Photography Composition — Framing

The role of any rule of composition is to draw the eye into a photograph. Framing refers to using elements of a scene to create a frame within your frame. For example, you might shoot through a doorway, pulled back curtains, branches, fences, tunnels, or arches to highlight your subject. Adding a focal point through framing shows a viewer exactly where to look.

Aside from directing attention, the use of framing gives a photo context. Foreground elements around your subject, for example, add to the story told by your image. A frame formed by branches or flowers indicates that the photo was taken in a forest or garden. Books surrounding the edges of the image show that the subject is in a library.

Here are just a few of the ways you might use framing to compose your images.

Natural frames, like foliage or blossoms, are easy to find. Look for angles that give you a “window” to shoot through. Contrasting colors between the frame and subject are also helpful in attracting a viewer’s attention:

Natural frames, like foliage or blossoms frame composition

Natural frames, like foliage or blossoms frame composition

Doorways are one of the simplest ways to incorporate a frame into your photo. Photographing from indoors during the daytime takes advantage of they eye being drawn to parts of the photo that are the brightest:

Doorways - simplest way to incorporate a frame in a photo

Doorways – simplest way to incorporate a frame in a photo

Framing doesn’t necessarily mean you must shoot through an object in the foreground. Background elements, like a white door, can put a frame around your subject while also making use of drawing the eye to the brightest part of the photo.

Background elements, like a white door, can put a frame into a photo

Background elements, like a white door, can put a frame into a photo

A partially closed door or window can create a narrow frame that works for certain pictures.

A partially closed door or window can create a narrow frame

A partially closed door or window can create a narrow frame

Taking advantage of concentric frames makes for an interesting photo. For example, you might use a fogged up window first to frame your image, and then use an even smaller spot that’s cleared of condensation to lead your viewer to the main subject.

Taking advantage of concentric frames makes for an interesting photo

Taking advantage of concentric frames makes for an interesting photo

Inanimate objects aren’t the only sources of framing. Some of the people in a scene can be thrown out of focus to highlight your main subject while giving your audience context.

If you’re having trouble finding inspiration with naturally occurring frames, try taking pictures through household objects as an experiment. Doodads that make for interesting pictures include rings, funnels, toilet paper tubes, picture frames, and magnifying glasses. Framing your subject with unusual items can make for interesting and abstract results.

Photos through household objects as an experiment

Photos through household objects as an experiment

Next time you’re out taking pictures, look for frames or bring your own objects to shoot through. With practice, you’ll notice natural framing elements quickly and improve your photography composition. Framing your subjects will give your subjects added appeal and show your audience what you want them to see.

All photos copyright Nicoal Price

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Profile photo of Nicoal Price About Nicoal Price

​Nicoal is a New England photographer with a penchant for learning. Her work ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Visit nicoalprice.com for more info.

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