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Composition in Photography: Framing Your Subject

Updated on January 22, 2013
The shop is framed with greenery
The shop is framed with greenery | Source

Composition by Framing Improves Your Shot

Compositional framing is a way to draw the viewer’s eye into the photograph and focusing on the main subject. If you a frame your subject with rocks, trees, branches or parts of the building. There is no particular rule with framing as to its use. Part of the role of compositional framing is to take away potential distractions from your photograph. Since your eye tends to go to the brightest part of the photograph consider how you will use framing as a means to accomplish this. Often a frame will be darker to assist the viewer to the subject of your photograph. The framing you use may or may not be out of focus. It is up to you how you will compose the shot and your just vision to decide how to use to frame. Often when there is no frame to a photograph the photographer will darken or burn in the edges of the picture. This can also be effective to draw your eye the picture as method of framing.

Rocks frame this pathway
Rocks frame this pathway | Source

Compositional framing can also a sense of depth to your photograph by creating part of the foreground or background of your subject. When composing your shot look at what’s around you and how you can use objects as part of compositional framing. If shooting a portrait in the studio may consider furniture lamps or drapes around the subject. Items and the photograph can be placed at different depths therefore allowing you to focus on your subject while blurring the framing props . If working outdoors consider the angle to your shooting from and how you might use rocks, grass, flowers or branches in your shot to focus attention on your subject. Remember how much light is being cast on your compositional frame so does not take away from your main subject. If your subject is in the shadows and your frame is in the sun you’ll lose the viewer’s attention. You might try to fix that of Photoshop by darkening your compositional frame but your idea may not work as expected so try to get it right in the field.

Greenery frames the blossoms
Greenery frames the blossoms | Source

Compositional framing can add interest to an otherwise boing subject. It can help you tell a story. For instance if you are shooting a business portrait consider adding in the tools of the trade to frame the subject. A tool box and hoist can frame a mechanic, a photographer framed with his gear or a business person framed with part of the factory in the background. When shooting an object consider how you can frame it by adding some related items to the frame. For instance some coffee beans around a coffee cup or some wood shavings and a piece of wood around a carver’s set of tools. You can add in some other subtle information as well like a brand name or a banner celebrating a success of a business.

Finally we all know that when you are shooting it is almost by instinct. In our heads we think about position of the model, sharpness of the eyes, and the lighting. To make framing part of what you do you will have to add it consciously until it becomes second nature. Go out and study some good photographs and in many cases you will see compositional framing even if it is very subtle.

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    • JanMaklak profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks your your nice comments. Photography is a passion that I want to share.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      8 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great tips here! Framing can add so much to a photograph. You have given some great ideas on how to frame pictures for a better shot. I love your picture of the red bud tree, frames by the evergreens! Great shot! Voting this up and useful! :)

    • JanMaklak profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Your absolutely right! Equipment makes less of a difference than technique. There is a whole iPhone-ography movement going on at the moment and seasoned photographers are taking their camera phones along now as part of their photo gear.

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Framing is so important! If you can figure out how to frame a shot well, your photographs are instantly better and look so much more professional, even if you're using your cell phone camera.


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