Framing Photos: Photography Composition Essentials

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

archways like this example act as a natural frame for framing photos

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Framing Photos: A Photography Composition Tutorial

An in-depth guide to composition & framing photos

You’ve probably heard the photography term framing or composition before, but what does photo framing actually mean? Learning to better frame your photos is one of the simplest ways to improve your photography. In this article we’re going to cover photo framing & composition from start to finish. What photo framing is, simple framing techniques, and over 50 composition & framing tips & ideas to improve your photography!

Ready? Let’s do it.

[powerkit_toc title=”Table of Contents” depth=”2″ min_count=”4″ min_characters=”1000″]

framing photo example library bookshelfs as natural framing. photo by rainier ridao min

What is framing in photography?

A simple definition of photography framing:

Framing in photography is the strategic use of of elements within your scene to showcase the subject of your photo. Framing photos can be achieved through the angle of your camera, position of foreground & background elements, and using light and color to create contrast.

That definition might be a little vague, so let’s take a deeper look at what framing is and how it works in photography.

The dictionary definition for the word framing:

1 “the act, process, or manner of constructing anything”
2 “the act of providing with a frame

When you build a house, you start by putting up the frames first. The frame is the foundation for the building – It creates structure, shape and purpose out of wood, steel & concrete.

framing definition the act process or manner of constructing anything danist minFraming in photography does the exact same thing.

You start with a vision of what you want your photo to capture, and then you arrange the elements of your scene to create structure, shape and purpose.

Framing a photo can be done in many different ways, but one of the most effective and easiest ways to frame a photo is known as “natural framing”

photography natural framing example domagoj cosic scaled

What is natural framing?

Natural framing refers to using natural elements in your photos to “frame in” your subject – Much like a picture frame holds a picture, a natural frame like a tree, archway or door is an extremely effective way to frame in your image and draw our focus to the subject.

Examples of natural framing:

Archways – Both natural and manmade make for great natural frames

oleg chursin overhang natural frame min

Buildings – Full of lines, structures, and different textures for natural framing

Natural Framing using buildings on street benjamin suter min

Doors – Probably the easiest natural frame around is a doorway – And they’re very effective!

natural framing technique using a door min

Alleys – Any small(ish) space is normally a great spot for natural framing

alley natural framing photo example hugues adamo min

Bridges – Full of triangles, leading lines and shapes!

bridge natural framing ideas min

Trees – Trees create natural archways. Shooting through branches is also a great option

casey horner trees natural framing ideas example min

Paths – A great spot for finding overhanging trees and shapes to frame your photos

lili popper path natural frame ideas photo example min

Arms – Portraits can be greatly enhanced by moving arms to fill the frame!

callie morgan posing natural framing with arms min

Hands – A super simple way to naturally frame a specific area of the face.

frank mckenna portrait hands natural framing techniques min

Roads – Long roads form an effective composition by framing your subject

natural framing using a road by matt duncan min

Windows – Easy peezy, and everywhere! Use the window as the photo frame, or use the light from the window to light your subject while leaving the background in darkness (more framing!)

window natural frame photo

Mirrors – Car mirrors, bathroom mirrors and more.

1 car mirror natural framing example by ana do amaral min


Tips for using natural framing:

Make a habit of looking for natural frames
Don’t just look for the obvious! You can frame a photo with more than just shapes – try using light, color and texture

As you make a habit of looking for these natural frames, you’ll start to realize that they happen almost everywhere! Developing an eye that is able to spot them will help you immensely in selecting your locations and in creating better compositions.

Different Types Of Framing In Photography

Foreground Framing

Foreground framing is when you use elements of the foreground to frame in the subject. Typically these frames are blurry as they’re close to the camera.

This example of foreground framing uses the break in the cliffs as a natural foreground frame:

foreground framing photo example minMiddle ground Framing

Middle ground framing is when your frame is in the same focal plane as the subject of your photo. For instance, a man standing directly inside a doorway, or a model using their arms to fill the frame of your photo. Middle ground framing elements are in focus and most effective when they add to the story of the image.

This example of mid ground framing uses the doorway surrounding the subject as a natural frame.

midground framing photo example2 min

Background Framing

Background framing is when your frame is made up of elements in the background, behind your subject. This is probably the most common use of framing as its the easiest to spot / create. Often the background frame is slightly out of focus, but not as out of focus as foreground framing.

This example of background framing uses the leading lines of the hills to lear our eyes towards our subject:

background framing photo example min

Framing Wrap Up

We’ve covered a lot in this framing tutorial!

You now know the essentials of photo framing, what framing means, natural framing techniques and a whole ton of different ideas for incorporating framing into your photography. You’ve also learned how to use natural framing to enhance the composition of your images.

There are many, MANY ways of implementing these techniques when framing photos.

We put together a massive list of different essential photography framing tips and ideas.

Make sure to check it out!

Conclusion: A Never Ending Journey

Remember that photography styles and techniques change over time. The fundamentals of good compositions and framing will stay the same, but as you grow as a photographer you’ll continue to develop your own unique style and a better sense of how to use framing to convey emotion and tell a story through your photography.

If you found this guide helpful, can you do me a big favor and Pin it or share on your fav social channel?

Thanks so much!

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