Framing Your Shots to Maximize Impact

Framing Your Shots to maximize impact

We often say that our favorite images are “frame-worthy.” Framing is our way of displaying moments in our lives and letting the world know that a particular picture is worth the attention. However, do you ever stop to consider how “framing” your shots in camera can maximize the impact a photo has long before it ever hits a physical frame? Today, we discuss the benefits and types of framing as a compositional technique. 

What is Framing? 

Framing
A technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene. 

Framing is the fastest and easiest way to bring attention to your subject. And while there are several different variations of framing, the premise is the same. They all work to bring the viewer’s eye to the subject of your photograph.

Types of Frames

1. Architectural Elements

One of the most obvious ways to frame your subject is to use architectural elements such as doorways, archways, window frames or any component that is permanent fixture within the location that you’re shooting. 

For example, these pews (also leading lines) draw your attention straight to the little girl in red. 

A benefit of this framing technique is that it provides some context for the image. In this particular image, without the pews, it wouldn’t be such a big deal that the little girl was wearing a red hat and coat. But, the photographer can remember how that little girl fell in love with that red hat earlier in the evening, and insisted on wearing the hat during the entire service. 

Of course, the use of framing can also give the viewer the feeling of intruding on a moment. For example, in the image above, you almost feel as though you are a creeper peeking in on this little girl pretending to vacuum the bedroom. You wouldn’t want all of your images to evoke that sort of emotion, but this perspective creates added interest to what might otherwise be a snapshot.

2. Environmental Elements 

You can also use the environment to frame your shot. 

Trees are an obvious choice for framing your subject, as they have a way of naturally wrapping around your subject. You can also get low and use grass, bushes or flowers to draw the eye towards your subject by creating depth of field (a blurred foreground). 

A benefit to this framing technique is that it leads the eye towards your main focal point. Environmental framing (well, all framing) often creates leading lines that direct the eyes towards the main subject of the photograph. Not only will they draw the eye into the picture, these elements will also keep your eyes there longer by providing a barrier between your main subject and what may be lying just outside of the shot.

For example, when you see this image of the little boy walking in the cotton field, the cotton on either side of him draws your eye towards the little boy. Your eye will then travel up to the sky and then back to the boy to discover that he’s in a cotton field allowing your eye to really examine the photograph from all sides. 

3.  Depth of Field

Framing doesn’t have to be a permanent object or thing. It can simply be something that blocks off part of the frame. With part of the frame out of focused or covered, the eye will naturally lead to the more open space. Ideally you will place your subject in that space.

For example, in this photo, you can see that this little girl is being bathed by her daddy. He is out of focus leading your eye straight to her. 

A benefit of this framing technique is that it gives the image a sense of depth and layers. Your eye tends to be drawn towards the areas in focus first, while the added dimension adds depth to the photo, making the image that much more interesting.  

Just about any shape or opening that you might happen upon can be used to frame your subject. If it forms a defined area, use it! Just keep your eyes open and ready. 

4. Light (or lack thereof)

Using your available light (or lack thereof) to frame your subject is another incredibly effective approach to framing. 

For example, in the above shot, we are pairing architectural elements with this beautiful window light to frame our subject. When you find such a “frame,” you’ll be tempted to use it for everything. 

A benefit of this framing technique is that it intrigues your viewer. It’s not always about what you see in an image, but in what you can’t see that you’re drawn into a photograph. Creative framing or using the lack of light, leaves the viewer wondering what else is going on.

For example, in the above shot, you mostly just notice this little girl’s gloves. As a viewer, you might wonder why she’s wearing gloves, or what might be going on that she’s pressed up against the door. Since the gloves are the only thing that is illuminated, the darkness around our subject creates a dark frame that creates a little more impact. 


As you can tell, “frames” can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be anything from the obvious to the slightly less (or not) obvious. We ask you to consider this question: “Will this add to or detract from my image?” when composing your shot. Framing doesn’t always add the impact in the way you might think. In fact, sometimes framing can make an image feel rather cluttered. On the other hand, it can make the difference between an ordinary shot and “frame-worthy!” 

With that in mind, get creative and practice using this technique. We are sure you’re going to find all kinds of opportunities for framing your subjects. 

After you created the perfect composition for your photo, consider framing it as decor for your walls. Rather than going the usual route and framing it as a print, consider more unique alternatives. One can’t ignore the subtle elegance of timeless metal prints or the traditional feel of print canvas on the wall. 

 
Want more tips for framing your subjects, consider your backgrounds first and check out 8 Steps for Choosing the Right Background.

Photo Credit: Ashley Sisk 

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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