Topshade and Framing in a Doorway

The door in the background of this portrait provides a sense of scale, while the boy’s pose calls to mind a much older age group, creating a humorous contrast. Here’s how it came together.

Finding topshade

Finn is such a charming little chap – he did everything I asked of him and he had a really cool ‘swagger’ about him. I asked Finn to stand in the frame of the door and he did so, looking really cool. Then I said something like, “Finn – look up the road there!”. He turned, looked and this is the result.

The light in the street just outside our studio is nearly always perfect. Direct sunlight can be too harsh, especially at midday. But along our street is a succession of overhanging trees that effectively mean that light comes from the sides but not too much from above. This provides topshade.

Topshade blocks the direct rays of sun, which means your subject will be surrounded by softer, reflected light. This will result in lower contrast across the scene and smoother-looking skin on your subject. You can find topshade under the overhang of a building, or under the branches of leafy trees like we do.

Two composition techniques

I love daylight and I love using doors, street furniture, windows, buildings, trees – in fact anything that can form a frame within the frame. Using frames in this way is a great compositional device because they can add interest, context, depth and balance to an image. This door (or gate) was perfect for its texture, sense of scale and background pattern, with the vertical planks of wood contrasting nicely against horizontal rows of brick around it.

I’ve also framed the image so that Finn is positioned on one of the lines according to the rule of thirds, which is another guideline that can help you create stronger compositions.

Camera Settings

  • Focal length: 110mm
  • Aperture: f/4
  • Shutter speed: 1/160 sec
  • ISO: 200