Photography Composition Rule – Ignore the Rule of Thirds

If you want to learn about photography composition, fill the frame, fill the frame, fill the frame! Seriously, fill the frame.

Hey, gang. Guess what this conversation is about? Yeah, photography composition and why you should fill the frame. I’m honestly kind of dumbfounded. As I’m lecturing and I’m spending time with meetup groups, it boggles my mind how many images I see people taking in camera where they’re using as much as 1/10th to 1/15th of their frame for their subject.


I’ll come across a photographer shooting a portrait in a workshop. I’ll look at their LCD screen, and their subject’s head is literally 1/10th the size of their frame. It will also be dead center in the frame.

Then I’ll ask the question, “Why would you do that? Why would you not get closer and fill the frame?” Now, the crazy part is I get one of two answers every single time. The first group is the group that’s lazy. You know who you are. The second group is the group that’s afraid. Yeah, it’s true.

Let’s talk about the first group. The lazy ones. This is the group that doesn’t bother moving the focus spot out of the viewfinder. Since you’re photographing people, it makes sense you want the face to be in focus so they put the face in the center of the frame every time. Their answer is, “I’ll crop it in Photoshop.” If they’re shooting a portrait, they wind up using about a 10th of their frame, which means they’re wasting a lot of pixels. Guys, you spend a lot of money for those pixels. Why wouldn’t you use them? That has a major impact on the sharpness and the clarity of your image.

Now for the other group, the ones that are afraid. When I ask them why they don’t fill the frame, they tell me that they’re afraid to crop off a shoulder or to crop off the top of the head because they may not like the way it looks later. They tell me that they’re still not confident about the rules of composition. They figure that if they leave extra space, they can work it out when they’re in post-production.

Now, this is a little bit lazy but more importantly, it’s not teaching you anything. Taking photographs with the attitude that you’ll fix it in post is never going to give you consistently good results. I mean, come on, seriously. Grow a pair. Crop it in camera.

Every now and then you’re going to regret the decision that you made. That’s part of the learning curve, and that’s how you get better at using the camera and the how you want to crop your images.

You’ll notice I’m not talking about rules of composition or the rule of thirds. To hell with that stuff. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about photographing a person or you’re photographing a landscape or insects. It doesn’t matter. Fill the frame with everything that is important and leave out everything that’s not.

If you do that, you will be amazed at how good your compositions are, even without considering the rule of thirds or any of the other composition rules. But most importantly, you spent a lot of money for those pixels. Take advantage of them. Don’t be using a very small piece of your viewfinder to set up a shot and crop it later. That is not giving you the best possible image that your camera is capable of providing you. Capeesh? Okay. Get in there, get tight, fill the frame. Who knows? It might make your next shot, your best shot. So until next time, keep learning, keep thinking, and keep shooting. Adios!

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