Framing: Tips for Better Compositions

If you’re anything like the Tutors at iPhotography, you’ll print out your images to put in frames and hang them on the walls. Our office is full of framed imagery, and all of our favourite photographs are displayed for everyone who drops by.

But with technology taking over and fewer people printing, is there still a way we can ‘frame’ a photo when it’s online?

3 arches framing a photographer stairs in the background
looking through an old car with no windows city framed in the background
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Frame Within a Frame

You may have come across the ‘frame within a frame’ composition within Module 6 of the iPhotography or Portrait Course, but have you ever put it to good use in your photography?

Creating a frame in-camera is an effective and simple way to structure your shots. You should always be on the lookout for objects and opportunities to tell the story of your photo.

Creative framing can add depth, interest and will pull your audience into the moment – adding engagement, intrigue and context.

Types of Framing: Foreground

Foreground framing is probably the least common style of framing, but it is the most interesting.

When you’re out and about look for opportunities to peer through objects to see your subject in the distance.

Another approach to foreground framing is to use a shallow depth of field (F/4 or wider) and bring your ‘look through’ object close to the lens.

This technique is particularly handy for weddings, parties or other events where you want to capture the atmosphere but keep the main subject sharp.

Take this example of a lighthouse. The initial distance makes it hard for us to connect naturally.

But the position of the trees, bench and overhanging branches frame the lighthouse. This makes it easier and quicker for us to hone in on the primary subject.

lighthouse framed by trees and bench on a misty day

Types of Framing: Background

Take the same principles of foreground framing and place them behind your subject instead. But whereas foreground framing is down to you to create, background frames may already exist – and you just need to spot them.

The most common example you’ve probably seen 1,000 times but never assessed (until now) is with newlyweds. Doorways create an arcing frame over the top of the couple encompassing them within an isolated moment while being surrounded by others.

Transfer the same thinking and apply it to doorways, tunnels, signs, windows, arches etc.

Framing Using Leading Lines

Us iPhotography tutors LOVE it when our students combine multiple compositional techniques in their gallery shots.

We feel that it demonstrates consideration, creativity and progression – important attributes to become a successful and professional photographer!

We actively encourage any photographer to multi-layer their frames with throwing in some leading lines to draw our attention to the point of the story faster.

Employ leading lines to set a path through the photo towards or through the frame you’re creating.

They can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal or curved, the more lines the better (providing they are all pointing at the same place).

Position your camera so the lines begin at the edge of your shot and travel for as long as possible towards your subject. Make sure they aren’t interrupted for the strongest and fastest reaction.

London Tower Bridge framed at sunset blues and oranges
looking through porthole to oil rig rope passing through frame

Discovering Frames

We are surrounded by natural and man-made frames everywhere, every day. When you’re next out with your camera take a moment to look around and search for opportunities to create some framed artwork.

For example, think about:

Natural

  • Create partial frames using overhanging branches
  • Hollowed out logs
  • Cracks in rocks
  • Caves
  • Parting the long grass

Man-Made

  • Archways
  • Gaps in fences
  • Car tyres
  • Windows
  • Doorways
looking through window of a plane to the wing sunrise
girl walking in to the sea with a surfboard framed by leaves
fun fair looking through link of a chain sunset
European town framed by stonework in a diamond shape

The opportunities are everywhere if you open up your imagination – so don’t allow yourself to feel restricted. And if all else fails, just make your own frame…

man creating a frame with hands around camera lens

Discovering Frames

If you’ve never implemented this creative framing into your photography before, then it’s your turn to have a go. Use all the tips and ideas we’ve given to implement this powerful tool of photography.

When you’ve taken your shot it’s time to share it. Upload it to the gallery or tag us on social media (#iPhotography) and we’ll share out some of the best versions.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know. We love to hear what you thought. If you’ve got any other approaches or ideas about how to use framing in your shots, just drop us a comment.

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The other challenge when shooting through glass is the tinting. Unfortunately, architects and designers didn’t think about us photographers when creating these skyscrapers.

Their windows are invariably tinted in some way to help with heating.

This means that some of your photos may have a green/grey tint to them.

It’s not the biggest issue as you can rebalance this tint in editing with the ‘tint’ slider for example.