking for. There is so much going on in this scene and I got my boats! The image below tells more of the story of the people living in the Cinque Terre area of Italy and their love of the sea. It’s filled with the colorful boats as well as lines that draw the eye around the image (more about that later in another blog). It’s all about the story you want to tell your viewer without having to say a word.
You might like the first one and that’s great. The only thing I would ask you is “why”? What makes it better than the second or third one. It isn’t that you are wrong in your thinking, but you might see something I don’t and that’s great! You are developing your own “vision” and to me, that is what photography is all about.
Ask yourself these two questions when setting up a shot (yep, couple more questions for your brain to ponder). 1. Are you taking a snapshot for a vacation album? 2. Or, are you trying to capture an image to hang on your wall, give as a gift, or to sell? A well-framed image makes all the difference between a snapshot and a wonderful piece of imagery that you can take pride in.
Practice looking at the corners and sides before snapping and you will be much happier with your results. It only takes a second. After a while, it comes naturally (unless you zero in on something like I did and completely missed the huge leaves on the left side!). One more tibit, be sure to leave some space on the sides, top and bottom in case you decide to crop later. I will cover this aspect of composition later. It is one of my worst faults as I try to capture the “perfect” picture in-camera. Have a great day and get out there and shoot!