Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

What's in the FRAME?

Photography TipsTim Boyer

Framing a photograph is deciding what to include and what to exclude.  It's the process of determining what we want to say in our images.  Traditionally photographers did this by deciding what lens to use and how close to get to the subject, in a way cropping manually.  Today we can think about the frame and the story or message in the image while we make the image and in post-production where we have the ability to crop much more then in the traditional film days.  Each of these steps is important to the process because it gives us two chances to think about the image and our message.  

Photographer at Seal Rocks during an October sunset.
Photographer at Seal Rocks during an October sunset.

The beach, the sky, the sunset colored clouds, the waves and the photographer all combine to tell this simple story of a photographer creating images on the beach at sunset.  A normal view would be at around 50 mm of lens, choosing a wider angle lens let me include all of the rocks and a fair bit of sky and sand.  I wanted the photographer to be a smaller element than the rocks and wanted to show some vastness and openness to the landscape.

Backlit waves at Seal Rocks on the Oregon Coast.
Backlit waves at Seal Rocks on the Oregon Coast.

With the use of a telephone lens and some cropping in post-production, the little pop of backlit wave is silhouetted against the larger rocks at Seal Rocks beach adding drama and an element suspense.  The scale of the image is also changed, and there's no way to know how high the rocks are or how big the waves are.  The 400 mm telephoto lens choice also compressed the image, so the waves and rocks all look closer to each other, this compression is referred to as a flattening of the image.  In this image I'm isolating the element of the wave splash, choosing what I want the view to see and experience.

1/10 of a second, f/16 at ISO 100 and 160 mm
1/10 of a second, f/16 at ISO 100 and 160 mm

Stepping back a little and zooming out to 160 mm, more rocks, waves and some beach added to the image create a different feel to the beach location.  There is now a layering of the waves in the image with some coming straight towards the viewer and some cutting across in front of the viewer.  There's a sense of walking on the beach in this image.

A slow shutter spedd blurs the evening waves.
A slow shutter spedd blurs the evening waves.

By slowing the shutter speed and thus blurring the water a calmer more peaceful or even reflective image is created, the power of the ocean waves isn't felt or doesn't threaten the viewer. Cropping to a panoramic type image also adds to the sense of a larger landscape, pushing the waves and the rocks further away from the viewer.

The setting sun reflects on wet sand.
The setting sun reflects on wet sand.

By darkening the corners with a vignette, the center of the frame is lighter, and the eye is naturally drawn there.  A vignette can add focus to the main message in any image.  In a cluttered image, adding a vignette can focus the eye on the part of the image that tells the story best. The vignette in this image brings the eye to the bottom center of the frame and then draws it to the setting sun on the horizon.

Photography is more than taking an image; it's telling a story, having the viewer experience something, a feeling or thought - this connection is really what we're after.  It's important at some point in the process before creating an image, while making the image, or in the post-processing of putting the finishing touches on an image to ask, "What am I trying to say here?", "What do I want the viewer to feel or think?"

I'll be back on the Oregon Coast October 18th through 21st teaching a landscape photography workshop; more information can be found here.  There's still a couple of openings if you're interested.

Enjoy!      Thanks       Tim