Creative Compositions: Finding Framing

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Finding frames for photos doesn’t always have to mean looking for the perfect frame to hang on your wall. If you’re looking for a way to push your compositions to the next level of visual interest, try finding frames for your subjects within your photos as well. In this post René Edde shares some tips on framing your shots.

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A great technique for better photos is to frame your subject within your photo. The next time you are out exploring the world with your camera, try looking for ways to surround your subject with another element in the scene. Framing up your subject is a great technique to add depth and visual impact to your photography. Isolating your subject with framing draws the viewer’s attention directly to the subject of your photograph.

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When framing within your photos pay careful attention to your foreground and your background. Remember that both elements are present in nearly every photo that you make. Try to find a way to frame the subject with an object in the foreground that relates somehow back to the object. Try to utilize elements in the foreground that may give the viewer more information about where the photo was taken, what the location was like, or even what event or activity is taking place.

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Be careful when utilizing framing techniques that you don’t clutter the photo or obscure the subject. If there is too much going on around the subject of your photograph it is easy to lose the meaning of what your image is trying to convey. Remember though that busy photographs can easily be subdued by carefully choosing a shallow depth of field and blurring out things that could otherwise be distracting. It doesn’t do well to overshadow your subject with chaos or confusion. Be careful when choosing things such as tree branches or leaves as framing elements. You don’t want to jumble the viewer or have branches “growing” out of people’s heads.

Framing4A.JPG

To find framing take the extra time to explore your surroundings when making photographs. Walk around the scene. Find different angles. Look for elements within your surroundings that you can use to fill the frame. Imagine objects as windows and frames to help isolate your subject and highlight what you are trying to show. It’s sometimes the simplest techniques that help take your images to the next level.

Got some examples of good framing to show? Leave us a link to them in comments below or share them in the share your shots section of our forum.

About the Author: René Edde is a freelance photojournalist based in Chicago, IL. When René isn’t shooting on assignment for newspapers or working with local and international non-profits on documentary stories, you can find her teaching English to Tibetan monks in Nepal. You can see more of René’s work at her website and her adventures on her blog.

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Some Older Comments

  • Wahid Roshan Surya October 30, 2012 11:17 am

    ...it's always a good exercise to think of frames within the frame... it''s like the supposed mesmerising quality of "schizophrenic" imagery... it's like looking into a kaleidoscope or a cut gem and seeing slightly different perspectives of the same subject... equally challenging - and rewarding - that we could also go to the other end of the spectrum: get really close and isolate only a small part of the whole to FILL the frame, yes...?

  • Andy September 26, 2009 12:56 am

    Here is my example of creative framing. First attempt at anything like this...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyglive/3952727487/

  • Mudit September 13, 2009 06:46 pm

    i am a toddler here. these are my clicks...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40236565@N03/3914419023/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40236565@N03/3915186480/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40236565@N03/3699833997/

  • Steve Edwards September 6, 2009 07:27 pm

    I went out to our local castle & specifically took a couple of framed shots thanks to the inspiration on this page.
    Here are my efforts:-
    Powis Castle framed by arch 1
    Powis Castle framed by greenery 2

  • joanne cruz September 6, 2009 02:36 pm

    i like the second picture!!
    it's cute :)
    love it.

  • Matt G September 4, 2009 08:55 am

    MY OFFERING

  • Miguel Vera September 4, 2009 07:57 am

    I'm glad you posted this, it will remind me to look for interesting frames more often.

    I tried to pull some sort of framing with this shot. http://flic.kr/p/4XDZqv I'm not so sure if I'd consider it framed, but still I feel satisfied enough with the result.

  • Melissa September 4, 2009 06:39 am

    This would be my most recent upload that I'd consider to be "framed." http://www.flickr.com/photos/melissa-b/3882889165/

    After reading this article and looking through some of the posted photo, I realize I should try to implement more purposeful framing to spice up my photography. Thanks for the ideas and inspiration!

  • Steve Edwards September 4, 2009 04:34 am

    In the shotgun sight!

  • Steve Edwards September 4, 2009 04:31 am

    Trying again to link to my photo! Feel free to have a look through my Flickr photostream.
    --->

  • Steve Edwards September 4, 2009 04:27 am

    Here's a portrait of my wife I took a couple of months back. I'd never thought about framing within a shot before, but was trying to achieve depth of field with my compact digital. With no aperture control I was having to use the spot focus & then recompose the shot.
    I spotted a chain link in a childrens playgtound & used that as my frame. Looks kind of like a shotgun sight, but I didn't tell my wife that!! :oD

  • Pssequimages September 4, 2009 01:21 am

    SUPER creative, inspiring and ever so much fun....THANK YOU for this article.

