Education Blog

Making Stronger Images

By Darrel Swann, Education Program Manager 06.10.20

Each month the JBFC Film Challenge Series will focus on a different area of filmmaking. June's focus is the concept of Image. If you follow along with the JBFC Film Challenges, you’ll finish the summer with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of filmmaking, good filmmaking practice under your belt, and your very own short films!

We have three fun, short activities below that focus on creating great images for your films. Each of these concepts will come up in a challenge, so they’re a great way to brush up on your skills, or a great place to start if this is your first introduction to filmmaking.  


  • Device with a camera (iPhone, iPad, or any phone/device with a camera)


  • iMovie (or similar ability to capture and edit video such as WeVideo)

Key Words and Phrases:

  • Frame
  • Shot
  • Rule of Thirds

A frame is the most basic unit of filmmaking. Stop a video at any point, and what you’re looking at is one frame of that video. You can cut a rectangle out of an index card to use as a practice frame, or look through the viewfinder on your camera, or the screen of your iPad, to see the world through a frame like a Director does.

When you point your camera and start recording, you are taking a shot. In a typical film, most shots last 3-10 seconds and end when the camera cuts to change what it’s looking at. A shot is made up of a bunch of individual frames.

The Rule of Thirds is an idea that artists like filmmakers, photographers, painters, and architects use to help figure out what goes in a frame. It divides the frame into three sections, both horizontally and vertically.

Placing objects on the lines and the places where the lines meet adds focus and energy to the composition. You could call these the “sweet spots.”

Look at the following examples and notice how the filmmakers followed the Rule of Thirds:

Activity 1: It All Starts With The Frame

  1. Find something interesting to take a picture of. It must be something you can eventually get very close to, so no clouds, mountain peaks, or neighbor’s living rooms.
  2. Choose a place for the subject that looks interesting. This is an important choice because you can’t move your object after this.
  3. Move a few feet away from the subject and take a picture that shows the entire subject clearly. Try to think about the Rule of Thirds when you decide where to put your subject in the frame. Making this decision is called “framing your shot.”
  4. Now get as far away from the object as you can. Take another picture of your object and, as always, think about the Rule of Thirds. This is called a wide shot. It’s a great shot for showing how your subject fits in its setting.
  5. Finally, get as close to the object as you can to take your last picture. Make sure you can still tell what the object is. This is called a close up. It’s perfect for showing the details of your subject, like the emotions on someone’s face, or the texture of an orange. Check out this View Now Do Now to see even more examples of close up and extreme close up shots. 
  6. Look back through your three images and notice what you can only tell from the wide shot, or only tell from the close up. Deciding what information to give your audience is a huge part of being a filmmaker.

Activity 2: Family Portraits

  1. Take a portrait of each person in your family. A great portrait captures something special about the person.
  2. Find a place to take the picture that has some meaning for the person or says something about them.
  3. Choose a pose that shows the person at their best while telling us a little more about them. Do they like to relax with a book, or are they more likely to grab the kayak and head to a lake? Generally the subject of a portrait is looking towards, or at, the camera.
  4. When you think about how to frame the subject use the Rule of Thirds to guide you.
  5. Once everything is set, take a lot of shots! Try asking your subject to make different expressions, you never know if it will be the wide smile or a more serious face that best captures the subject. 

Activity 3: Movie Night!

Watch a movie you like. Now that you have some practice with the Rule of Thirds, look for it as you watch the film. I bet you can pause the video on almost any frame of the movie and see how the Director was thinking about the Rule of Thirds.

You can even make it a game. Try watching with a friend or your family. When you pause the movie, see how many things you can find that fit in with the Rule of Thirds.

Take it Further:

You can continue to practice framing shots by choosing a subject, choosing a type of shot, either close-up, medium, or wide, based on the information you want to share, and keeping the Rule of Thirds in your mind at all times.