We’re back with the third installment of our ongoing Photography School series taught by our resident expert Mike Bullock. We’ve been doing our homework and putting our lessons in Aperture and Lighting to good use over the last couple months, so we’re super excited to add another notch to our belt with today’s tutorial on composing your subject and filling the frame. Take it away, Mike…


When I first started sharing my photos online, friends and family immediately started asking about my camera. It’s actually a common joke within the photography community, with the main takeaway being that a camera is just a tool and is only as good as the person wielding it – much in the same way pots and pans work for a chef. Having a nice camera certainly helps, but the reality is that my most drastic photography improvements came from changing my technique and understanding of the craft. And I find that even the most simple, widely-stated tips remain untapped by aspiring photographers. Case in point:

filling the frame.

A common trait of amateur photography is poor composition of the real estate inside your image. It’s natural to stand several feet away from your subject at eye-level and snap a single shot, but the biggest problem with that approach is that it can provide a lot of unimportant, distracting environmental elements, and your photo ends up losing the intimacy and detail that you experienced in person.

There is an old rule that can start you down the path of remedying this habit: frame a shot the way you like it, then take two steps forward and reframe it. If this is new to you, it might be awkward to step into that social field of personal space that can make you feel like an intruder. Push through those boundaries and see the difference in your results. Then try changing your point of view… get down low or up high, tilt the camera at different angles, think about your subject and how you can compose a more intimate close-up using all of the real estate in your frame, use available foreground and background elements to create layers in your photograph.  

Any subject matter will do,  just experiment and shoot regularly until you get the hang of it. Yes, you will take a lot of bad photographs, but you’ll also have some of the most interesting shots you’ve ever made.  This practice and a focus on filling the frame of your images can ultimately shape a distinctive, personal style that will help engage people into your imagery.

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Comments (32)
  1. 1
    Lora Kelley May 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Love this! Thanks for sharing. : )

  2. 2
    Laurielulu May 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    My photos have been so lackluster lately. I really needed this reminder! Thanks!

  3. 3
    Andrea May 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Great tips! I love your photography school, it definitely provides me, a total photography-rookie, with some much needed info. 🙂
    xo Andrea
    Wonderful and Marvelous

    • Camille Styles May 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      So happy to hear that! Love that you guys are enjoying learning right alongside me…

  4. 4
    Julia Fain May 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    this was helpful, thank you!

  5. 5
    McKenzie May 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Helpful tips! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. 6
    Ali (A Dash of Details) May 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Your Aperture lesson has taught me wonders with my new camera. I can’t wait to see what I take away from this lesson.

    • Camille Styles May 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      So glad to hear that – and I totally agree. The Aperture lesson completely changed the way I shoot, and I *think* my photos are MANY times better because of it!

  7. 7
    Karen May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I never really thought about it that way! I guess that’s why my photography is always sub-par. Thanks for the tips!

  8. 8
    Desiree {CHIC COASTAL LIVING} May 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Love this tutorial! Just pinned it for future reference. Thanks!

  9. 9
    Platinum Touch Events May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Great tips! I always look forward to the newest installment of photography school. Can’t wait for the next lesson!

  10. 10
    Erin | Holtwood Hipster May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Invaluable lessons! Look forward to these installments!

  11. 11
    Lauren May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    What fantastic advice! Thanks for sharing!

  12. 12
    Dawn May 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Love this series! As someone who is trying to improve both my photography techniques and Photoshop skills, this is really helpful. Thanks!

  13. 13
    dustjacket May 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Fabulous tips…thank you.

  14. 14
    Amberly @ The Good Life May 22, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Thank you for doing this series, Mike – it is so incredibly useful!!


  15. 15
    Gaby [The Vault Files] May 22, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Great advice, thanks!

  16. 16
    Bettina May 22, 2012 at 3:46 am

    Love these educational photography posts, I always pin these for future reference. I’m still pretty know to photographing, and am still really loving playing with the aperture tips you gave in a past post!

  17. 17
    Ferren May 22, 2012 at 5:27 am

    This post could not be more perfectly timed. We’re going to do room shots this week of some of our product and this is a great tip to keep in mind.

  18. 18
    Ashley @ the Big White Farmhouse May 22, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this series! I got a “fancy” camera for Christmas and am in need of some direction. These tips are awesome, thank you.

  19. 19
    trina May 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Love this series. I’m trying to get better at my picture taking and every little bit helps!
    xo . t

  20. 20
    Stephanie McPeak May 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Great series, thank you! How about some suggestions for a good starter DSLR camera for those of us that are just beginners?? Not looking to spend a fortune as I’m not a professional but I am willing to invest a little bit for a good one!!!

  21. 21
    Louisa Blackmore May 25, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Brilliant 3rd instalment – I love that this series is relevant and concise because a) it’s easy to understand and b) it makes me want to grab my camera and go practise!

    Have a fabulous weekend,
    Louisa x

  22. 22
    Wendy Franzen May 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I am still a food photography novice, but your advice made a huge difference in my recent post on carrot cake. I urged my patient husband to scoot closer and closer with the camera as I was piping frosting!

  23. 23
    Sun Connor May 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Appreciate this-thanks!

  24. 24
    Megan Q. May 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I stumbled upon your site today and I love the photography school series! I have seen a lot of these around the web but it helps that your pictures are gorgeous and it’s not all text. I learn a lot better with visuals so this has helped – Thank you!

  25. 25
    Photography Girl May 28, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Thanks for the tips! Best of luck!

  26. 26
    Pittsburgh PA Photographer For Hire May 30, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Thankful for the tips. Its really helpful.

  27. 27
    Bailey October 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    This is really helpful! Thanks for all of these tips! I definitely fall in the amateur category of people who aren’t yet thoughtful about the entire frame. This will help!



Chanel Dror