  • Gary September 4, 2009 01:18 am

    One of my favourite shots I've taken recently is greatly enhanced by framing I feel:

  • Thomas Røygaard September 3, 2009 05:51 pm

    Hope it works this time...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/roygaard/983388623/

  • Thomas Røygaard September 3, 2009 05:46 pm

    When you have to go, you have to go. On a trip to Svalbard we went for a sailing trip to a russian settlement. And on the way I had to go. Even though the composition is not the greatest, I still like the set and the scenery.

    /Thomas

  • Jessica S. September 3, 2009 02:19 pm

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments on my photo! And Rene, I agree with you, I think the framing makes the space feel more populated. (Which it was, totally full of kids and teachers. Hard to get a good simple shot in such a crowd.)

  • Robin Ryan September 3, 2009 09:51 am

    Good article, and great examples. The mirror one is fantastic.

    I'd recommend keeping an eye on doorframes, as people love to sit in them: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robinryan/2351240410/in/set-72157603329594706/

    Here's one of an old basilica in Quito that I think turned out quite well: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robinryan/3835239552/in/set-72157603329594706/

  • Alison Greenwood September 2, 2009 09:15 pm

    haha who would have thought whatever.com would have been a real site!
    I'll try again...

    Name of webpage here

    It seems the only space needed is between A HREF.

  • Alison Greenwood September 2, 2009 09:11 pm

    The xhtml displayed on this board isn't very clear at all.

    For other people unsure, I found this on google
    Name of image here

  • Alison Greenwood September 2, 2009 09:08 pm

    I'm no good at this xhtml stuff. That's why I take pictures lol.
    Let's try again...
    Face Painting

  • Alison Greenwood September 2, 2009 09:05 pm

    Here's my version.

  • Xerophytes September 2, 2009 05:19 pm

    @Rene

    I think I somehow get your point.

    I checked my collection and found this:

    http://img.aminus2.com/image/g0018/u00017334/i00655224/0f82a202c9c083e6195e4774314946df_small.jpg

    Dunno if it will considered as framing, but reflection, yes.

  • dead September 2, 2009 05:12 pm

    cool great examples.

    these are the closest ones i have, i hope they work:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/deadringer/3797789910/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/deadringer/3727795066/

  • René Edde September 2, 2009 01:28 pm

    Great examples of framing!!!
    Jessica: I think that your example of framing helps the viewer to feel the room. Meaning that by using the students to frame each other you feel like you are in the crowded room.

    Sean: I think that you are hitting framing right on the head. You don't have to crop, just get closer next time! Don't ever be afraid. If you see something that is lined up so perfectly get close and make that photo!

    Xerophytes: You have the right idea! Just take it a little further. What could you use in this photo to frame up the subject that would tell you more about the subject? Is there a mirror in the room? Or something that may use framing in reflection? What about the microscope??? This makes me want to see something round framing it up.

    Joel: Thanks for the compliments. I went to your blog and the very first post was great framing in the architecture of the castle. Awesome with the silhouettes.

    Can't wait to see more of your photos working with framing all!! And look out for the next tip!

  • Mei Teng September 2, 2009 11:19 am

    Good tips. I like the first photo illustration.

  • Joel September 2, 2009 07:15 am

    Thanks for the tips, Rene. Framing is an effective technique to add some flavor to a shot but I've always been cautious about not overusing it. Your examples show some subtler ways of framing. I like that.

  • Xerophytes September 2, 2009 04:54 am

    Would this be consider as "framing"?

    http://img.aminus2.com/image/g0018/u00017334/i00652526/25089d8c29e92de7ff4c275d60df509c_small.jpg

  • Hieu Vo September 2, 2009 03:03 am

    Thx Jessica, your example helps me a lots :D

  • Danferno September 2, 2009 02:34 am

    Very nice image Jessica

  • Jessica S. September 2, 2009 01:49 am

    Here's an example of using other people's bodies as a frame.

    http://quotidian-photography.blogspot.com/2009/08/day-154-august-12-say-it-one-more-time.html

    Hope you like it!

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