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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fill the frame

This is one of those pictures that breaks all the rules of composition and as a result is worse for it. The rock wallaby is smack bang in the middle of the frame, no part of it is on one of the intersecting thirds and it's not looking at the camera.

In other words it's a snapshot. There's a bit of environment around it but certainly not enough so that I would call it an environmental portrait.

In other words it's a ho-hum record shot of the profile of a Mareeba rock wallaby.

I'm just not close enough for it to be an effective portrait, but at the same time I haven't got enough of the surrounding rocks for it to put the animal in perspective with its surroundings. That's what makes it so wishy-washy. So here are a couple of the alternatives.

Now the first alternative is to fill the frame with the little furry critter. Now we're nice and close and we can actually see how cute these little guys are. The side lighting has brought out the texture in the fur and there's a nice shady background so the wallaby sticks out.

And you'll notice here that the perspective has changed. I'm using a longer telephoto lens to really zoom in on the little guy (or is it a girl?). What that does is really blur the background, giving me a nice narrow depth of field which really helps the wallaby stick out even more.

Going back to our rule of thirds you'll see that the wallaby's eye is pretty much at the junction of the top and right hand third. Sure I've cut off his tail but that doesn't matter too much because the aim was to capture his (her?) face.

But the thing with this image is that we've lost all sense of where the wallaby lives. To understand that we need to fit more in.

There were a couple of ways I could have fit more of the environment in. One of them would have been to get up really, really close with a wide-angle lens. The wallabies weren't too nervous around people so I probably could have gone that way.

The problem with wide-angle lenses though is that they make big things look really small when they're a long way away from the camera. So my (close-up) wallaby would have looked really big and the huge boulders all around me would have looked really small. So I needed to use the telephoto.

Which meant I had to look out for wallabies that were a long way away. Like this little fella sitting on the rocks. But you say, you said to fill the frame but the wallaby's really small. Yes it is but what I have filled the frame with is that giant set of rocks. And one tiny little wallaby which gives a portrait of the environment that the wallaby lives in, while at the same time showing how small they actually are. The big rocks highlights their tiny size even more.

So that's 3 pictures of the same animals all done differently. One pretty ho-hum and a couple which I really like. The first one fills nothing, the second two fill the frame with stuff that contributes to the photo and the viewer's impression of the animal.

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