50 Essential Photography Framing Tips & Ideas
A massive list of different ideas & tips for framing photos
Improving your framing and composition is one of the most essential steps to improving your photography. This list of photography framing tips & ideas gives you practical tips to improve your framing and examples of great framing to spark new ideas on your next photoshoot.
When you’re first learning the essentials of photo framing, there is a lot to take in. You don’t need to incorporate ALL of these techniques into every photo – Try picking 1 or 2 and testing them out for yourself. Bookmark this page so you can come back later.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
50 Essential Photography Framing Tips & Ideas
Use your cameras framing overlay (if you have one)
Most cameras nowadays have a framing overlay option that will put different grids over your image preview so that you can easily line up your frame. I have mine on ALL the time, and switch between dividing my image up into thirds and into quarters depending on the scene. Definitely worth using!
Take at least 10 different photos of each scene
Your best work is rarely the first photo. Change up the angles, experiment with different techniques and always aim for at least 10 different approaches to the same image. Chances are good you’ll come up with something far better than your first attempt!
Center composition / symmetrical framing
Director Wes Anderson is famous for using symmetry in his movies – The more perfect the symmetry, the more visually striking the composition.
Use natural framing
As we cover in photography composition essentials, whenever possible a natural framing is extremely effective! Natural framing just means making use of real life elements in your photos to frame in the subject.
For example, the rock cliffs that naturally frame this photo:
Include yourself in the photo
Give a sense of “looking through your eyes” by including your arms, hands or feet in the photo.
Change up the perspective
Place your camera on the ground, grab a chair and stand on top of it – Play with different angles and perspectives to see which best frames your image.
Look for foreground elements
Having elements in the foreground of your image will add a sense of depth to your photos.
Frame with color
Framing doesn’t HAVE to be with shapes!
Frame with different textures
A contrast in texture can be an effective way to frame your subject.
Frame with brightness + light
A brighter subject will instantly separate them from the background.
Practice framing your photos with family & friends
Framing is something that takes practice – Doing so with family and friends lets you try crazy things and experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.
Align your framing with the emotion of the photo
If you want to add more meaning and impact to your photos, try to match the framing to the emotion of the scene. Intimate portrait? A tighter frame will increase that sense of intimacy. Alive and free? A wide open frame will probably fit much better.
Add a backlight
A backlight instantly creates a halo or ring around your subject – Using light to frame them in your photo.
Try framing with the golden rectangle – Fibonacci Sequence
The rule of thirds is a great framing technique, but its not the only one out there! Following the Fibonacci ratio is another framing technique that creates visually pleasing images.
Preview your photos in their smallest thumbnail
Looking at a smaller thumbnail of your photo helps you see the strength of your composition as a whole, and can help you see whether your framing is effective or distracting.
Remember: Your eyes are drawn to the brightest part of the photo
Most of the time you’ll want to make your subject the brightest element in your photo so that your viewer knows what to look at. This is part of effective framing. Sometimes however a silhouette against a white backdrop can be just as effective! The key is contrast between subject and background.
Bend arms & legs to form interesting shapes & lines
Your eyes are naturally more drawn to interesting shapes. Aim to make your model the most interesting part of the frame by playing with different shapes and poses.
Follow the emotion
As helpful as rules for framing can be, art is also driven by emotion. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut to figure out what feels right.
Fill the edges of your frame
One of the essential rules for food photography and flat lay photography is to always fill the edges of the frame. This is because filling the edges makes the whole composition feel more full and complete.
Architects are professionals with framing using texture, shape & geometry.
Study interior design
Interior designers are experts at using colors, light, and texture to create mood and ambience. They frame the scene based on what they want their clients to feel inside the room – Exactly what we want to do inside our photos!
Focus on one core detail (left eye, ring finger, a single leaf etc)
One of the common mistakes beginning photographers make is not clearly defining the subject of their photo. Don’t just focus on framing a photo of a tree – Focus on framing a specific leaf on a specific branch of that tree. Don’t just take a portrait of a model – Focus on the specific features you want to highlight. This will improve your framing along with improving your photography.
Use leading lines
Leading lines are any natural lines inside your photo that you position to point towards your subject. This helps direct the eyes of the viewer towards where they’re supposed to look. This is especially effective when leading lines from from the edges of your frame in towards the subject.
Use the right focal length
The focal length of your lens is a huge influencer in the framing of your image:
Wide-angle lenses are more dynamic and immersive (28mm, 35mm)
Zooms / Portrait lenses have more background separation (Blurry backgrounds) which helps isolate the subject.
Blur the background in Lightroom or photoshop
You can further enhance the blur in your background later on inside Lightroom or PS.
