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What's in a Frame?

This assignment ran from Jun 22 to Jul 13, 2015.

For this assignment I want to focus on framing.

It always amazes me that two photographers can shoot side by side and come up with very different images. The picture is all about how the photographer chooses the angle and what they choose to put in—and leave out—of the frame.

So while you photograph I want you to think about framing in different ways.

Try framing from different angles. What does the scene look like from up high? From down below? Use the form factor of your camera to help you.

If you use a smartphone for photography like I often do, shooting different angles is pretty easy. In fact for this assignment, I encourage you to shoot with your smartphone. Hold it over your head or down on the ground or off to the side. Put it inside things. Go crazy!

In return for the Sponsor's support of this Assignment, National Geographic may provide images from the Assignment to the Sponsor for its use on its website, social media platforms, and other outlets to promote and publicize the Assignment.

Curated by:

Stephen Alvarez
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
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Published Jul 20, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

What's Your Perspective?

Posted jul 9, 2015

Wow there are some good pictures in this assignment. Inspiring to see people thinking about what the are putting into their photos. And in some cases what people are choosing to leave out. There is also a little confusion out there about what I mean by what’s in a frame. This assignment is wide open! It is about composition. I don’t want people thinking that they have to use gimmicks, to include a “frame” in the photograph.

What I want if for us all to experiment with putting images together differently. I’m 5’10” I know what the world looks like from that perspective so I change it up as often as I can. What’s the world look like from 1” off the ground? With grass in front of the lens? From 10’ off the ground? Sitting at a table? What happens when you shoot through the water glasses? Like I said earlier GO CRAZY, loosen up your photos.

One thing I want people to fight the urge to put the most important thing in the middle of the picture. Once of the best pieces of compositional advice I ever got as a growing photographer was if you look out after your edges the centers will take care of themselves. Take that to heart when thinking about what’s in a frame.

Leave It Out

Posted jun 22, 2015

What are you choosing to include in the frame? How many elements can you put in? Look for things to build layering into your photograph. Try shooting through things you might normally be shooting over: windows, flowers, trees, candles..

Remember that pictures draw power from their edges, so watch the sides of the frame. Feel free to cut things off—legs, heads, arms, bodies—but just make sure you know you're doing it.

Try looking at things in the frame that you can leave out. Often I find that by moving my position just a few inches (right, left, up, down) I can frame elements out of the image that I don't need and make a better, cleaner picture.

Shoot each scene with different framings, then later figure out what you like best.

Good luck, make lots of pictures, and, most importantly, have fun.

Stephen Alvarez

Stephen Alvarez

National Geographic Photographer
Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez produces stories of global exploration, adventure, and culture. Since 1995, Alvarez has worked with National Geographic magazine to create a number of stories that call on his caving expertise and lighting capabilities, including the discovery of an Incan mummy in Peru, the exploration of the world’s deepest cave near the Black Sea, a jungle expedition through Central America’s longest cave, the whitewater world of New Britain’s caves, and an exploration of the world below Paris. Stephen’s images have won numerous awards, from markets including Pictures of the Year International and Communications Arts, and his work has been shown at Visa pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. His collaboration with NPR on underground Paris won a 2012 White House News Photographers Association award.