use framing in your composition

Compositional use of framing in a beach portraitBoy is framed

This article shows you How to Use Framing in Your Composition to improve your photography. It's like putting icing on a cake. It tastes alright as it is, but when you add that little extra, it tickles your tastebuds and makes you smile.

It's a shooting technique that will make your very average photo into a somewhat better photo. Sometimes you'll get a really great photo. Here's an example of using the framing technique in your photography composition.

This young "big brother" is framed in within the overall scene by his father and expecting mother.

Waht is Framing in Photography Composition

You're wondering what is framing in photography and is it any good as an approach. Framing is a  valuable compositional technique where the photographer uses elements within the scene to create a frame around the main subject to emphasize its importance. It's creating a frame within the overall frame of a photograph.

With a photo like the one below, you can have an okay photo, but it will improve with the addition of a little "framing" technique. Framing is including other elements in your composition that naturally surround your main subject and make it emphasized.

Photo Composition with no framingAverage composition without any framing technique used.

This photo is of an historical building, where the "Heroine of Red Bank" bravely stayed put while under attack from the British soldiers in the Revolutionary War in 1777. I first took the traditional, straight-in-front photo with the deep blue sky and the healthy green grass providing a nice color contrast with the red brick building.

In the photo composition below I moved about 20 feet to my left and used the tree branches to frame in my main subject, the house, from above.  Particularly in landscape and architectural photography, you can use framing in your composition by moving around to find existing structures, light patterns or other elements that can cause us to focus our eyes more on the main subject.

Composition With Trees as Framing DeviceUsing the framing technique improved the photo significantly.

This would have been an even better photo if I could have waited another hour or so for the sun to move higher in the sky.  It was taken with the sun coming up behind me toward the house.

The shadowed shrubs and grass area in front of the porch on the left side of the structure would have been illuminated by the sun better and would also have better framed in the composition in the lower left portion of the photo by the shadows from the trees.

Second Example on How to Use Framing in Your Composition

Here's another similar example of using framing in a landscape photo. In this photo, the boat is too far away to make it a great photo. It's still a pretty scene with the grass and the tree branches framing in the bay and the distant mountains. 

Example of using the framing techniqueExample of using the framing technique

How could I have made it better? If I had a much longer lens, I could have backed up a little farther away from the tree branches and zoomed in farther to get the same framing. That way the branches would have been about the same, but the boat would have appeared bigger in the photograph.

Sometimes you don't have any way of finding framing elements around you. They're just not there in all situations. The key is to remember to look for them. Using framing in your photography is just one more technique of many to get your photos to shine above the others.

use a frame within your frame

You can call this technique using a frame within a frame. I took this photo during a photo excursion to Ireland. Try looking for existing "frames"  and position yourself so that you have an interesting subject to photograph. Pay attention to how much of the frame you show and how  much of your intended subject to show.

Frame within a frame techniqueA Frame Within Your Frame

related articles on composition in photography

10 Simple Techniques To Improve Your Photography Quickly. Ten ways you can improve the composition of any photograph you take, plus a look at 12 of the elements of composition to be aware of. Reading this article is like getting a free workshop on photography composition.

Photography Rule of Thirds.  Likely the most well known and most widely used rules of composition. Sometimes it should be broken, but understanding it and using when appropriate takes your photography up at least one notch.

Photography Composition Tips.  Your choice of perspective, changing your camera distance, lens setting, combined with framing and the use of the rule of thirds.

Depth of Field.  Abbreviated as DOF, depth of field impacts your composition by giving you control over what is emphasized by sharpness within the frame of your photograph.  Knowing what camera settings to use to control the range of things in focus affect your photo's composition dramatically.

Shoot more photos. Stay Inspired!

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

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