Fill the frame when shooting a portrait: Fix the Pix, Episode 7

Are you ready for your close-up?

The trouble with people pictures is most photographers don't get close enough. Look at the difference a more intimate approach can make!

Today’s Fix the Pix was photographed using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1.

"Far out!" is not the exclamation of hippy-dippy joy when it comes to portrait photos of your loved ones. Instead, it's a complaint: I can't see Aunt Sadie because you were too "far out" when you photographed her. How can you avoid too much space around a face?

It’s really great that so many new compact digital cameras are available these days with zoom lenses that start at 28 or 24mm. This is really helpful when shooting scenic vistas or photographing large groups of people in tight spaces. It’s not so helpful when you want to get a nice close portrait of someone.

Deceptive distance: I shot this at 24mm with a brand-new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1. We were standing about 8 feet from each other, but my daughter seems so much farther away!

Better: I zoomed in to the equivalent of a 70mm view, but the red tail light of the car in the background and the bright steps on the right draw my eye away from the subject.

1.    Move closer. Zoom with your feet. When photographing someone, stand within ten feet of them.
2.    Use a moderate telephoto setting. Around 70mm should do it. If you have a 3x zoom lens, zoom it almost all the way out. Shooting at close range with a telephoto setting, the background will be more out of focus and less distracting. To avoid camera shake, make sure shake reduction is turned on.


Don't be afraid to fill the frame, and even to cut off the top of your subject's head. For this shot, I took a couple of steps towards my daughter, and composed vertically. By zooming in on your subject, you can get a more dramatic portrait. Bonus: The closer you get, the less chance that you'll have a distracting background.


A fun twist: If you're getting up super-close, try tilting the camera slightly. The off-kilter diagonal approach is more dynamic and fun.

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