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Composition: framing

Framing is another very easy photography composition technique to learn. It quite literally is what it says on the tin. Like many techniques, framing in photography composition is often combined with other composition techniques to create beautiful and interesting images.

You don’t need an actual frame to frame a scene. Frames occur naturally and are also man-made.

Here are some examples of objects to look out for when you want to frame your subject:

  • Tree branches
  • Buildings
  • Doors and doorways
  • Windows
  • Arches
  • People
  • Out of focus foreground objects
Using buildings to frame a subject in photography composition

Framing in photography composition can be created with buildings, as in this photo.

How to use framing in photography composition

Frames very often serve to declutter an image. Your frame does not 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. This is helped further by your frame being out of focus.

Framing to create depth

Not only does a frame highlight your subject, it creates a layer to your photograph, which in turn creates 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 into the scene.

In this photograph, we were in a hide very close to a favourite 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 the 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, 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. I’ve used: rule of thirds, differential focus and framing.

Framing to tell a story

Sometimes the framing helps to tell the story. In this photograph of a sweet little puppy, the full story was that during the wedding reception, they 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.

Using out of focus foreground to frame subject

The frame in this image is created by the out of focus bride and guests in the foreground and background, with the subject in sharp focus.

Framing 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. It 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 helps deliver the unmistakable context of a wedding.

Creating frames from nothing

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, because arms 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 frame her face with her arms 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. The direction of their gaze forms leading lines.

The thing about photography that makes people think that it is hard, is that there are so many choices. Just think of the composition techniques alone. BUT I think that just makes it so much more interesting.

You don’t need to remember everything in the beginning. In fact, how could you? The awesome thing is that so many of those things are actually really easy as well. So, the best thing to do is learn one thing at a time and then when you’re really comfortable with it, move onto another thing.

When it comes to composition, it really is a habit. So once you know something…like really, really know it…you won’t have to think about it anymore. Before you know it, you will naturally be combining three or more composition techniques as a matter of course.

Have you tried any creative uses of framing you’d like to tell us about? It’s always great to hear new ideas.

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

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