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How to use framing in photography

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by David Em
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Framing is a photography composition technique that uses other elements in the image to draw the focus to the main subject.

Portrait of a woman holding a frame.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

What’s framing in photography?

In photography, framing is one of the best composition techniques to make a subject stand out as the main focus by blocking other parts of the image.

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Sometimes, you’ll hear it referred to as a frame within a frame.

Typically, frames are set in the middle of the image. However, it can be wherever you choose, as long as you use elements in the image to frame your subject.

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If you want to make your photos more interesting and eye-catching, start framing your subject.

Benefits of using framing

Framing is an important composition technique to understand. You can use anything to frame your subject.

Framing is beneficial because it guides your viewer’s eyes quickly and directly to your subject. It’s an impactful technique that takes your photos to the next level.

Aside from drawing attention to your subject, framing also provides context.

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What you choose to frame your subject with plays a role in the overall story of the image. It can tell a viewer where your subject is, how they feel, and what they’re doing.

Along with telling a story, framing makes a viewer feel present in the image because they know what’s surrounding the subject.

Another benefit of framing is that it creates depth. When your subject is further away, and you frame them with something closer to you, it adds depth.

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When you add depth with contrast, you get a three-dimensional feel in the image.

Overall, framing is an excellent composition technique because it makes your image more intriguing.

How to frame your shot

You can use a variety of things to frame your subject. Examples include branches, a bridge, windows, and anything else able to surround your subject.

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To properly use framing in your photography, take the following steps:

  1. Find an interesting element for framing.
  2. Place your subject in the frame.
  3. Take the photo.

While you’re using the framing technique, you must decide whether or not you want the frame to be in focus. To blur the frame, use a large aperture, which provides a shallow depth of field.

If you want the frame and your subject in focus, use a small aperture, which offers a deep depth of field.

If the frame is in focus, it’s easy to see what it is, and it can help tell a story. However, blurring it out will create more depth in your photo.

Related: What’s cropping in photography?

Framing tips and ideas

Framing is a powerful photography technique. While it’s great on its own, you can sharpen your skills by combining framing with other composition techniques. In addition to framing, use symmetry or the rule of thirds.

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If you need ideas to get the ball rolling, the following are the best framing tips and ideas to try.

Architecture

Ship on the water through a window frame.
A ship is being framed by using a window. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Architecture and its elements, such as windows and doorways, are some of the easiest ways to frame your subject.

While you can place your subject in a doorway or window, you can also frame your subject with buildings, bridges, stairs, pillars, and railings.

When you’re using architecture for framing, be sure to try different perspectives and angles. There are many opportunities and perspectives to try.

Nature

Woman framed by driftwood near the ocean.
A hole in driftwood is an excellent way to frame a subject on the beach. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Like architecture, nature provides an abundance of framing opportunities.

Trees and their branches can create curves and edges to frame your subject. You can also use grass, bushes, mountains, hills, and rocks.

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Another idea is to shoot from a low angle and use the clouds in the sky to frame your subject.

Nature is filled with frames. Again, get creative by trying different angles and thinking of different perspectives.

Shadows and light

Silhouette of a person framed by shadows.
A person’s silhouette is framed by shadows. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Light and shadows are excellent for framing. You can frame a well-lit subject with shadows around them.

You can also place your subject in the shadow and frame them with light.

Light and shadows are unique and compelling ways to frame your subject and capture a moody image.

When using light and shadows, make sure there’s enough contrast.

Without contrast, it won’t be as obvious. So, you may need to do a little editing.

People

Selective focus on a person in a group walking.
Use a large aperture to blur others and focus on your subject. Photo courtesy of Canva.

People make for great frames. If you’re shooting a portrait, use other people to frame your subject.

One of the best ways to do this is to have your subject sit or stand on the other side of the street. Then, snap a photo of your subject between people as they’re walking by.

It can be tricky because your timing has to be spot-on. However, the results are incredible.

Another idea is to have two people stand facing each other. Then, blur them out and place your subject between them, but further away in the distance.

The goal is to use the two blurred people as a frame.

Props

Person standing framed by a mirror on the ground.
Mirrors are an excellent way to frame your subject and capture interesting perspectives. Photo courtesy of Canva.

Props are helpful because you can build a frame or use something already frame-ready.

Several prop ideas include hula hoops, ropes, mirrors, fabrics, and open boxes. There are many different items you can use.

However, make sure the item is relevant to the image. Avoid using anything that seems out of place or distracting, unless you did it intentionally.

Conclusion

Framing is one of the best ways to capture better images regardless of the type of photography.

If you take a minute to look around, you’ll be able to find creative ways to frame your subject. The best part about framing is that you have frames all around.

By using the framing technique, you’ll add context, depth and make your subject stand out as the main focus.

Start framing your subject today. It’ll make you a better and more creative photographer.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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