The importance of framing your shots

Camera framing is important. You’ve got the “Rule of Thirds”, which is valuable in the context of art, but framing can also be used as a powerful means to an end in creating trustworthy or fake news. Not seldom is there a discrepancy between what you think is worth framing for maximum effect and what really counts.

The camera frame dictates what the viewer sees. Everything outside it might as well not exist at all. That makes framing the most important thing to get right – regardless of whether you’re a photographer or a video shooter.

Update: This Guardian story proves the point clearly:

If you’re a documentary maker, a photojournalist or a TV news cameraman, your first concern won’t be the “Rule of Thirds” but the proper framing of the action or the scene that needs covering and tells your story. You want to have those at the centre of attention and very often that is the centre of the frame.

Certainly with video shots of action as it spontaneously erupts – like in a protest march – you will need to keep the action dead centre because it will tend to constantly run out of the frame. Little time will there be to think about composition.

Regardless, though, there’s room for creativity and even – conscious as well as unconscious – manipulation. You might be so concentrated on the most dramatic events taking place around you that you simply can’t focus on what is outside the frame. But what is outside could be just as compelling a story as what you’ve framed. Indeed, what is outside of the frame can create a much-needed context. How can you cope with that? Many times you just can’t, but sometimes you can – in post.

Photographers can use their camera’s setting for continuous shooting to keep on taking pictures after they’ve consciously shot the picture they think is the most important one in the spur of the moment. That allows them to change their mind in post. It rarely ever leads to the news source publishing more than just the most catching image, though.

Video and filmmakers don’t even have the luxury a photographer has. What they frame is what the viewer sees. And since the place of the action is often the place where the most dramatic events are taking place, they will concentrate on that. As with photographers, however, the most – literally – spectacular action is not necessarily where the most important events are taking place. These could well be out of frame.

In some cases, the actors of the events that are shot for a news item will determine what is being framed. A well-known phenomenon, in that respect, is that protesters tend to go overboard when a camera is nearby. Cameramen will often have to follow them, but out of the frame, there might be just a quiet street or people demonstrating in an orderly fashion.

With all of this, it’s important to realise framing is not just the camera operator’s responsibility. Part of that also lies with the viewer who should be critical and keep an open mind, realising that what he gets to see may not be the whole story.