As photographers, we use different composition techniques to draw the eye and lead the viewer towards our main subject or the story we want to tell.
One of my favorite composition tricks to use is “framing”. It consists of using different elements of a scene to create a frame within the frame. It’s a simple trick that works really well for any type of image, whether it’s for stock or fine art.
The idea is to add an extra layer which helps give the photo a sense of place and context. It also shows the viewer exactly where to look.
Here are different ways of framing your subject in your photos:
1- Using architectural elements:
The most obvious way to frame a subject is to use man-made architectural elements such as windows, arches and doorways.
In this photo from Morocco, the woman was sitting in front of a window, providing an obvious and easy frame. I also took a few steps back to add the edges of the doorway as an additional layer.
In the following image, I captured the Grand Mosque dome in Abu Dhabi through an arch. I wanted it to not only mirror the shape of the dome, but also create a more interesting frame instead of having an empty bland sky.
2- Using natural and environmental frames:
If you find yourself outdoors, you’ll also find a wide range of elements in nature that can help you frame your subject.
With the right angle, trees and branches can easily create a natural frame that can add a sense of depth and interest to a scene, as well as hide uninteresting backgrounds.
In this photo below, I found a little opening in the branches after walking around the old stupa in Thailand. Instead of cropping the top part of the structure, it perfectly wraps around it and frames it, creating a sense of depth as well.
Here’s another example from Tanzania, with some cheerful maasai kids playing with a ball. The tree branches and the edge of the building create a little opening, perfectly framing the silhouette of the children.
3- Using shapes and light:
A more advanced way of framing is to use different shapes and patterns in the foreground that block off a part of the scene and make your subject in the background stand out. Just make sure your focus is on your subject.
In this photo from India, I decided to keep the foreground blurry and focus on the old man’s face in the background. The geometrical shapes create interesting lines but the main focus remains the face.
Contrast created by dark and light areas can also be quite effective. It’s a more subtle approach but a well-placed source of light can form a natural frame, highlighting your subject and making your photo stand out.
Inside this Hindu temple in India, although there is a frame created by the window behind the old caretaker, it’s the bright light shining through from multiple directions and the contrast it creates that works as a frame.
Using a frame within your photograph is a creative way to add interest and enhance the story of your image. It’s also a great way to add depth and dimension to your photo. Pay attention to the architectural and natural elements around you, experiment with different angles and find out what works best to make your images truly shine.
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