TAOP Part One: Looking through the viewfinder:Fitting the frame to the subject

Project: Looking through the viewfinder

25.1.11 Exercise : Fitting the frame to the subject (p.25).

The aims of the exercise were:-

  1. Find a subject that is clear in appearance, compact in shape and accessible from close to and from a distance.
  2. Get into a position to see the entire subject in the viewfinder and photograph as I normally would –without taking too much time to consider the composition.
  3. Take more care over the second picture, moving in and around to make the subject fit the frame as tightly as possible – right up to the edges if I could, but not beyond.
  4. Close in so that I can see none of the edges of the subject and photograph just a part of it.
  5. Move right back until the subject occupies only a small part of the frame and do my best to make a composition that stresses the surroundings. If the subject is easy to move consider placing it more effectively within its surroundings.
  6. Compare with the Workbook examples.
  7. Use either frames or the cropping tool and crop the picture using alternative possibilities.

Setting up

It was a dull, damp day but I wanted to get on with the exercises.  The easy way would have been to find something in the garden, but I wanted to be out and about with my camera. The day was pretty dark and I wanted something colourful.  A red postbox came into mind first but then I thought of the local playground which could be a good place if it was empty (I didn’t want parents rushing up to me and asking why I was photographing their children as this is a very sensitive issue nowadays).  I was in luck because there was only one young dad with his daughter and I waited until they had left. 

1st photograph – conventional viewpoint

I did this without thinking and I’ve certainly left a lot of space around the rocking horse.  This is how I used to take photographs and I hope I do it less often now.  I was interested though, in reading  ‘The Photographer’s Eye’, to note Michael Freeman’s comments that the eye , “may feel uncomfortable concentrating on points falling very nearer the edges of the picture” (Freeman, 2007, p. 22).  This is often my experience.  I usually like to see the context of an image because it helps me to relate to it more on the whole.  Also, I have a sensation of  feeling a little ‘hemmed in’.  The context here looks rather boring to me though.  Yes, I can see trees, a fence and a bench but that’s it.  It might be different if there was a person sitting on the bench or someone walking alongside the fence.  The rocking horse looks small and lonely.

Turning to the image in the Workbook (p.25) the conventional viewpoint of the ferry is similar.  It’s just a boat surrounded by sea and it looks quite small.

2nd photograph – subject shot to exactly fill the frame

Well – it doesn’t exactly fill the frame but is pretty near to it.  My eyes don’t feel too bad because I can see a little space around it but not too much.  The horse looks more solid somehow as well.  If I didn’t know it I could still guess that it’s in a park or playground and can see a little of the bench behind.  I can more clearly see the 8 bolts holding the parts of it together.  This is similar to the example of the boat where I’m more aware of all the lifebelts around it and can see the name of the ferry.

3rd photograph – close in

I can only see a part of the horse now.  The close shot reveals the dirt around the edges of the bolts.  The printed version looks really colourful. I’m also aware though that I don’t really have as much sense of its scale because there isn’t any context.

4th photograph – subject within a landscape

I took several from different angles but chose the one below because it locates the horse more clearly within a playground and conveys some of the surroundings also – trees and cars in the car park.

I can see the horse but now it becomes a part of the whole and is less significant in the image, although it still catches my eye.

M. Freeman’s explanation regarding ‘Dividing the frame’ (ibid p.26) is rather technical for me at this stage but I can see that I’ve composed this image in a triangle, with the blue and red horses leading the eye up towards the roundabout and then along to the triangle formed by the slide.

Cropping of 4th image

(scanned photograph with superimposed pen lines)

crop 4a

Not too much different from the original.  There is more of the context but a little less of the ‘ground’, as I decided there was too much of that in the original.

crop 4b

This still gives the playground context in a wooded area but places more focus upon the apparatus waiting to be played upon.  The horse is more in the foreground again with less of the ‘ground’ itself.

Crop 4c

This looks out of proportion to me, with the image in two halves. I can see a little of the trees but don’t really get a sense of scale here.

Crop 4d

This is approximating portrait style. It doesn’t strike me as particularly interesting to look at and I think that landscape format suits the context more appropriately.


This was an interesting exercise and I think I learned quite a lot in terms of composition – what is my intention in framing; how do I lead viewer’s eyes into the picture and what effect might it have.


2 Comments on “TAOP Part One: Looking through the viewfinder:Fitting the frame to the subject”

  1. Dave says:

    An interesting exercise which I remember doing and finding very instructive too.

  2. Thanks Dave. It seemed a bit childish going to a playground but the colours cheered me up and I learned a lot.

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