This photographic compositional technique, framing in photography, is one of the easiest ways to create interest in your images and make them more visually appealing to the viewer.

Everyone wants to take to take better pictures, and when you learn a few easy tricks, such as framing in photography, you’re on your way to great images!


1. What is framing in photography?


The compositional rule of framing in photography tells us that we can draw the viewers eye to our subject, by creating a frame around the outside edge of the image.

This frame can be anything but is most often in the foreground between the camera and the subject.


In the image below, your eye is constantly drawn to the surfer in the waves.  The reason is that the dark frame around the edge of the picture created by the dark color of the pier.


surfer framed by pier in photography

Notice the surfer is framed nicely by the pier.


The images below come from my article on creating depth in photography.  The first image was taken on a path next to an evergreen tree.

For the next image, her and I simply stepped closer to the tree, almost directly in the tree.  By doing this, I create a frame around her that draws your attention and focus exactly where I want it to go, to her.


framing in photography

As we step into the trees, I create a frame around my subject focusing your attention exactly where I want.


The images above are both good, but the image on the right is more impactful.  It also more clearly focuses on my subject.


It’s a masterpiece! Well, not really.


Looking at the image, you’ll see that besides framing, I also incorporated the rule of thirds, and used leading lines, the lines of the tree boughs, to lead you directly to my subject.   Hopefully, you can see how all of these techniques come together to help form a great image.

One my client will love.

Man, I really nailed it with this image!  But guess what.  If the girl doesn’t like her hair in the image, you might as well throw it away.  I say that in jest, but it is so true!  Anyway, I digress.


Framing is a powerful compositional technique that allows the photographer to create visual boundaries for the eye keeping the viewer right where you want them.  In this image of the girl, your eye always starts and ends with her.  The framing keeps your eyes and your attention right where I choose.

2. Framing in photography to focus attention.


The most common use of framing is to focus the attention of the viewer on the subject.  Framing creates a visual boundary that keeps the viewer’s eye on the subject of the photograph.


framing a mountain with clouds in photography

Framing can be anything and any color. Contrast between the subject and frame also helps.

building framed with greenery


Bear in mind; the frame doesn’t need to go completely around the subject, just enough to frame the subject, helping to focus the viewer’s attention where you want it focused.


mountain framed by leaves

Notice how the leaves frame the mountain scene without going completely around.


Take a look at the photograph below.  I mentioned earlier that the frame is most often found in the foreground; between the subject and the camera.


But not in this image of a VW Bug.  The framing is behind the car, yet still, our eye moves directly to the car itself.  If the VW happened to be a darker color, the frame wouldn’t work as well.

Remember, contrast differences between the subject and the frame helps to direct the eye of the viewer.


vw bug framed by trees

The framing is behind the subject.


3. Framing in photography to tell a story.


One of the most powerful uses of framing is when it helps the story of the image.  Some of the best images are those that tell a story, and when you frame your photograph with supporting objects, you enhance its ability to share the message you want to share.

What story do the following images tell?


woman in gallery framed by walls

What story does this image tell?


In the above image, including the walls conveys the feeling that this woman is all alone and we are peering in on her.


How about the image below, what story does the framing help tell?


Girl on ground framed by people

What story does this image tell?


Do you get a feel for what is happening in the image because of the framing?

Is the little girl lost?

Is she just tired and taking a break?

Whatever it is, the framing helps to tell the story.

The use of legs to frame in the little girl, and not people’s face is helpful here as well.  If we could see the faces of the people around her, our attention would be drawn to them and away from her.


Sad girl on bench

What story does this image tell?


The framing on the image above is the window frame.

The window frame helps to tell the story of this photograph, can you see how?

What story do you get from this image?  Sadness?  Disappointment?

The dark moodiness of light helps to tell the story as well.

Framing in photography is a powerful way to help tell the story you want to convey with your images.

4. Framing in photography with light.


Sometimes called vignetting, using light as a frame in your image is a great way to draw the viewers eye where you want it to go.

Using light helps to create that contrast that we seek when using framing in photography.


girl with dog framed with light

Notice how the light frames the girl and the dog?

girl framed by light

This girl is lit in such a way that the eye of the viewer falls directly on the face.



You can also add framing in photography with a vignette in software, like Lightroom or Photoshop.  The image below is an example of a dark border added to draw the eye of the viewer into the center of the frame, directly to the subject.


boy in front of wall with vignette

Notice how the dark vignette around the edge of the image draws your eye to the subject?


5. Tips for using framing in your photography.


So, you want to get started using framing in photography.  Alright, let me help you!

Below are what I would consider the most useful tips to get started using framing right away, and therefore by following these tips you can improve your images quickly.


• Look to shoot through objects that you find.  Trees, doorways, crowds, windows, etc.. work best.


images of framing in photography


• Try to use the contrast of dark and light between the frame and subject.  By using contrast, the eye is drawing even more to the subject of the image.


• Get close to the foreground to create framing in photography.  Sometimes a frame can be created simply by getting close to the foreground.  These images below are perfect examples of getting close to the foreground to create a frame.


framing in photography by getting close


6. Conclusion


Framing in photography is a powerful tool that allows photographers to control the eye of the viewer.

It can be an easy addition to an image, simply by getting close and adding foreground to the image.

It can also happen in software later.  Either way, the quality of your images will increase when you begin using framing in your images to create more visual interest.

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