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How-to's

Placing your subject in the center of the frame

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)


Keywords: photography, sins, tips, fixes, composition, jrp, seven_deadly_sins

This is the first part of the series The Seven Deadly Sins in Photography

There are seven days of the week, seven colors of the rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale, seven seas and seven continents in the world; seven branches for seven candles in the Menorah. On the lighter side, seven were the dwarfs chosen by Walt Disney’s for Snow White. And just as there are seven deadly or cardinal sins that may prevent us to get to the seventh heaven, there are seven sins to avoid for good photography. I know because I have committed them all and even today I may occasionally forget to avoid.

Nikonians moderator and pro photographer Martin Turner wrote: “Composition is the arrangement of the elements in an image, with regard for the framing, so that they form a harmonious whole which enhances the communication of the photographer's intention.” (Wiki>Composition)

The First Sin:

Placing your subject in the center of the frame.

Placing your subject in the center of the frame is one of the most frequently seen deadly sins. It is a sin because most frequently (almost always) it is not harmonious. The viewer’s eye goes straight into the subject but stops there and moves on. And so, if there is something else in the picture one misses the opportunity to capture the attention to see the whole frame containing those other elements which can make it a good photograph.

This is a sin I committed frequently, especially when enthralled by my kids when they were very young. I call those “emotional portraits”, in a futile effort to explain, if not to justify, not being good portraits photographically speaking.

Just as we discovered that the proportion of the circumference (perimeter) of a circle to its diameter is a constant, no matter the size of the circle and eventually called ∏ or Pi, we also discovered (not invented) the Golden Ratio or Divine Proportion: Ф or Phi, offering the most harmonious proportions as found in nature, the human body, ancient architecture and more. “The Rule of Thirds” is a good approximation, showing where it is best to place the subject within your frame.

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35 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 3, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Rafael, here is the link to Part 1. https://www.nikonians.org/reviews/the-seven-deadly-sins-in-photography-part-1 Part 3 will be soon published.

Rafael Ramirez (rafico) on November 2, 2017

Very good but,where can I find the rest of the 7 seven deadly sins?

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on September 25, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Thursday, 28 September 2017 ) When you are not using any of the tracking (Dynamic) modes, AF is single point at the center of the viewfinder, but you can choose any adyacent point with the rear panel wheel, so there is no real need to recompose anymore. Some cameras also have an Auto Area AF, selecting the subject closer to the lens, regardless of its position in the frame.

Joe Cosentino (Joecosentino) on September 22, 2017

I find one issue with most nikons is the focus points are all in the center. Forcing you to focus and recompose. I don't understand why they just won't spread them throughout the frame. I am sure there is a technical answer or a cost answer. But it would sure help newbies if the focus points covered most of the frame or at lest a full rectangle and not the odd configuration they are in now. Joe

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on September 5, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you for your kind comment, Jim. Glad you found the article useful. There is so much to say and learn on the route to mastery that we are all pursuing.

Jim McQuade (Scotmac) on September 5, 2017

Thank you for an excellent article. I find your comments on landscapes very useful especially panoramas which I like to do. Regards Jim

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 11, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Ned, glad to hear you liked it. Thank you.

philippe ned baba (nevan) on August 10, 2017

Congrats dear Ramon. the article was right to the point and those few examples provided helped a lot. Will surely remind me when i'll be on location. Regards Ned

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 6, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Most kind of you, Michael.

Michael Hurder (MKHurder) on August 6, 2017

Hi jrp, I'm already itching to get to Part deux! Taking photography at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA. Just starting. This ("Seven deadly..." and the like) is great stuff to help fill the gaps. I have a gazillion questions after class. Until I found my way in here (The Nikonians), I was spinning my wheels. Anyway, Please keep them coming. I've read many of your comments already. There is a huge pool of knowledge in here. This hungry mind says, "Thanks".