Tilt your camera at different angles
Tilting your camera will emphasize different features. A low camera tilted up will capture a large, wide open sky. Likewise higher and angled down makes for a smaller sky. Match the mood of the photo to your framing angle.
Study paintings (Renaissance, Baroque, Modern Art )
The great painters were masters with composition, light & framing. The beauty of a painting is that every element of the frame is intentionally planned out and selected by the painter – The same thing we should aim for in photography. Studying painting will make you a better photographer.
Learn about color schemes
Mastering color is one of the keys hat separates amazing photographers from the rest of us.
Read up on monochromatic, complementary and triadic color schemes to learn more about photo framing with color.
Subtract anything that doesn’t aid the composition
Less is more. Just as a great interior designer is intentional about every detail of a room, great photographers are intentional about every detail of a photo. Only include elements that ADD to the composition. Remove everything else.
Find a clean background
A common beginner photography mistake is not paying attention to the background of your photo. A distracting background makes for an unimpressive photo. Aim for backgrounds that are clean & simple rather than busy and distracting. This will making any framing in your photos more effective.
Find a dark background
Your eyes are drawn to the brightest part of an image. A dark background is an easy way to frame a photo.
Add lens flair in Lightroom
Sometimes your lighting / location doesn’t have a lot of interesting stuff going on. You can easily add framing in Lightroom by creating an artificial sun flare or some fake bokeh!
Play with light
Experiment with different lighting elements to add extra dimension and separation to your subject, foreground and background.
Focus on the background
Often the background is just as important in your photo as the subject. Your background is the what where and why for the story you are trying to tell through your photo – Make sure its a good one.
Use different camera heights.
Lower = bugs eye / superman effect.
Above = birds eye / surreal / innocent & childlike effect (Depending on the intensity of the angle)
The more you experiment and try new things, the faster you’ll improve as a photographer and develop a good eye for framing in photography. See examples in our selfie posing tips article.
Use the rule of thirds
Most of the time the rule of thirds will be the most effective framing technique for your photo. Simply divide your photo vertically and horizontally into a 3×3 grid, and place all important elements at the intersections of those lines.
Look for curves, lines & interesting shapes
Always be on the lookout for interesting geometry and features to use as natural frames, leading lines etc. The more unusual and unique, the more it will draw your viewers attention.
Simpler photo framing = better
At the end of the day, simplicity in photography and design is the name of the game. Think of the way Apple approaches designing their products – Their goal is to make them as simple as possible, which is why they’re so much more beautiful and appealing than clunky, complicated alternatives.
Tell a story
Good photographers take pictures. Great photographers tell a story. They have purpose, vision and intention behind their work – Not just a pretty photo. They then use every element of their composition and framing to work in harmony to tell that story.
Emotion is more important than composition
At the end of the day emotion is how humans connect – There is nothing as powerful as emotion in your photography, so prioritize emotion over composition, and aim to frame the elements of your photo to support and not subtract from the emotion of the moment.
One of the common techniques for composition in photography is to aim to create triangles with your framing and your posing.
Use visual contrast (big next to small, thick next to thin, hot next to cold, bright next to dark)
Contrasting elements in a scene give each other a deeper meaning. Light is much more impacting when it is positioned next to darkness.
Preview your photos in black and white
If your camera has the ability to make your preview monitor black and white, it can be a helpful way to remove distractions and really focus in on your framing.
Add enough (but not too much) headroom
Headroom is the blank space above your subjects head. You always want to have some headroom, however too much can make your subject feel smaller.
Always include looking room
As a general rule, you always want to have some blank space in front of the direction your subject is looking. Aim for a little MORE space on the side they’re looking / moving than on the side they are moving away from.
Add a sense of scale
When photographing cliffs, mountains, or very BIG (or small) things, having a person or object next to them to give a sense of scale is very helpful.
The person on this rock face gives us a great example of the scale of the mountain:
Do the opposite of what is expected
Sometimes the most effective framing technique is to do the opposite of what would regularly be done. Do this sparingly, but it can be a great way to make impact!
This example composition has been turned upside down to give us an unexpected perspective!
Intentionally break the rules to match emotion
Sometimes breaking the rules of framing makes sense. For instance, if the main emotion of your photo is trapped, it might be effective to break the rules and have NO looking room and NO headroom around your subject, to visually enhance that emotion through framing.
As you can see, there are a LOT of different composition techniques and photography framing tips to play with! Getting better at framing your photos is a process of practice and refinement. Start with 1-2 techniques at a time and come back to this list as you progress.
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Thanks for reading – Now go grab your camera and make something awesome!