Internal Frames

The last two blog posts have talked about using nodal points to place a subject inside of a frame. Up to this point, we have considered the frame to be the outside edges of the photograph.  What I want to consider today is the idea of having another frame inside of the edges of the picture. This frame is often called an inside frame or a secondary frame.

Consider this image of the legs in the fireplace. (The final image was called Between Here And There). The external frame is easy to see, it is the outside edges of the image. However, this image has several internal frames which are used to tell the story of the image as well as drive the viewers attention to the subject.

Internal Frames Example 1
Between Here And There

The obvious internal frame is the firebox. The tonal contrast of this internal frame immediately draws the viewers attention to that area of the overall image where we ultimately see that there are legs in the firebox.

The second internal frame that is utilized in this image in the top 1/3 of the image. It is defined by the top and sides of the image as well as the mantle of the fireplace. the damaged wall above the mantle attracts the viewer to this frame where they soon discover a ghostly face in the wall above the mantle.

Compositionally, this concept opens up many new doors. For example, consider the image Secret Agent Man. Firs of all, this image has a mat around it. The mat now becomes the external frame and the outer edges of the image become an internal frame. The placement of an image in a mat can have a significant impact on the final feel of an image and is a real consideration when displaying prints.

Internal Frames 2
Secret Agent Man

Within  the image I created two internal frames. This was done by dividing the image in half with the wooden edge of the door. The “Secret Agent” in now in one internal frame and “Admiring Onlooking” is in a different internal frame. By Making the one frame larger, it gives it greater significance in the image causing the viewers eye to go to the Secret Agent first. The viewers eye will the jump to the smaller frame to see the onlooker. Selective depth of field helps to strengthen the Secret Agent have greater viewer attraction in the image as well.

I once saw a wedding image that took this concept and used it to make a truly amazing image. The viewer was looking down a hallway and at the end of the hallway where two open doors. Through one door the viewer could see the complete chaos of the brides getting ready room. Clothing and boxes everywhere. I forget what the bride was doing but I remember it be something that looked very confused. Through the other door you could see the the father of the bride sitting at the end of a made bed, the room pin neat, calmly adjusting his tie.

That image was a perfect example of using multiple frames in a single image to tell two different stories, however, the stories were very much connected.

Divide Into Three

Composition is crucial to a good photograph. I am a big proponent to not following the rules, however, I do belIeve that in order to break the rules successfully, you need to understand them and know how to make them work for you. The following is an article I wrote in 2010 for my old blog that discusses the rule of thirds. I have reproduced it here to save having to search my old blog for it. It will also serve as a starting point for my next few posts on this site.
Every image needs to have a point of interest –  a main focal point that is supported by the rest of the image.   For example, in a head and shoulders portrait, the main focal point will usually be the eyes.  In a full length portrait, the main focal point will usually be the face.  It is very common for a new photographer to want to place the main focal point right in the centre of the image.  In most cases, this will not be the most effective placement of the subject.

First seen in paintings around 1797, the rule of thirds has become the most common compositional rule for subject placement within a frame.  The rule of thirds divides the frame into 9 sections by drawing lines across the frame at one third intervals both horizontally and vertically. By placing the main focal point where two of the lines intersect will almost always create a more powerful composition than having the subject placed in the centre of the frame.  So, when you create a head and shoulders portrait, the eyes should land on one of the cross points.  When you have a larger subject, such as a full length portrait, the point of interest can be placed on one of the lines.  The key is to have your main point of interest on one of the thirds, and where the lines cross will be the highest impact points.

The intersections of the lines are called Nodal Points. When someone looks at an image, their eye flows from left to right, bottom to top to bottom, passing through the nodal points in the order that they are numbered in the diagram.  The eye will stop briefly at each nodal point but will be attracted to stay longer only if there is a reason to.  Placement of your subject on specific nodes can create some very interesting dynamics.

If your subject is placed on nodal point 1, the eye will be drawn to stop there.  However, your brain will want to continue its journey through the image.  This will cause tension and stress, translating into a sensation of tension and stress in your image.  Nodal point 4 will do the opposite.  Because the mind has finished its journey through the image, it is comfortable to rest here before exploring the image again or moving out of the frame.  Hence a sense of calm is given to the image.

Nodal point three will give a similar sense of calm but the subject will have more power, control, or importance in the image. Nodal point 2 will have a similar sense of tension as nodal point 1 but the subject will have a better sense of power, control, or importance in the image.

Here are some tips when using the rule of thirds for portrait photography.

  • The eyes are the focal of a head and shoulders portrait.  Have them on the nodal point 2 or 3
  • In a full length portrait, the head and eyes should be on the upper 3rd line
  • In a 3/4 length portrait, the head is the point of interest and should be in the 2nd or 3rd nodal point
  • Image flow of the main subject should have the viewers eyes moving back into the image

The rule of thirds is the most well known compositional rule.  Use it but keep in mind that it is not the only compositional element.

Seeing Light


I am a member of a networking group and part of what we do is give short presentations about our business. We do this so that other members of the group can have a better understanding of what it is that we do. The other day I sat down at my computer and started putting together my next presentation. As is typical, I began by opening my slide presentation program and putting in information. I started talking about how much a session cost, how long it would take, how many files you could get, and all that other left brain stuff that business owners find important. But something was nagging at me.

