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8 Best Tips for Framing Photography Shots

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Frames are often used to make paintings and printed photos stand out in a home.

But what is framing in photography? How is it related to photography composition?

Read how to use framing elements in photography composition.

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Why Framing Is Important in Photography

In photography, composition and lighting are everything. Without the right perspective, your subject will look unflattering or not stand out.

This is where framing comes in.

In essence, framing photos is surrounding a subject with different elements. This makes it stand out and grab the viewer’s attention. You can think of this as a frame within a frame.

There are many ways you can use framing. Some depend on luck. Others rely on the photographer’s creative eye. The right photo framing will make your photos look original and stand out. Here are a few ways you can achieve this.

Photo of a man walking with a suitcase reflecting in a mirror
The man’s surroundings in this photograph are unknown. It makes this image the epitome of great framing. There are no unnecessary distractions. The window frame emphasises only one subject. It helps that this image is black & white. Colors can be very distracting in certain compositions. Especially in genres like street photography.

8. Create Frames Using Light and Shadows

Photography is the art of capturing light. Light is one of the best ways of highlighting elements in your image, whereas darkness hides elements.

So it is understood that one way of creating a frame in your image is to use light and shadows.

Portrait photo of a woman framed by shadows
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Shadows don’t always have to be harsh to frame the subject. Take a look at the image below. You may not even realize the soft shadows at first glance the soft shadows that subtly frame the woman. Portrait of a woman from the side - framing photography

7. Experiment with Bokeh

Bokeh is a creative way of using light to frame your subject.

There are many ways to create a bokeh effect. You can use fairy lights, capture light shining through leaves, or use a crystal or glass. This creates a soft, artistic frame.

You can incorporate bokeh in the background, in the foreground, or in both.

Portrait of a woman with fairy lights in the background
Photo by Ali Pazani from Pexels

6. Ask the Subject to Frame Themselves

If you are shooting a person, you can also use them to frame themselves. Many models and professional portrait photographers use this technique.

The model can place her hands, for example, in a way that it created a frame around her face. This is a natural and flattering way of putting emphasis on a certain body part.

In the image below, the model is holding one arm above her head and one under. By lightly placing her hands around her face, she is framing her head.

Portrait of a woman with one of her hands above her head
Photo by Pikx By Panther from Pexels

5. Use Doors and Windows to Make Your Subject Stand Out

One of the best ways to frame around your subjects is to use doors, windows, or actual frames. These can be in the foreground through which you shoot. Or they can be in the background with the subject in front.

Doors and windows are perfect for framing simple photos of people, places, and objects.

There’s a lot you can do with a single framing tool. For example, you can use a window as a background or a blurred foreground. Or you can use a frame that you shoot through to emphasise an indoor or outdoor landscape.

If you’re shooting at a wedding, you can use simple photo booth frames. You’ll get funny photos without compromising the quality of your photography composition.

Portrait photo of a woman shot through a window
When shooting through windows or doors, you don’t need to focus on your subject all the time. Experiment with different angles, lighting, and focal point. Try to create conceptual or abstract photos like this one.

4. Shoot Through Objects to Bring out Details

Using elements in the foreground to fill negative space can make your image look more interesting.

If you want to create a soft atmosphere, use a large aperture. Make sure the object is close to your lens without completely covering it. Your goal is to put the spotlight on your focal point by covering its surroundings with a pleasant blur.

For something more detailed, use a smaller aperture. Take a few steps away from the foreground. This will still create a blur, but it will make the foreground more visible. This technique is often used in wide-angle photography. It helps capture as much of the atmosphere as possible.

Depending on your theme, you can use a combination of simple and vibrant objects.

You can use foregrounds to make a minimalist portrait stand out. Flowers work especially well here.

For a moody landscape shot, you can take photos through a branch or a bush.

Photo of a house with bushes in the foreground
Natural foregrounds, such as bushes and trees, are perfect for visually aesthetic outdoor photos.

3. Cover Your Subject in Simple Fabric for Minimalistic Effect

Outfits and decorations are very helpful when enhancing a composition. Your subject might look awkward or dull compared to their surroundings. Try framing them using cloth or fabric. This is most useful for framing portrait and still life photography.

Ensure the cloth you use complements your subject’s appearance and shape. Neutral and pastel colours tend to work well in most shots.

Make sure the clothing you use complements your subject’s appearance and shape. Neutral and pastel colours tend to work well with almost everything.

Portrait photo of a woman covered in a blanket
For this technique, you don’t need expensive props. Towels, curtains, and even sheets of paper can make a big difference. The original background was distracting and unflattering in this shot. I used a simple towel to cover it up and make the model’s face stand out.

Another way to use this framing technique is to cover parts of your subject. This puts the spotlight on a specific area.

For example, if you’re photographing a person, you can cover half of their face. This will lead the viewer’s eye to the part of their face that’s visible. And it’ll make your composition more intriguing to look at.

Portrait photo of a woman shot through white curtains as a frame
When taking photos with blurred foregrounds, make sure you use manual focus. Your camera’s autofocus might get confused and focus on the wrong detail. If you’re taking self-portraits, use autofocus to focus on your face first. Lock the focus, and then cover the lens with an object.

2. Use Natural Symmetry to Put Emphasis on Your Model

Compositions and symmetry go very well together, especially in atmospheric photos.

You can take a few steps back from your model without making your composition look busy. You can do so using basic symmetry knowledge.

This doesn’t mean you have to set up a studio with symmetrical props or backgrounds. Look for symmetrical elements in cities or out in nature. Some of the many examples could be countryside roads, skyscrapers, bridges, or water reflections.

Place your subject in the middle (or somewhere close to the middle) of these environments. This will help create appealing compositions.

Of course, too much symmetry can also be distracting. Don’t be afraid of creating imperfect compositions.

Photo of a red-haired girl in the middle of a dirt road on a field

1. Use Reflections for Framing Photography

Window reflections are perfect for framing minimalist photoshoots. You can use them in almost any genre.

For portraits, make sure your model is standing behind a window. Take photos from different angles to find the best reflections. (Don’t shoot right in front of a window or else your camera will end up in the reflection.)

Reflections tend to be abstract and neutral in colour. This is perfect for hiding or emphasising certain features. This is like what you’d do with blurred foregrounds.

Portrait photo of a woman shot through a window

If you’re a landscape photographer, photograph different views reflected in a window. This creates a somewhat distorted and atmospheric effect.

You can also combine reflections and symmetry. Try creating surreal photos like the one below.

Photo of a square and buildings reflecting on the glass walls of an office building

Conclusion

There are many photographic framing techniques you can use to improve your compositions. Frames help you create balance and highlight specific elements for the viewer.

Knowing how to frame a photo will help you turn even the simplest subjects into eye-catching works of art.

Want to learn more about basic photography techniques? Why not check out our course Photography for Beginners next!

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