How to use framing in photography composition 3 ways for better photos

Composition: framing

Framing is another very easy photography composition technique to learn as it quite literally is what it says on the tin. Framing techniques in photography frame the main subject to draw the viewer’s attention and add a sense of depth to portraits. Like many techniques, framing in photography composition is often combined with other composition techniques to create more interesting images.

Frames occur naturally and are also man-made. However, you also don’t need an actual frame to frame a scene, but more on this in a moment.

framing to emphasize subject
A good example of using natural elements to frame the main subject. She is sitting in front of a door with interesting geometric shapes that frame her. Doors are great examples of framing elements in urban environments

Here are some examples of objects you can use for framing the main subject:

  • Tree branches
  • Buildings
  • Doors and doorways
  • Window frame
  • Arches
  • People
  • Out of focus foreground objects
Using buildings to frame a subject in photography composition
Buildings are an example of architectural elements that make great natural frames for framing in photography composition

How to use framing in photography composition

There are many reasons why you’d use framing in different ways in photos, not just because it looks interesting. Here are four examples of frames in photos created by different image elements.

1. Framing to hide background elements

Frames are a great way to declutter an image by hiding distracting elements in the background and draw the viewer’s attention to the focal point of the image.

Your frame doesn’t need to go all the way around your subject. Just two sides is fine, as long as it draws the viewer’s eye to the subject. If the framing element is out of focus it helps even further as our eyes automatically seek the in-focus parts of the image. So using a large aperture for shallow depth of field is helpful in framing.

Photography composition ebook

2. Framing in photography to create depth

Not only does a frame highlight your subject, it adds a layer to your photograph, another composition technique, which in turn creates  a sense of depth.

As photographs are two dimensional representations of a three dimensional world, anything that creates depth strengthens the composition. It also creates interest for the viewer by drawing them further into the scene.

Further reading: Use layers in composition for immediately awesome photos

Framing photography examples

1. Framing to draw attention

In the photograph below, we were in a hide very close to a favorite watering hole of a herd of elephants. It was absolutely silent, except for the sounds of the bush and the snuffling and rumbling of the elephants as they kicked up dust around the edge of a dry watering hole.

I wanted to capture where we were and the awesomeness of being so close to these beautiful animals. So I stepped back, decided on my composition to include my fella looking through the gap in the hide, and waited for an elephant to step into frame. Quite literally.

Using out of focus foreground to frame subject for composition
Combining photography composition techniques creates a strong image and tells a story. As you can see the framing element is out of focus, which helps our eyes go straight to the point of interest. Other compositional techniques I’ve used here include: rule of thirds and differential focus 

2. Framing in photography to tell a story

Sometimes using framing in composition helps to tell the story behind the photograph.

In this photograph of a puppy, the full story was that, during the wedding reception, the bride and groom heard from neighbours that their new puppy had got out of the property and was seen running down the road.

Fortunately, the wedding reception was being held very close to home, so a few wedding party members went out looking for the puppy. It took over an hour to find her. When they did find her, they brought her to the worried bride, who cried with relief that she’d been found. A circle of very relieved wedding guests gathered around her as everyone celebrated the return of their puppy.

Using out of focus foreground to frame subject
The natural framing in this image is created by the out of focus bride and guests in the foreground and background, with the main focal point in sharp focus 

3. Framing in photography to add context

Frames can also add context to your image.

Although, we can tell by the silhouette of the bride and groom that this is a wedding portrait, placing them in the open doorway of the church creates an unmistakable frame. The type of framing strengthens the context of the image, as well as adding to the composition.

Framing in photography composition with church doorway framing bride and groom
A newly married bride and groom silhouetted in the church doorway creates a powerful image and helps deliver the unmistakable context of a wedding.

3. Framing with body parts

If you’re out in the middle of nowhere, or on a beach without a frame in sight, you can still frame your subject. You don’t need a structure to be present for portrait photography framing, because body parts, such as arms and legs, make great frames too.

Framing a subject by using limbs for better composition
In portraiture, the eyes are the main focus point of an image. In a close cropped image, having the subject make her own frame with her arms to frame her face creates a strong image by using two photography composition techniques: framing and leading lines.

 

Using bodies to create a frame around the main subject
Here the parents’ bodies form a frame around the newborn baby, making it very clear that he is the center of attention. The direction of their gaze forms leading lines in another compositional technique

The thing about photography that makes people think that it’s hard, is that there are so many choices. Just think of all the composition techniques alone to choose from. BUT I feel that’s what makes photography more interesting.

 

You don’t need to remember everything in the beginning. In fact, how could you? So, the best approach is to learn one compositional technique at a time and then, once you’re really comfortable with it, move on to the next.

Photography composition is a habit. So once you know something…like really, really know it…you won’t have to think about it anymore. Before you realise it, you’ll naturally start combining three or more composition techniques as a matter of course. Here are another 18 photography composition techniques I know you’ll enjoy.

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Have you tried to use framing in photography creatively? Tell us in the comments – it’s always great to hear new ideas.

If this article has helped you to understand how to use framing in photography composition, please let me know in the comments – I love to hear good news!

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