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How to Frame a Photograph

Updated on July 20, 2012
In this image the window in the temple is framing the ruins of Machu Pichu in the background.  Because of the framing with the window, the viewer can understand that the photographer was looking out at Machu Pichu from a distance.
In this image the window in the temple is framing the ruins of Machu Pichu in the background. Because of the framing with the window, the viewer can understand that the photographer was looking out at Machu Pichu from a distance. | Source

The key to taking a great photo is the composition of the image. Composition is the process of arranging things in your shot so that you can easily convey what you want to the viewer. If done right, your composition will make it easier for your viewer to understand the purpose of your image.

One technique used in composition is framing. Framing is the technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene.

In this image, the rock arch is framing the mountains in the background
In this image, the rock arch is framing the mountains in the background | Source

What to use to frame your image

You can "frame" your image by using many different elements of your scene. For example you may use:

  • Tree branches
  • Tunnels
  • Windows
  • People (shooting between people's shoulders or heads with the person behind them in focus)
  • Doorways
  • Arches
  • A traditional picture frame border

The frame of your image does not have to cover all of the edges like a traditional picture frame, it may just cover one or two edges of your shot. Frames may also be in the foreground or background of your image - though they are more commonly used in the foreground of the image.

The subway window used to frame this image gives it context as you know exactly where she is and what she's doing, whereas, in a close up portrait you would not have this understanding
The subway window used to frame this image gives it context as you know exactly where she is and what she's doing, whereas, in a close up portrait you would not have this understanding | Source

Why would I frame my image?

Framing your image can add a number of benefits to your image, including:

  • giving the photo context
  • drawing the viewers eye to your subject
  • adding interest to the picture
  • giving the image a sense of depth
  • creating layers within the image
  • bringing a sense of containment or organization to an image

By using the framing technique in your photography, you can take your image from "just another photo" to a spectacular photo that really conveys what you were looking to show in your image.

Take for example, the picture on the right. If this image was a close up of the girl's face, it would be just another portrait, however, by including the door of the subway you know exactly where she is and what she's doing.

The picture from Machu Pichu at the start of the hub creates interest in the image as you can understand the surroundings of Machu Pichu and it isn't the same old touristy photograph.

Framing Tips

  • Make sure the "framing" of the photo doesn't take away from the image or add too much clutter to distract the viewer
  • Always be sure that the focal point of your image is in full focus
  • Decide if you want your frame to be in focus or not - by having your frame out of focus you are putting even more emphasis on your chosen subject, however some photos will look better with the frame in focus as well as it adds context to the scene

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for these tips on framing shots. This is one method of photography that I really enjoy working on. It seems, though, that the chances come up unexpectedly and that I have to be on alert for them. :)

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You definitely have to keep an eye out for them! I've had times where I've said "ugh.. there's xxxx in the way" only to realise I could use it to frame my image.

    • kristyleann profile image

      Kristy LeAnn Morgan 4 years ago from Oceana, WV

      Those are really great photos. :) That is such a neat idea too...I recently saw a picture on pinterest where a married couple were in the background and some kids were in the front holding an empty picture frame in order to frame the couple. I thought it was really cool. I would have never thought of using things that are already naturally there as frames though. :)

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      First of all, excellent name Kristy :P

      I have done a few portraits framed in actual picture frames and they are so much fun - they look especially great if you then frame them in that same picture frame!

    • cbpoet profile image

      cbpoet 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Nice tips on framing. Looking forward to your next photography lesson/ blog.

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks cbpoet, please let me know if you (or anyone else) have any requests! :)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

      Great tips - I need all the help I can get taking photos as I'm trying to do it somewhat professionally. Bob, my husband, is so good at framing photos naturally and I'm kind of a "that looks awesome" kind of shooter. But sometimes the result isn't exactly what I wanted because I didn't frame it properly and I can't get that chance back - dang. So great tips!

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Audrey, best of luck with your photography!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      Hi Kristy, To "frame" my opinion abut this : You did a Great Job Putting This Together!

      This is a great hub with so many practical tips that I will be able to use. It is beautiful to look at the pictures and to easy to read. Thanks for all your efforts and the great info. Rated up, beautiful, awesome and interesting.

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 4 years ago from Canada

      Kissayer, I had learned some of this, a long time ago, in some photography classes, but it was great to review. This is an excellent tutorial. Easy-to-read and to-the-point. Well done. Voted up and more!

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks! It's a great technique to keep in mind for interesting shots!

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