Shot Composition & Framing

Good shot composition will help make your camera shot pleasing to look at. Framing is the process of composing a shot. There’s a lot more on this subject that we discuss in our one-on-one and classroom training sessions, but for this post, we’ll look at  four basic elements: the rule of thirds, lead room, head room, and foot room.

The Rule of Thirds – This guideline is used to determine where to place your subject within the frame. Though your tendency may be to position your subject dead center on the screen, the rule of thirds gives a more balanced image that is pleasing to the eye.

Lead Room – This is the space that you leave in front of a person on the screen. If you don’t have enough lead room, your subject will appear to be boxed-in and confined. The amount of lead room needed is dependent on the angle of the subject to the camera. The more a person faces directly toward the camera, the less lead room will be required.

Head Room – This is the amount of space between the top of someone’s head and the top of the frame. If you have too much head room, the person will appear as if sinking in quicksand. If you don’t have enough, the person will seem in danger of bumping their head.

Foot Room – Foot room is the amount of space between the bottom of someone’s feet and the bottom of the frame. Your shot should have enough foot room to show what the person is walking on, but not so much that the audience focuses on what’s below their feet (unless it’s deliberate). It’s common to have a little more head room than foot room on a head-to-toe shot.

As objects in your frame shift, you will need to adjust your camera to maintain a good frame. The same applies when zooming. For instance, as you zoom in from a wide shot, you will need to adjust your pan and tilt to keep a good frame.

Good composition and framing comes naturally to some camera operators, but for others, it takes a little time and practice for it to become second nature.  If you need some coaching, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!