Basic Composition: Framing

For the last few months, our photographic challenges have focused on composition. This is because composition is one of the most important aspects of a photograph. These rules are there because they give your photos balance and help your viewer easily (and quickly) understand what is important within the photo you have taken.

This month we will focus on Framing. Framing is a compositional technique of drawing attention your image’s subject by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene. It can help give your image a sense of place and time—adding meaning to your photo. In addition, framing can also be a very strong storytelling technique—before you begin to frame your images, it is important to consider the effect it will have on the story you are trying to convey. For example, while framing a subject can allow you direct the viewer to exactly what you want them to look at, it can also give the viewer a feeling of  interrupting, or peeking into, a private moment.

Almost anything can be used to frame items and people within a photograph. Below are a few framing elements (both literal and non) that can be used:

  1. Light and shadow
  2. Architectural elements (windows, doorways, etc.)
  3. Environmental Elements (leaves, people, etc.)

As you can see, frames are everywhere and just about anything can be used to frame your subject. However, before you do so, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will this add or take away from the image I am trying to create?
  2. What is the story I am trying to tell?

How we choose to frame cannot only impact the how easily the viewer can interpret the photo (framing can add visual clutter if the photographer is not careful), but it can also affect the story being told. Therefore, it is important to be selective on what you choose to frame.

Five things to know about framing:

  1. A frame does not need to surround your subject
  2. The edges of your frame can vary – a building edge can create one side, while a passerby head can create the other while a light-colored floor could make up the bottom.
  3. Framing can be symmetrical, but it does not have to be
  4. A frame can be created by simply getting close to your foreground.
  5. Trees, doorways, crowds, windows, and any other everyday objects can make good framing objects.
  6. Contrast between light and dark can create some interesting frames of your subject.

Like the rule of thirds, minimalism, and other compositional rules, framing is just tool. If used properly, framing can help you add something to your imagery. While it is important to be aware of frames while you are photographing, it is equally important to remember not every photograph needs a frame.

Want to learn more about photography basics, participate in monthly challenges, and receive constructive criticism on your images?

Join our Facebook group, Capturing Life: A Rochester Parent Beginner Photo Group. Be sure to answer the questions so one of our admins can let you in!


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