5 Minutes for Photography: Filling the Frame

by CarrieB

If there is one thing we moms all have in common — we love to have tons of great photos of our kids!

So, whether you are fanatical about taking photos or you are holding that new digital camera desperately wishing you wish you knew how to make it take those great shots you want, this new column will give you some ideas to inject extra creativity into your photography.

We’ll focus on simple things that anyone, with any camera, can do. And there will be lots of examples along the way…

Filling the Frame

In our last 5 Minutes for Photography post we looked at shooting from creative angles. This week we’re going to talk about giving your photos more impact by zooming in on your subject.

Particularly when you’re taking pictures of kids, photos are usually all about their expression or their activity. The environment generally doesn’t have much to offer — a messy bedroom, a cluttered yard… not exactly National Geographic material. I know the feeling.

The biggest thing you can do to change this is, zoom in! I know this may sound like a “duh”, but bear with me.

Try this: Before taking a picture, check the distance between your subject and the four edges of your image, and then reposition or zoom the camera until the subject is right up against as many of them as possible.

Here, my son was striking a great pose, but there was a hideously ugly port-a-potty in the background — and brightly colored, to boot. (Every photographer’s dream! Not.) But by zooming in to fill the frame, you hardly notice the stuff in the background!

Here’s another idea to control your backgrounds even more: Rather than taking a photo from a few feet away as you normally might do, if you back up twice as far from the subject but zoom in twice as much, the photo will show a much different background around the subject.

Even though the subject is exactly the same size in these photos, look at the difference in the background between shooting with a wider angle compared to zooming in:

Now, I’m not claiming that one of these photos is “better”, but you can see how the background changes completely by zooming in or out, without affecting the subject at all, when you change position to make up for it. By controlling this, you can make the decision with every photo you take about what style background will look best.

With an SLR camera, your background will be more fuzzy and out-of-focus the more you zoom in. This created a perfect effect here:

By zooming in, it’s also fine to forgo full-body shots, and capture only as much of your subject’s body as is necessary to “tell the story”:

Be forewarned that, the further you zoom in, the more obvious it will be if you’re not holding the camera perfectly still. (This is where that anti-shake or vibration-reduction feature comes in handy!) You may want to use a flash or shoot in outdoor light to keep from getting blurry photos.

In this last photo, the background is actually just the sun shining through a white curtain over our back window. But because the sunlight was so bright, it created a perfectly white background when we laid our son with a blanket on the table in front of the window:

(We also had to turn off the flash for this photo, and kept increasing the camera’s brightness control until the background was solid white. Zooming in kept all the window’s edges are outside the photo so as not to be distracting!)

Have fun trying out these ideas, and share your photos with us! Post some of your favorite images on your own blog, and add it to our Mr. Linky:

And if you like, you can display a 5 Minutes for Photography button in your post to help your readers find more photo posts.


Carrie B and her husband Jonathan are Oregon wedding photographers, and you can see more of their recent photos on their photography blog. She’s also a staff reviewer for 5 Minutes for Books, and operates her own book review blog as well!

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