Composing shots that are more cinematic.

The “Film Look”: Part 2 – Framing The Shot


Composing your frame is the next step in creating shots that are more cinematic. Below are a few basic dos and don’ts to improve your framing.



Take a minute and go grab some pictures that your mom took…Yeah, I’m talking about your momma. Notice that everyone’s face is in the dead center of the frame. Not just horizontally, but vertically as well.  Nothing looks less interesting and more amateur than everyone’s face in the center of the frame.

When composing a shot it is important to begin with the most simple principle of composition, The Rule of Thirds. Imagine your shot is divided into three parts both vertically and horizontally. Then align your subject or other points of interest with these divides. Composing your subject where the divides intersect will add even more impact. This helps guide you to a more interesting and pleasing frame.

Imagine this guide when composing your shots.

Imagine this guide when composing your shots.

Below is an example of this in practice. Notice that both the subject and her counterpart both fall land near the guides…and that its not perfect. The Rule of Thirds is a starting point.

Here is an example of a shot that demonstrates The Rule of Thirds.

Here is an example of a shot that demonstrates The Rule of Thirds.


As a general rule it is best to avoid shooting anything from a 90 degree angle. Meaning, avoid profiles and head on shots. Not that you should never take those kind of shots. Just reserve them for a special occasions. It is generally more pleasing to the eye to shoot your subject from a 45 degree angle. This delivers better depth, more interesting lines and is usually more flattering.

Shoot from a 45 degree angle and give your subject lead room.

Shoot from a 45 degree angle and give your subject lead room.

When you are framing up a shot you should also apply this concept to the background. Meaning, don’t shoot perpendicular to a wall. Try to place your camera and subject in a way that the background expresses depth. Also, if you can try to frame up so that background creates lines that align and intersect with the Rule of Thirds grid it can create some stunning visuals.


Headroom is the area between your subject and the top of frame. Using the Rule of Thirds you should have your headroom under control for the most part, but keep it in mind that you probably don’t need enough room to fly a jumbo jet through the top of your frame.

A lead room is where you hide during nuclear fall out. This should not be confused with Lead room. Lead room is area  between your subject and the edge of the frame that they are facing. Ok, enough phonetic humor.

At this point you should be looking at your subject at a 45 degree angle and they should be framed so that they are offset from the center of the frame, aligning with one of the guides from the rule of thirds. Right? Right. “But what side of the frame should they be on?”, you ask. Generally, if your subject is facing to the left you should frame them on the right and vice versa…so that you are leading your subject with negative space. This implies that there is something over there of interest. Its the direction they are walking, there is a person sitting there that they are talking to, a bomb they are trying to defuse, etc. Basically, have their nose pointing at the empty side of the frame.


Human vision is stereoscopic. Meaning, the image your mind is given is produced by two eyes, two different points of view. This gives an enhanced perception depth. However, most films and photographs are captured from a single camera with one perspective. This inherently creates an image much “flatter” than what we see naturally. So, to up the game we need to enhance the depth of our captured images in other ways. One of these ways is by considering foreground and background elements.

Enhance depth by considering the foreground and background.Enhance depth by considering the foreground and background.

First, separate your subject from the background. Try not to have them backed up against anything large and flat. A person standing 5 feet in front of a wall is more interesting that a person standing 1 foot from the wall.

Next, try to frame your shots with an element between your subject and the camera. This can be a tree branch, a candle or even the person they are talking to’s shoulder. This isn’t really necessary for close ups, but it is very important for wider shots.

Note that foreground objects can easily throw off the auto focus on your camera. Don’t be afraid to go manual focus.

This completes Part 2 of “Film Look”. Look out for Part 3 when we will discuss the lenses in more detail.


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