Photography Framing Techniques – An Essential Guide

man in button up shirt

In photography, the word framing can be used to describe different things. Generally, it refers to how we compose the image in our viewfinder.

Or perhaps, how we physically frame the printed version of our photos. 

However, this photography guide is about another type of framing that occurs within the photo itself. In this sense, framing refers to the use of components in the scene to surround certain sections of the image.

This helps to direct the viewer’s focus to the subject. It can also be referred to as frame in frame or sub framing photography.

Having your photography get noticed is something that every photographer strives to achieve. Given the thousands of images posted to online platforms such as Instagram every day, it can be hard to compose images to catch your audience’s attention. 

This is why it is even more important to learn composition techniques like framing to take your photography skills to the next level. Learning framing photography techniques is similar to studying more complex compositions like leading lines or the rule or thirds.

This photography guide aims to teach you how to use framing to your advantage to create exceptional photos.

As well as teach you tips to think about when composing your frame. 

You should have learnt everything there is to know about this composition approach by the end of this guide, giving you the confidence to start using it in your photography sessions.

At a glance, this is what will be covered. Click a link to skip to the section you need. 

  1. What is framing in photography?
  2. 3 benefits for using framing in your photos
  3. When should you use framing?
  4. How to effectively frame a photograph
  5. What are framing photography techniques?
  6. Natural framing photography 
  7. Architectural framing photography
  8. Framing photography using shapes
  9. Framing photography using light and shadows
  10. Further tips for photography framing
  11. Additional composition ideas

Ready to learn all about framing in photography? Let’s get to it!

What is framing in photography? 

Framing is a distinct composition technique to draw attention to the subject you are capturing. This can be achieved by using various framing photography composition methods. 

There are endless possibilities to frame your photos. You can use a physical frame created with a prop, an outdoor element, something structural or even the absence of light to frame your subject. 

By using one of these framing photography techniques, you direct the audience to your subject and grab their attention right away.

architecture photography framing techniques

3 benefits for using framing in your photos

  1. When used properly, framing produces attractive visual results.
  2. When taking photographs of brands and products, it might be helpful to naturally direct viewers to the image’s focal point, or the place where they will naturally focus their attention first.
  3. It offers you, the photographer, the chance to tell a story. By directing the audience’s sight on the subject, framing grabs the viewer’s attention.

When to use framing 

Framing is not an easy technique to master. In fact, it’s frequently poorly attempted which is why many professional photographers recommend using it selectively. That being said, there are situations when framing might significantly improve a photograph. 

Here are some reasons or situations to consider using framing in your photography:

  1. Framing is a great technique to use to add depth to your photographs 
  2. It’s a useful technique when you need to block dull backgrounds, to make an image more appealing
  3. If there is a naturally occurring frame already in your surrounding environment which intrigues you, it’s likely to interest your audience too
  4. Framing allows you to provide a different perspective on your subject
  5. There are certain situations when adding a frame in your image will enhance, rather than detract from the photograph.

How to effectively frame a photograph

Every type of photography can benefit from using framing techniques. Therefore, learning to understand photography composition principles like framing is crucial whether you’re a street photographer or a pet photographer. 

Following these simple steps will help you to effectively frame your photos.

  1. As with any photo, you need to know your subject and what story you are trying to convey before you can start to compose your image. 
  2.  When you identify a subject you wish to capture, you should stand back and observe your surroundings. 
  3. Think about how you could use your surroundings to properly highlight your subject. What is in the environment around you? Remember, you can take advantage of sunlight, reflections, natural features, or architectural elements.
  4. Experiment! Framing is a flexible concept in photography. It means you don’t have to follow any rules to do it. You may find you are able to use several types of objects to frame your subject during your photoshoot. 
framing photography example of empty spiral staircase

Take a look at the following photography framing techniques for some inspiration. 

What are framing photography techniques?

As mentioned, framing is a distinct composition technique to draw attention to the subject you are capturing. This can be achieved by using various framing photography composition methods. 

There are endless possibilities to frame your photos. You can use a physical frame created with a prop, an outdoor element, something structural or even the absence of light to frame your subject. 

Framing may even be thought of as anything that closes off a portion of the frame. If part of your frame is obscured, the viewer’s eye will be drawn to the more open region, which should include your subject. 

A photographer can incorporate a range of different framing photography techniques to truly make their image unique.

The next section of this post will cover the most common types of photography framing. By using one or a combination of these framing photography techniques, you will be able to direct the audience to your subject and grab their attention right away.

However, overcrowding your image might detract from the narrative you’re attempting to convey. So, it’s important to remember what feelings you are trying to invoke with your photography. 

Remember to use the natural surroundings, buildings, negative space, and light to frame your shot and effectively convey your message.

