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Food For digital Thought: Implying Content Outside the Frame

Content outside the frame

I’m closing in fast on fifty years of taking pictures, and by now I’ve learned how to keep the viewer an active part of my images.

I do this to keep him looking at my images for as long as possible, and I don’t know about you but I like for people to enjoy my photography.

There are ways to control how the viewer perceives and processes information that you lay out to him in the form of a photograph. For me, creating stories for the viewer to listen to visually, or making the viewer wonder about certain things in my images, is one of the best ways to keep him around longer.

 One way, and something I’ve been doing for a very long time, is to imply content outside the frame. In other words let the viewer think there’s more to it than meets the eye; there’s something going on outside the frame that he wonders about and tries to figure out just what it is…which keeps him around.

By placing the subject close to the edge of the frame and have him/her looking out will imply that there’s something happening  just outside his field of vision. I like to have the subject smiling as though he/she  was looking at someone they know.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve offered this suggestion to both my online classes with the BPSOP, and to the people that sign up for my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet.

The response I often get is, “I’ve always been told to have your subject looking, walking, riding, etc., into the frame”; the Leading in Rule…I hate rules!!! Rules are the iron shackles that bind creativity. What I usually tell them is that anyone that tells you this nonsense is hoping to lead you down a one-way path to mediocrity; run away from them as fast as you can.

FYI, Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good pictures, there’s just good pictures”.

So my fellow photographers give it a try, better yet shoot it both ways. Put your subject in the Rule of Thirds (another stupid rule), or have him looking into the frame so the viewer will know what he or she is looking at…then ask yourself if the viewer already knows what he’s looking at then there’s no story, nothing for him to wonder about so why stick around longer than he has to. Then place the subject close to the edge of the frame looking out and compare them side by side.


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me some time. This coming January Along with William Yu, I’ll be taking a group to China to photograph the flooded rice terraces and also the tribal villages. Next February in conjunction with the Santa Fe Workshops, I’ll be returning to Cuba for the fourth time. My next springtime workshop will Berlin next May; an incredibly beautiful city.

Send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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