In this weeks portrait tips and techniques, I’m talking about framing, no not the frame around the photo, but the frame within the photo. When seeking out locations for a portrait session, we can easily miss the simple little things around us that can make  portraits more interesting. I’m always looking for the big vista, the more scenic the better, but sometimes the better photos are right in front of me.

For years I had been photographing at this old pier, using it as a background for my children’s portraits, but the white hand rail had always been a distraction. Being white amongst a predominately dark structure and surrounding rocks, it really annoyed me, especially when the late sun would bath all over it.

The one day, while waiting for a client to arrive, I noticed how the white hand rail was framing the bench seat. I thought with the seat and hand rail in the shade and the background lit by the late sun, I could turn this into a “high key” setting.

High key is when the subject is surrounded by light and soft tones in the background and generally has lower contrast lighting. Quiet often the subjects are dressed in white or pastel coloured clothing, but in this case I think the dark coloured clothing and dark hair help draw you to their faces.

The top and bottom hand rails frame the children and with a shallow depth of field (F4@1/250 70-200mm) the background and sky have softened to give an almost surreal look.

TECHNICAL   |   Canon 5D  70-200mm F2.8L  IS      camera setting: ISO 400  F2.8 @ 1/80  130mm

In this image I placed the children between the rails of an old gate. The boy’s left eye was placed on the top right third point. (rule of thirds) I also moved the children so the door opening behind them was included in the background. This creates a feeling of depth to the image, rather than the solid timber wall that would have been the background, if I had move them to my left.

HASSELBLAD 553 ELX  150mm F4

Windows make are great for framing. In this photo, I used the window of an old 1948 Chevolet Pick- Up truck to frame the boys. I love the hand out the window and the expressive eyes, all I did was direct them. This was shot “old school”, by that I mean the camera (Hasselblad 553 ELX) was on a tripod, pre-focused and I was standing away from the camera, in front of the boys. This allowed me to direct and engage with the boys, eyes to eyes. The shutter was triggered by a 3 metre electronic cable.

Although this image was taken in 1999, prior to my digital era, it is a timeless classic and I feel it is a good example of framing plus a reminder that we don’t engage “eyes to eyes” with our subjects enough with our digital cameras. Expression is everything, but when you communicate “eyes to eyes” you put the soul into the portrait. It’s a very satisfying technique.

With this image I have used the structure under the pier as the framing. The face of the boy standing is on the top third intersecting point and all the faces are in the two third facial plane. The lighting on the faces is “short lighting”.

Also note the depth in the photo was created by angling my position, so that the rocks and the area above and behind the boys diminishes into the distance.

* short lighting is when the main light source strikes the plane of the face, furtherest from the camera

TECHNICAL  |   Canon 5D  50mm F1.2L    camera settings: ISO 400  F2.8 @ 1/125
B&W conversion: Nik Silver Efex Pro

Well that’s it for this week, I hope this post on ‘framing” gives you some ideas to go and try. Just look for natural frames like windows, doors, fences, gates, bridge structures, car/truck windows & doors. Photo opportunities are everywhere, we walk and drive past them all the time.

Until next week, happy shooting

portrait tips and techniques

3 Responses to “FRAMING IN CAMERA”

  1. Jan Ramsay Says:

    Your images have this amazing warmth Wayne. I loved listening to you talk at AE. Always learning. Jan

  2. charles Brown Says:

    Well you’ve answered my question about Nik filters, Thanks.

  3. tom Says:

    wow i love the way you explain things in regards the making do this photographs

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