Lesson from the Shot - Framing by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

Figure 1
The right frame enhances an already fine photograph. Framing a picture sets it apart from its surroundings. Think about that for a moment. That’s really what photography is…setting the subject apart from its surroundings; isolating what is important from what is unnecessary.
Just as framing a finished photograph isolates the subject, framing isolates what is important (the subject) fro the background. A good picture starts with a frame before it ends in one.
Painters and photographers have used framing as a compositional tool within the picture. Some of the many ways you can naturally frame a subject is using a window to frame the subject. Using tree limbs as frame help give the picture depth.
We hear a lot of talk about learning to see. One of the first steps in the process of seeing is learning to LOOK around the entire area of the viewfinder. If we see only the subject, we’ll miss the trees or telephone poles growing out of a person’s head. We don’t notice the background or strange things sticking from the side of the frame.
Sometimes, when I teach photography, I’ll have a beginner in the class who wants to project their photos for the entire class to see. If they’re a good sport, before looking at the first frame, I’ll tell the class some things to watch for. Nearly every subject will be dead center. There will be few (if any) vertical pictures. Strange objects will appear in and around the subject.
After viewing a few dozen photos, we’re usually all laughing and learning to look at everything that’s in the frame. The scope on a rifle is similar to a long lens on a camera. Our objective with a scope and firearm is to place the subject dead center. If we do this with a camera, we’ll have the same results as the scope—we’ll kill the subject.
Centering the subject on the cross hairs is important focus the subject. Many of today’s digital cameras allow you to move the cross hairs in the viewfinder around so you can compose and focus at the same time.
With some cameras you’ll need to press the shutter release half way down to “hold” the focus and exposure. Either way, the photographer positions the subject to capture what he or she is trying to communicate.
The camera viewfinder and the riflescope may look a lot alike, but use of both are totally differently. When looking through one or the other keep in mind what the goal is. Do you want something framed or stuffed to hang on your wall?
It doesn’t matter if you are using a scope on a rifle or a lens on a camera. If you place the subject dead center you’ll be able to hang something DEAD on the wall.