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Making an Impact: Fill the Frame

beginners composition creative technique tips Apr 24, 2024

Exposure, focus, and colour balance are all vital technical considerations when capturing a photograph, but composition is king. An image may be technically impeccable, yet remarkably dull without exceptional composition. One of the most effective ways to create compositions with impact is by filling the frame.


When you fill the frame, you bring your subject to the forefront, eliminating distractions and creating a bold, striking image. It’s a technique that works wonders for portraits, products, buildings, abstracts, and everything in between, eliminating unnecessary elements within your frame.

 Filling the frame with just part of your subject can sometimes be more powerful than including everything.


So, how can you effectively fill the frame?

It’s a simple concept, but there are several considerations to ensure good results. Firstly, contemplate how you will fill the frame. There are two main options: either move closer to your subject or switch to a lens with a narrow-angle of view (telephoto). It’s crucial to remember that the lens you select will influence the perspective within your image and determine how close you need to be to fill the frame.


Wide-angle lens (28mm or lower):

Shooting up close with a wide-angle lens creates a heightened sense of drama, as elements closer to your camera appear much larger than those further back in your composition. This technique is used by press and PR photographers as it injects dynamism into photographs of relatively mundane subjects.


A wide-angle lens will distort perspective when used close to your subject and can be used for dramatic effect.


Standard lens (35mm to 85mm):

A standard lens has a very similar angle of view to the human eye, resulting in a natural-looking perspective. Images captured with a standard lens feel familiar and true to life, offering viewers a sense of immersion and authenticity.


A standard lens will create very natural-looking shots as the angle of view closely matches that of the human eye.


Telephoto lens (100mm or higher):

Utilising a longer focal length lens offers an alternative approach, resulting in compressed perspective. This compression makes objects at varying distances from your camera appear closer together, leading to a unique visual effect. Such compression can produce abstract compositions, particularly when the frame is filled with only a fraction of a larger subject. By employing this technique, photographers can compose images that manipulate perception, drawing viewers into a world where scale and distance are altered.

 A telephoto lens allows you to fill the frame even when it's not possible to get physically closer. A wide aperture allows the background to be blurred which further highlights your subject.


Benefits of Filling the Frame:

Eliminate Distractions: Filling the frame removes clutter and distractions from the background, allowing your subject to stand out.

Highlight Details: Getting closer enables you to capture intricate details and textures, adding depth and interest to your images.

Create Impact: A tightly framed shot can evoke emotion and deliver a powerful visual impact.


How to Fill the Frame:

Get Closer: Physically move closer to your subject until it fills the frame. This method works well for static subjects or situations where you have control over your position.

Use Your Telephoto Lens: If you can't get physically closer to your subject, use your telephoto lens to bring it closer within the frame. This is particularly useful for situations where you can't move freely, such as wildlife photography or events.


Fill the frame with drama by using a telephoto lens to isolate the action.


It’s essential to carefully consider your composition, even when filling the frame with your subject. Guidelines such as the rule of thirds remain significant and can enhance the impact of your images further.


Technical Considerations:

Aperture: When filling the frame, consider your aperture settings carefully. A wider aperture (lower f-stop) can create a shallow depth of field, isolating your subject from the background, especially with longer focal lengths. Experiment with different apertures to achieve the desired effect.

Shutter Speed: Adjust your shutter speed according to the lighting conditions and movement of your subject to avoid motion blur. With telephoto lenses, use a faster shutter speed to prevent blur caused by camera movement.

ISO: Monitor your ISO settings to preserve image quality and minimise noise, particularly in low-light situations.


Try Different Subjects:

Portraits: Zoom in on your subject's face to capture emotion and personality.

Landscapes: Focus on isolating a single element, such as a rock formation or solitary tree, rather than the entire landscape.

Cities: Explore architectural details and patterns within buildings.

Macro Photography: Get up close and personal with your subject to reveal intricate details often overlooked.



Renowned war photographer Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.” Embracing the art of filling the frame allows photographers to bring subjects to the forefront, eliminating distractions and creating powerful images with maximum impact.

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