There is a common phrase used in photography that sounds: “If it is not good enough, it is not close enough” (Robert Capa). The meaning is simple: if you don’t like the photo you have just taken, get closer to your subject and retake the picture. This page describes why to get closer, and fill the frame.
Filling the frame means that your subject should cover as much space as available in your photo. Just like a painter would use the entire canvas for a painting.
In portrait photography, this means you have to get close to your model and fill the frame with his or her face. By doing this, you create a connection between the model and the viewer of the photo. While if you maintain a large distance to your model, the facial expressions are less visible in the photo, and the viewer does not feel connected to the model.
Another reason to cover the canvas (or photo) as much as possible with your subject, is to reduce the number distracting elements (simply by not showing them). Too many background items create a chaotic scene, as the well know acronym K.I.S.S. sounds: “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Besides, by getting close to your subject, you are showing more details of the subject self.
Consider the images below. Both pictures show a bench during sunset, it is the same bench. After doing a little research, it became clear that most people preferred the photo close to the bench, as it evoked most emotions. In the picture on the right side, the tree was considered to be distracting.
In conclusion, whichever composition rule you use, you need to consider if you want to fill the frame, or not. This choice is up to the situation and mood you want to capture.
Three applications and advantages of filling the frame are:
- To show more details of the subject
- To remove distracting elements, by showing less of the background
- To create a connection with the subject
If your intentions are to set a mood where the viewer is a spectator, you don’t want a connection with the subject. In that case, you might consider not to fill the frame.
Hopefully this page helped you to make the choice that is right for your photos.