I wanted to show what I actually do, and that is work with light, light modifiers, and a camera to create portraits of people. So that is what I decided I was going to do. I was going to show the members of the group how I take my portraits and the results of the sessions. A little hard to do in a 4 minute presentation. So, I decided to create a few presentations that worked in sequence to show what I actually do.  The first presentation was about seeing the light.

As a professional photographer, it is my job to be able to walk into a situation and create portraits of a consistent level or quality. This means being able to quickly evaluate the situation and with the tools I have, create a portrait.

The first thing I look for is the light. Light is my most important tool. Yes, a camera capable of taking quality captures is important, but it does not do you much good if the lighting in the image does not work. The next thing I look at is how can I manipulate the light to create the lighting I want for my subject. Sometimes it exists in the room, sometimes I need to use reflectors and flashes.

For most of the demonstrations I took along a Canon 6D camera with a 24-105 lens and two reflectors and a portable flash. Since all the meetings were during the day, I was able to use window light as my primary light source. The reflectors were used to put light back into the shadow areas when necessary.

See the light 04
Poorly light

The first shot I took at each session was an example of bad lighting. Either a backlight situation where the subject came out silhouetted or a very harsh, top down sort of light that was not very attractive at all. I then use the same person in the same spot but moved them so that I could create lighting that was more flattering to the subject. Here are the before and afters of three of those sessions. Remember that each of these shots (both before and after), were done in less than three minutes.


See the light 02See the light 03See the light 01

Captured with iPhone 4s

One session was a great challenge. I was not expecting to do a presentation, but when asked, I agreed. There were no real windows in the place and all the lighting was overhead spots. My solution was to use the light coming from the presentation projector as it was reflected off the screen. There were a number of technical challenges here because of the colour  and the low intensity of the light, but it gave the type of side lighting that I was looking for. The ambient light was bright enough so I used that as fill. My only capture device was a a 3 generations old iPhone, so thats what I used. The limitations of the capture device leave something to be desired, especially when working in low light situations like this, but I also believe that it is better to leave with a less than perfect image than no image at all. I left that session with a usable image.

Being a professional photographer is about being able to get consistent results. To do that, you need to know your camera inside and out. You also need to know lighting. Without a solid foundation in lighting skills, you cannot get consistent results.

Learn to see the light.

Outdoor flash

One of my favourite techniques is to use outdoor flash. And now that sunnier weather and longer days are here, I will be using it more and more. Back in the day, we used to call the technique syncro-sun flash. It is not an easy technique, but once mastered, it gives you great control over your image.

When photographing with natural light alone, you can control the light by using reflectors and gobos and indeed create some very excellent lighting on your subject. The problem is your background. How the background is exposed is at the mercy of how you expose your subject. In the studio, you can control the exposure of your background independently of your subject, however, when photographing using only natural light, you loose this control. But, when you add flash into the equation you can regain that control.

Here’s how it works. ambient light exposure is controlled by three things, ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. Flash exposure is also controlled by three things – ISO, Aperture, and the volume of light coming from the flash, also known as Flash Output. Notice that flash exposure is not affected by shutter speed (maximum flash sync speed is a limitation of your camera which I will talk about in the next post). This means that if I have my flash is lighting my subject, then I can control the exposure of my back ground relative to my subject by changing the shutter speed. For example, if I want my background lighter, I would use a slower shutter speed, if I want it darker, I would use a faster shutter speed.

Here is trick number 1 for using this technique – your subject should be placed in spot that is one or two stops darker than the background. This will give you more variety when you are adjusting the background exposure.

Subject is darker than the sky
Subject is darker than the sky

In this first image, I was photographing up into the sky. I wanted the clouds to have this dramatic effect so I set my exposure to darken the sky down and bring out the clouds. However this caused my subject to become very dark in the image.

By exposing my subject with a flash, I was able to get the following image

Subject balanced to background using a flash.
Subject balanced to background using a flash.

In my next post I will discuss how to set up this type of image.

Why a Professional Headshot

Headshots are a staple at my studio – Grinke Creative Inc. Primarily the are business headshots but do headshots for performers as well. From a business perspective, a headshot, be it for a business person or a performer, is one of the most important photographs they can have. so it amazes me how many professionals will use poorly produced selfies, old images that no longer represent them properly, or no image at all. There are indeed many good reasons to have a proper headshot – here are five of them.

  1. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to look like you are serious about what you do! A quality professional headshot will tell people that you are serious about what you do.
  2. An updated professional headshot presents a more honest representation of who you are today.  A current professional headshot lets potential clients know that you are keeping up with the times and staying current while an old headshot tells people that you are not moving forward or growing.
  3. For many potential clients, the first connection that they make to you is through your professional headshot. It is important that your headshots connects them to you in a way that is consistent with what they will see when they finally meet you. For example. If you are in a suit and tie in your headshot but when potential clients actually meet you, you are dressed very casually, this will create an immediate disconnect that will confuse the potential clients and possibly cost you their business.
  4. A professional headshot builds trust with potential clients.
  5. A bad headshot can damage your credibility.