Photography is a powerful medium for storytelling, capturing moments, capturing leisure and memories. And a few rules and techniques can help you make a good photo great.

Framing is a technique that uses natural or artificial elements in a photograph to focus attention on a particular subject. It draws the viewer’s attention to your subject as well as tells a story through your image. Let’s figure out what framing is, and how and when to use it.

What is framing in photography?

Framing in photography refers to the compositional style of using natural or artificial elements to create a visual frame within your image. The technique helps you focus the viewer’s attention on your subject while adding depth, context and story to your image. There are different ways to use framing in a photograph.

natural frame

When shooting in a natural environment such as a forest, lake, path or river, you can use naturally available elements as your frame. For example, you can use trees, leaves, bushes, and rocks to create your frame.

In this situation, your subject will be the center of attention, and natural elements such as trees and rocks can block two or more sides of your image to form a frame. If you want to give it a try, check out our guide on getting started with nature photography.

architectural frame

Using architectural elements to create a frame is very common among urban photographers. You can use a window, buildings, fences and walls to create a frame for your photo.

This type of frame is most often used when photographing cities. However, you can also use architectural frames to capture images of humans, objects, or nature.

geometric shape

Square, triangle and circle are common shapes in our environment. You can either use the shapes available to you or create one artificially to give depth to your image.

For example, you can use your hands to make a heart shape and use it as a frame for your photo. Similarly, you can use a spherical mirror and position your subject in the reflection to create a great photo.

light and shadow

Light and shadow are an unconventional yet elegant way to frame your photos. This method uses lights such as streetlamps, candles or torches to create the frame. It works best in night photography.

Similarly, you can click a portrait with the spotlight on the subject and the rest of the composition darkā€”the light will create a circular frame.

When to Use Framing in a Photo

There’s no right or wrong way to use a framing composition style in your photos. However, if done incorrectly, it can take the viewer’s attention away from the subject, rendering the technique ineffective. Therefore, it is essential to understand when to use framing techniques and when not to.

A simple rule is that if the picture looks good as it is, then there is no need to forcefully add a frame. This can suffocate the image, making it look heavy or cluttered. Similarly, if you’re already using another composition style, adding a frame to it can spoil the effect.

However, using two compositions in the same photo has always been a healthy debate among photographers – it all comes down to trusting your gut. Here are some surefire ways to know that framing will make your pictures look better.

Tell a story

Framing techniques can be a game changer when you are looking to tell a story through your photographs. A story can be a depiction of emotion, a combination of conflicting ideas, and many other similar concepts.

For example, the image above uses buildings as a frame, and the subject is an airplane. It can represent freedom from corporate life.

end the chaos

Framing can effectively bring the viewer’s attention to the subject if the image is in disarray. An example is clicking a picture in a crowd. In a crowded place there are too many environmental elements that can distract from the subject. In such cases, you can use a frame in your photograph to draw attention to your subject.

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