Natural framing photography 

Nature gives photographers numerous unique framing options, such as tree branches, flowers, valley walls, and rock formations. 

All of these can be leveraged to direct the viewer’s attention. You can even incorporate weather effects such as rain or fog to help frame your subject.

One of the most often employed framing strategies in photography, particularly landscape photography, is certainly this one.

When framing using natural elements, you still need to make sure that the frame and the objects mesh well. 

Don’t choose the first natural framing possibility you come across; instead, look around and consider what might complement your subject.

To make sure that the frame still compliments the focus point, pay attention to the general theme and hue pattern in your image.

framing composition photo of man sitting on a cave

Architectural framing photography

Some of the simplest features for photo framing are architectural elements. Doorways, arches, and windows generate convenient spaces through which we may focus our attention.

These are not the only architectural elements that you can use in framing photography. It also applies to curtains, blinds, fences, bridges, staircases, allies, streetlamps, and many other features.

Some photographers also use other buildings to frame their subjects, which is worth experimenting with if you believe it is appropriate.

man framed standing on arch doorway

Framing photography using shapes

A frame can be made from any sort of shape. The most common shapes are circles, squares, and rectangles, yet they are rarely the most intriguing. 

Using a spiral staircase, for example, to bring the eye to your subject might result in a spectacular example of framing composition technique.

Shapes can be found in both urban and rural settings, but you can also make your own shapes by using objects or other people.

A common representation of this is when someone makes the shape of a heart with their hands to frame the sunset or anything they love!

Framing photography using light and shadows

Use of a non-material object can also serve as a frame. Lights and shadows are examples of more abstract components that can be used.

Both natural and non-natural light can be used to frame your subject. Non-natural light sources, such as a spotlight or a torch, produce a similar impact to natural light.

This is a more subtle method to framing, but it’s an intriguing way to showcase not only your subject, but also your light source.

When incorporating this framing photography technique, you might use shadows or darkness in your scene. 

This may be accomplished by framing your subject with shadows and positioning the person or object in a lit area. The spectator will be forced to focus their attention there and not be distracted by other elements in the surroundings.

Further tips for photography framing

Learning how to use photography framing in a way that actually enriches your photographs will need a significant degree of vision and ingenuity. As a result, it’s recommended not to overdo it. Still, once you can perfect the technique, you’ll be able to produce some very spectacular photos.  

Follow these tips to help master photography framing quickly:

  1. Framing, when done incorrectly, adds distractions to a photograph, making it feel crowded or improperly cropped. Be sure to keep this in mind when trying to compose your photos, less is more. 
  2. When composing your images, remember that your framing does not have to surround the subject completely. Some of the nicest, most natural-looking photos are simply framed on one or two sides.
  3. Try making the elements of your frame in and out of focus. Each option has a distinct effect and might be the difference between an unpleasant frame and one that works well for your shoot.
building arch entrance framing technique

Additional composition ideas

Framing is just one example of how to compose a photo. Photographers usually incorporate a range of composition strategies to create portfolios of exceptional photographs. Alternative photography composition ideas that are popular include:

Centering – Placing the subject matter in the centre of the image can sometimes assist draw the viewer’s attention to it when there is a busy foreground or backdrop. Placing a track or road in the image’s centre is another technique to leverage centering since it creates a leading line for the viewer’s eyes to enter the picture.

The golden ratio – This composition technique has been adopted by numerous well-known photographers. Ansel Adams widely applied it for shooting his famous landscapes. The golden ratio may be used in a number of contexts and can be represented by the phi grid or the Fibonacci spiral.

The rule of odds – According to the rule of odds, choosing an odd number of subjects while photographing a group of subjects rather than an even number will produce a composition that is more engaging and visually pleasing.

These are simply a few substitutes for implementing framing composition. There are several other photography composition rules that you can use to distinguish your image from the competition. 

The simplest approach to get started is to learn one thing at a time and practise until you have grasped it. One of the top two online photography courses will teach you the basics of photography, including composition principles, if you want to study more.

Final thoughts

Framing is just one of many composition techniques that can be used to draw your viewer’s focus to an item or person in your photo.

Applying this composition technique to frame your subject can really make an image a little bit more intriguing and engaging to your audience. Resulting in your subject or photo standing out among the crowd. 

Once you start to look for frames in your surroundings, you will notice more and more just how many things can be used to frame your subject. 

To produce a frame effect indoors, for example, you could shoot through an arch or a doorway. Similarly, if you were shooting outdoors you could use branches or bushes to fill up the area surrounding the subject.  

This technique is a great way to experiment and direct the viewer’s attention precisely to where you want it. Ultimately, framing your photography can help you to create a visual story through your images. 

DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission from some of the links above. For the benefit of the doubt, please assume all links might be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

cn tower framed by hands in mittens

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