Lesson from the Shot: Using Frames to Isolate the Subject by Stanley Leary

 

 
Figure 1
 
We hear a lot of talk about learning to “see”. One of the first steps in that process is learning to LOOK at the entire frame in the viewfinder. 
 
If we look only at the subject, we’ll miss the trees or telephone poles growing out of a person’s head. 
 
When I teach photography, there’s usually someone eager to project photos before the entire class. If the student is a good sport, I’ll tell the class some key elements to note before we look at the first image.  Nearly every subject will be dead center, there will be few (if any) vertical pictures, and strange objects will appear around the subject. 
 
By the time we’ve viewed a few dozen photos, we’re usually all laughing and learning to look at everything that’s in the frame.
 
Framing a picture sets it apart from its surroundings. A good frame enhances an already good photograph. Think about that for a moment. That’s what photography is…setting the subject apart from its surroundings; isolating what is important, from what is unnecessary.
 
Painters and photographers use framing as a compositional tool within the picture.  One of the more common framing methods is to use a window or tree limbs around the subject to enhance depth. Other framing devices are doors or arches.
 
A scope on a rifle is similar to a long lens on a camera. The objective of a scope and firearm is to place the target dead center. If we do this with a camera, we’ll have the same results—we’ll kill the subject. In photography, it’s better “not” to place the subject dead center, because it freezes the eye to the center of the frame.
 
However, centering the subject on the “crosshairs” or “focus point” is important to make sure the primary elements are in focus. Many digital cameras allow one to move the “crosshairs” or “focus points” around the viewfinder to facilitate composition and focus at the same time. 
 
Another technique is to press the shutter half way to hold the focus and exposure. The photographer can then recompose to capture what he or she is trying to communicate.
 
While a camera viewfinder and a riflescope can look similar, use them totally differently. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a scope on a rifle or a lens on a camera. If you place the subject dead center, either way you’ll be able to hang something DEAD on the wall!