How to Use Framing in Photography

How to use framing in photography is a basic composition technique.

In this article we’ll help you understanding the concept of framing as it pertains to landscape photography.

You’ll learn how to use elements in the scene to frame the subject which creates impact for the viewer.

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We use a Camera Gear Checklist to help us pack all the equipment we need – that way we don’t foget anything!

We recommend the following camera equipment for taking landscape photos:

1. Camera: You probably already have one, but if you’re looking for something new  → check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!

2. Tripod: Using a tripod is something we’ll always recommend. There are many compact and lightweight options out there that are easy to use. → Check out the tripods we recommend!

3. Camera Bag: Protecting your camera from sand and water is essential. Using a camera backpack is so nice for hiking too.  → Check out our camera backpack for outdoor photography.

4. Neutral density filter: There can be extreme differences in light when taking landscape pictures. To compensate for this variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.  → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!

5. Camera cleaning kit: You’ll want a field cleaning kit to remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.  → This is the camera cleaning kit we use!

6. Memory cards: Purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!  → We use Lexar and Sandisk!

7. External hard drive: Don’t forget to copy the photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’.  → Check out these awesome portable external hard drives

8. Headlamp: For the best sunrise shots, you want to arrive at your designated location well before the sun rises. Most of the time this means total darkness. Use a flashlight or headlamp to light your way from the parking lot to your spot. Wearing a headlamp allows you to set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight. Remember to use the red light setting and keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you to avoid disrupting other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots. → Check out these headlamps with the red light!

Check out these Framing photo ideas for landscape photography shared by members of our Facebook Group, Your Photography Journey to illustrate this compositional technique.

WATCH the video as we discuss how filling the frame is used in each image.

What is Framing in Photography?

In photography, “frame” refers to the border of a photo. Thus, everything “within the frame” will be seen in the final image.

But as a photography composition technique, framing is the use of elements of the scene to emphasize the subject that you’re shooting.

It’s simply a technique of drawing focus to the main subject in the photo by blocking all the other sections of the image with something in the scene.

Framing provides a visible “frame” within the photo’s borders. Think of it as a “frame-within-the frame” of the photograph.

Frames can either be located anywhere in the image.

Why Is Framing Important in Photography?

Using framing in photography composition is a unique way to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject that you’re shooting by making it more aesthetically appealing.

A photographer’s creative eye to include framing will add originality and impact to the photos you take.

Some of the benefits of framing include:

1. Add Context

Add context by framing a scene with an element that conveys something about the place. For example, an archway or window would be found in a building or home. And foliage used as a frame would indicate being out in nature.

In the photo above, the frame is a wall constructed of rock bricks with a window. The viewer knows they are looking through an old structure to the landscape scene beyond.

2. Make the Subject Stand Out

Using the natural elements of the sloping canyon walls as a frame, there is no mistake this famous Yellowstone waterfall is the focal point.

And using the composition technique of filling the frame, there are no distracting elements to draw the eye away from the waterfall.

3. Add Depth

Since you will be using a frame with some elements of the scene within the frame of the photo, this adds another layer to the image. And as a result, it gives the photo a sense of depth.

Using the “frame in a frame” technique helps to draws viewers in, and makes them feel as though they were inside of the photo, rather than just looking at it.

In the photo above at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands Island in the Sky, the arch is used as a frame to draw the eye inside the opening.

Then the foreground, midground and background elements help to create a 3D image with depth.

4. Create Extra Visual Interest With A Frame

Another reason to use frames is that they add visual interest to your images.

The intricate detail of overhanging leaves and branches adds a beautiful element to a photo.

For example, in the photo above, imagine this instead with the bird on a single branch with all blue sky as the background.

That picture would be uninteresting compared to this photo with all the branch patterns contrasted against the blue sky.

Types of Framing Photography?

There are countless elements that you can use to create frames within your photos.

But the common ones include manmade elements like doorways and windows and natural elements like branches and trees.

1. Manmade Frames

Manmade objects are the most commonly used framing elements in photography composition. That’s since they are abundant and easy to manipulate in the photo.

Such elements range from the popular ones like doors, windows, fences, bridges, tunnels, overpasses, and archways.

Be open to finding other objects you can use as a frame.

It’s up to you as the photographer to see the possibilities around you to use manmade objects as a frame to add interest to your photo!

2. Natural Frames

Using natural elements for framing is popular when shooting landscapes. This is where landscape photographers get creative!

Some of the natural elements that you can use for framing include trees, branches, cliffs, and openings through hills and rocks.

We used the window opening to frame Turret Arch when taking pictures at Arches National Park.

3. Other Frames

People can be used to frame interesting elements or other people.

Look for light, shadows, and fog to serve as a frame.

Bokeh can also be used as a frame.

So many possibilities! 

When Should You Use Framing in Photography?

Like most photography techniques, you don’t have to use framing every time you are composing a scene. 

You want to use a frame when it “adds to the image”. That’s when it makes it interesting by adding context or perspective

It’s Time to Practice and Experiment with Frames!

Like leading lines and other photography composition techniques, the first step to using frames is to look for the frames.

So, it’s time to take out your camera and study the scene. See if there are frames that can add something to your photos.

Remember, don’t force elements of the scene into the image as frames.

When they work, use them!

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