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 11, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Wade: thank you for your comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 6, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

I know the feeling, Jim ;-)

Jim Tubman (Tubman) on July 5, 2017

Heh heh. Good article. I chuckle because it made me think of my in-laws' photo albums, in which everyone poses rigidly for all pictures, and their feet are at the bottom of the image, their heads in the middle, and the top half of the images are blank walls and ceilings.

Wade Ramsey (WKR) on July 5, 2017

I taught photography for 55 years before retirement and emphasized the general 'rule' of not centering subjects. I do take some exceptions, especially on portrait closeups, and think the illustration you supplied is such an example. In my opinion, your 'before' composition is exactly right, the off-centered composition is unbalanced. The reason is, in your example there is nothing gained by off-centering, since there is nothing else to be seen but more bricks with the same pattern. But your 'before' composition is not truly centered (equal space on either side of the head), there is a little more room on the left, the direction she is facing. This gives her some "look space", since her face direction directs the eye of the viewer that same direction. Rule of thumb: If there is nothing of interest in the background, place the base of the nose in the center of the frame. In the case of the bird, the 'before' crop places the bird a bit too far right, the 'after' crop 'way too far left. Place the base of his "nose" (beak) in the center. Good point on the "Rule of Thirds," which works well on compositions with more than one point of interest, and landscapes, as you pointed out. I'm interested in seeing the rest of your 7 Deadly Sins.

Aart Louw (AartPapaya) on July 2, 2017

I am looking forward to the rest

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 28, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Larry. Most kind of you.

Larry Anderson (mnbuilder49) on June 28, 2017

Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, especially in Interiors Architecture, Landscape and HDR Photography

Very well written.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 26, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

So glad to hear you liked it, Richard. Thank you.

Richard Luse (DaddySS) on June 25, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Thanks Ramon....sins we've all committed...more than once, and some of them are some of the first things I learned here.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 24, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

You are most welcome, Neill

Neill Graham (NDGraham) on June 23, 2017

Very good article! I am looking forward to the next one! Thanks for this lesson and the great photos.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 23, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Paul

paul walker (nikonian58) on June 23, 2017

very compelling examples. Thank you.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 23, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Marion.

Marion Pavan (pqtrths) on June 23, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

JRP: I've committed this sin so many times - and still do, unfortunately - that I should be excommunicated from the Nikonians community. Your article is concise, to the point, illustrated well by excellent photos. I'm looking forward to Parts 2 through 7. Marion

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 22, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Most kind of you, Kathy. I am just debating with myself the order of the sins, but maybe they are all equally important to avoid.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 22, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Ernesto, thank you. You maybe were able to recognize the friend I am talking about in the closing sentence ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 22, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

David, glad to hear you like it and its images. Thank you.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 22, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Thursday, 22 June 2017 ) Thank you, Tom. Great gear is not everything. I find I need to go back to basics from time to time. Sharing that is what prompted me to write this series.

Kathy Cavallaro (Cavy2) on June 21, 2017

Awarded for her continuing willingness to keep on learning and to share her knowledge with others in the Nikonians spirit

Guilty, thanks for the reminders! Looking forward to the next installment.

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on June 21, 2017

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian.

Great article Ramon. You have whetted our appetite for more - looking forward to the rest of the series. BTW, I am now in full penance mode. :-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on June 20, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you very much, Debbie.

David Summers (dm1dave) on June 20, 2017

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

I think this will be a great set of articles. Your examples are great illustrations, as well as awesome shots!

Tom Jacob (sevendayimages) on June 20, 2017

Awarded for his continuous knowledge and images sharing with community members Awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2016 Photo Contest

Yup. I remember. Guilty as sin on those in the first year of shooting pictures. I guess we do it because the subjects can't run away so fast when they are in the middle and we have more time to fiddle with the buttons ;) Great write-up JRP and good information for photographers starting out, with superb pictures to go with it. Looking forward to the next part.

Debbie Osbourne (DebbieO) on June 20, 2017

I intended to give this 5 stars, but hit the wrong button? I look forward to the next article and always appreciate the time and effort of all who contribute.

G