With creative composition, you can take your photos from snapshots to works of art. One trick that’s sure to make your images stand out is framing.
What is Framing?
Framing is a photography compositional technique that isolates a subject using elements within a scene as a frame. For example, you might place your subject so that they’re surrounded by a tunnel, a window, or leafy branches. In other words, it’s including a frame within your frame to direct the viewer’s eye to your subject.
While the concept is sometimes taken quite literally, with an actual photo frame introduced into the image, frames can be created from just about anything—nature, architecture, color, light. The list goes on.
Why Use Framing?
There are a number of reasons to incorporate framing into your photography. Let’s explore…
1. Direct the Viewer’s Eye to Your Subject
All rules of composition are meant to help an artist control where someone’s eye goes when they look at the artwork. And framing does just that. It isolates and emphasizes your subject.
2. Provide Context
By framing a subject with relevant elements in a scene, you develop a story. For example, using piles of books to direct attention to a shop owner instantly turns an ordinary headshot into an environmental portrait. Branches of cherry blossoms bordering your subject tell us that it’s spring.
3. Create Depth
Framing is one way to add layers to your photo, which tends to create a three-dimensional feeling. Using foreground elements as a frame gives a picture more depth from front to back.
Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to what you use as a frame. Here are some examples you can try.
Use foliage, flowers, rocks formations, or branches to bring attention to your subject and highlight the location.
Doors, windows, arches, and columns give you tons of options for putting a frame around your focal point.
Light and Shadow
Frames can be more abstract, too. Look for a patch of light or interesting shadows to surround your subject. Light works particularly well for emphasizing a subject since our eyes are drawn to the brightest part of a photo.
Use objects in the scene to provide both a frame and context. For instance, the coffee bar and curtains in the image below give us a sense of setting.
Can’t find a frame? Make your own with a mirror, a ring, or anything else you have with you.
How to Frame a Shot
Decide where you want to lead your viewer’s eye. What or who is your subject? A frame without something interesting in it doesn’t usually add anything to an image.
Look for a frame or make one. Is there a natural frame? Or do you need to use a prop or change location?
Consider your camera settings. Is the frame an important element that you want your audience to see or a distraction? Choose your aperture based on whether or not you want your frame to be in focus.
Advanced Framing Techniques
Once you’ve got the hang of framing your subjects, consider taking it a step further.
Don’t limit frames to stationary objects. Waiting for cars or other moving things to fall into place to frame your subject can create a one-of-a-kind moment.
There’s no reason to stop at just one frame. Put one frame inside another to really pinpoint your focal point. Combining types of frames emphasizes a subject even more.
Not every photo lends itself to framing. But when used creatively and with purpose, framing can take your photography to new levels.
Over to you
Please have a go at this photography compositional tool. We would love to see your photos in the comments section below!
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