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09-14-2011, 09:26 AM   #1
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Fill the Frame vs Negative Space

So, I am more of a "Fill the Frame" with your subject kinda guy, mostly because that is what I have been taught. However, my pics generally lack "pizzaz" and look more like boring brochure pics.

Do you guys and gals prefer including more negative space? Which situations do you tend to do one or the other, and why?

I understand this is highly subjective, just wanted some feedback.

Oh and some pretty pictures wouldn't hurt

09-14-2011, 09:43 AM   #2
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I seldom fill the frame because I want to be able to crop at various aspect ratios for printing purposes. You can end up cropping some valuable stuff when you fill the frame at a 2x3 (4x6) ratio and print at 8x10 or 11x14. And I do this with my lowly 6 Mp DS. There aren't that many extra pixel available for cropping.

Tim
09-14-2011, 09:46 AM - 1 Like   #3
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The simple answer is: Leave lots of space and work with various crops. That's the MF approach, where huge negs have plenty of real estate to subdivide. Just the opposite approach is to crop as you shoot, with really tight compositions. Or just crop aggressively. That "boring brochure pics" look results from including too much of a subject and their context. Yah, it's a judgment call -- which is why, although I try when possible to compose in-camera, final composition occurs in PP.

I cropped aggressively in my film+darkroom days. I crop aggressively in the digital era. You'll see a tagline here like: "Painting is an additive art, the painter throws stuff onto the canvas till a picture forms; photography is a subtractive art, the togger removes irrelevancies till only necessities remain". So: edit edit edit.
09-14-2011, 10:38 AM   #4
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Whether you fill the frame or use negative space, exciting and boring compositions are always possible. Can you post some images, so we have an idea of what the "boring brochure" look is?

09-14-2011, 11:07 AM   #5
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I don't think its as easy as the question of whether or not to fill the frame or to leave negative space. I've seen folks use their images in both manners, in an artisitic way.

Study a good book on composition, such as Michael Freeman's Eye of the photographer, and that'll help. Go to a used book store and see what some of the masters did with their images., etc. etc. Show a coupla of your pictures to strangers, such as in the photo sharing area, and see which ones attract attention, etc.

Pictures which are taken with no theme in mind, no subject, are akin to vacation "snapshots". Most of us spend far too much time studying and buying equipment, with the idea that will provide us wonderful pictures. It takes more than that!

Good luck, it takes work to develop an artistic sense, but its worth the effort in my mind.
09-14-2011, 01:15 PM   #6
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There are also some great weekly e-mails and blogs out there to keep you thinking about new ways to stretch your creativity. Here are a few sources of info:

Strobist

Digital Photography Tips: Digital Photography School

Digital Photography Magazine - Your #1 Guide for Better Digital Photography | DPmag.com
09-14-2011, 01:26 PM   #7
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Original Poster
Thanks for the replies and tips
I am at work right now, so I can't post examples.

I know I fall in the trap of always wanting to get new gear...but I am fully aware it wont make me a better photographer, I just like toys

But my wife broke out with the "no new lenses for a looooong time" edict... :'( So I am trying to concetrate a lot more on the artistic side rather than the shiny new gear.
09-14-2011, 01:40 PM   #8
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This last week, we had a cellphone photography competition at my camera club. The grand prize winner was a photo of a man, sitting in an airport, waiting on his plane. There was a lot of negative space around him. That shot wouldn't have been as effective if the photographer had cropped him tightly because part of the appeal of the shot was in showing this man, alone with his thoughts, in a sea of activity. Other photos were marked down for not being cropped tight enough. In those instances, the photographer was trying to show a flower (for instance) so it didn't really add anything to just include a lot of extra space. I think whether or not to leave negative space really depends upon what you're trying to show to the viewer. If you're trying to show one red flower among a bunch of yellow flowers, you'll need to leave some negative space. If you're just trying to show one particular flower or maybe even just a part of it, then you need to crop tightly and fill the frame.

09-14-2011, 02:23 PM   #9
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Depends on what I'm after. Yes, In spite of the opinions of some, I do once in a great while actually think about the result I want.

Here's a fill the frame type of a photo.



Here's one that is more of wide space photo



Fill the frame



Wide Space



Fill the frame



Wide Space



I think you get the idea....

Of course, It will also depend on the lens I'm using.

09-14-2011, 02:29 PM - 1 Like   #10
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I used to be a 'fill the frame' guy but lately have started to work with more negative space in the photos.
One of the reasons is that I started doing more street photography and prefer showing people in context with their environment.


I've also been trying some 'rule of thirds' Rule of Thirds composition as well, it does seem to make photos more appealing.
I hope to take a photo class soon to help me explore this further but for now it is all resources like those mentioned by fuent104 above.
Oh, and of course also trying to emulate the wonderful photos by the masters here has been very educational.
09-14-2011, 03:51 PM   #11
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I don't think of 'negative space'. To me, that doesn't exist. I think of space around subject(s), and context. With abundant space comes many opportunities for different contexts, different crops, tight or not, in various formats. And formats can always be finessed by framing.

Remember that we're not capturing subjects -- we're capturing LIGHT. The positive vs negative isn't space (filled vs not) but illumination vs shadow. In the excellent LONG DAY photo above, her skin is the key feature, contrasting with the context, catching the light. A fine shot!
09-14-2011, 03:57 PM   #12
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Thank you for the kind words RioRico
09-15-2011, 03:37 AM   #13
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For me, both compositions are important. But, I usually compose my images with more negative space. The reason is that the negative space is a dedicated space for logos or texts, especially if it's used for ads or for lay outing. =)
09-15-2011, 07:39 AM   #14
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I don't even think of whether or not to fill the frame most of the time. My teachers, both of them, they always harped on that, telling me to use the space inside the frame as much as possible, but I don't like doing that just to do it. I view taking photographs pretty much in the same way as I do making a painting. How much space around the subject depends upon where the subject is positioned, where the light is, and what I want the focus of the picture to be. Sometimes I want to have the subject fill the frame so I can get up close and personal. Other times I'm wanting a larger sense of space, like in a Wyeth painting.

I don't usually think too much about composition and lighting actually. That part of things just seems to come somehow. I might have to think and rethink how to get there technically, in terms of what settings I am going to need to put into the camera, iso, shutter speed, aperture, but usually I can just look and see what I want my photographic painting to look like.

I do a little cropping sometimes, but not much actually. Sometimes I just like composing things a little looser than some people would suggest is technically perfect and I do shake up the rule of thirds sometimes, even put the subject right in the middle if I want to. Rules are ultimately just guidelines. When it comes to doing my thing I deliberately break them all the time. If a rule gets in my way, stops me from going somewhere I need to go, then it's gone until maybe I need it again.

It's like dancing. You concentrate 100% of the time on your steps and you'll never get to the point where you are just doing it, dancing. There's a moment when that finally happens, where all the steps become automatic and you just let go, dance. Sometimes you improvise, forget what you're supposed to be doing just because you can. That for me is what it's like photo-wise when I just forget the rules, do my own thing, take the picture.

Sometimes getting into the technique of things can lead to more technically proficient performance, but sometimes getting too into technique can sap all the fun, all the soul out of the work too. I actually like my work a little imperfect. I like to forget them, just work against the rules sometimes. What results may not always be my best work, but sometimes it is more honest and I think more interesting.
09-15-2011, 07:53 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by magkelly Quote
It's like dancing. You concentrate 100% of the time on your steps and you'll never get to the point where you are just doing it, dancing. There's a moment when that finally happens, where all the steps become automatic and you just let go, dance.

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