4 Unique Framing Photography Composition Ideas for Creative Photos
Composition
4 Unique Framing Photography Composition Ideas for Creative Photos

Using framing photography composition ideas is a unique way to emphasize the subject you are photographing. Framing immediately brings attention to your subject.


Two children driving toy car down a path using framing in photography with trees on both sides.

Definition of framing in Photography

Framing is actually defined by wikipedia as ‘a technique used to bring focus to a subject’.  So, like more advanced compositions like leading lines, or golden triangles, using elements to frame your subject can really make an image a bit more interesting and engaging, and make your subject really stand out.

2 children framed by plants on both sides of them sitting next to a brown river.

Why is framing is important in photography

Whether it be a very literal frame (that went through a popular “prop” phase), environmental, or structural framing, framing with light or lack of light, they all work well to bring the viewer’s eye to your subject.

Read more: How to Take Outstanding Photos that Tell a Story

One small child playing next to a river. The subject is framed using the nature around.

How to frame a good photograph

When you find a subject you want to photograph, take a step back and look at your surroundings. How could you incorporate your location to really draw the attention to your subject?

You can use architectural elements, environmental elements, lighting etc. These next few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Read more: 8 Composition Photography Mistakes to Avoid

Two children in a black and white photo walking down a concrete path. Framing in photography can be found using trees.

What are framing photography techniques?

There are quite a few different framing photography techniques that a photographer can use to make their image really stand out amongst the rest.

Having too much go on in your picture can take away from the story you are trying to tell. Use light, the environment, structures, and negative space to frame your photograph and really tell your story.

Read more: Storytelling Through Light, Emotion and Composition

Black and white image of a skateboarder. The subject is framed in the photograph by concrete post.

What is architectural framing?

Using architectural elements is probably the most obvious way to frame a subject. Using doorways, window frames, archways, framed mirrors.

I’m just thinking elements that are permanent to the environment in which you place your subject.

Read more: Top 9 Tips for Remarkable Street Photography

Two children standing in front of a square window looking outside. The children are framed in the photograph  by the window itself.

I am a hobbyist, so I take many, many, many pictures of my kids. And I would say that the majority of pictures I take are in or near my home.

Small child in the background framed perfectly by the door frame.

Use doorways to frame subjects

I could easily snap away at them doing one activity or another, but framing them using the architecture of our home brings a little more interest to the image. It also gives you a fly on the wall kind of feel, like you are peeking in on an activity (which likely I am, because I want to capture them being their genuine selves).

Read more: 7 Tips for Capturing Genuine Emotion in Children

child framed in window light looking out window

Using environmental elements for framing photography

While there are definitely opportunities to use architectural elements outdoors, don’t forget about using your environment to frame your subject.

Read more: Essential Landscape Photography Tips for Breathtaking Photos

Child pushing a yellow truck on a concrete pathway. Framing photography can be found using trees and paths.

Use trees to frame

Trees often have a way of wrapping over a subject and framing the subject if placed just right. Photographing through grasses, flowers, or bushes can often bring more attention to your subject by creating a blurred foreground.

The eye tends to go toward the in focus areas of the images first, while the added dimension adds depth to the photo to make it more interesting.

Read more: 11 Photography Composition Rules to Know to Improve your Photography

Child in an orange shirt sitting in a green and brown field and laughing.

Framing photography using shapes

All of these are great examples of framing in photography. You can see that sometimes there are literal shapes that make you eye go directly towards it. Other times it’s leading lines or negative space.

Just about any opening or shape you can think of can be used to frame your subject. If it forms a defined area, use it to frame your subject.

Three children in a framing photography  shot by a circular window at an aquarium. The image is in black and white.

In this one I framed the shadow so that it would be accentuated as a secondary subject.

Child standing in a white crib looking out towards a window that you see the shadow casted on the wall. The image shows proper framing photography.

Close off part of the frame

You can even think of framing as something that closes off part of the frame. If part of your frame is covered, the viewer’s eye will go toward the more open space, which hopefully is where your subject will be placed. Look for shapes in play areas. There are tons of opportunities on playgrounds.

Here I used my son’s body to cut into the frame, making his sweet hands and caterpillar the center of attention.

Read More: 3 Ways Negative Space Will Enhance Your Photography

Child in a white shirt holding a curled up caterpillar. The child's body shows framing photography by surrounding the subject.

Intrude on the moment

Beware that framing can also give the feeling of intruding on a moment.  In this image, it gives the feeling that my little girl is being stalked. Which she is, by ME! But keep in mind the feeling you want your viewer to feel when looking at your images.

This one in particular makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m seeing something that I shouldn’t, that she is unaware and vulnerable. Not exactly the feeling I was trying to portray in this image.

Child walking on a path. Framing in photography can be seen by the trees framing the child.

Frame photography using circles and spirals

Here, the opening of a birds nest frames the baby birds. The circle of the nest feels like a spiral taking the viewer straight to the baby birds mouth.

Baby birds in a brown nest. The spiral of the nest shows a way to use framing in photography.

Use body parts to frame

In this one, my son’s arms frame his face. He had just lost his second tooth, and of course we had to document the milestone! Also notice there is nothing else in the image distracting us from his face.

Child wearing a blue shirt with hand on head and eyes squeezed shut.

Read more: 5 Tips for Shooting with Composition in Mind

Framing photography using light and shadows

Using the available natural light or lack of to frame your subject is also effective. It is a more subtle approach to framing, in my opinion, but it is a beautiful way to highlight not only your subject, but gorgeous light.

Child in a white shirt standing in front of a wall with horizontal lines. The image is showing framing in photography by using a light source.

Here, the light used makes a shape on the wall that Bray fills. If I would have moved him closer to the window, he would have been lost in the shadow. Having him in the reflected light, his face is properly exposed.

Child in blue jeans standing over a green leaf. Light coming in from behind.

In this example, the leaf and caterpillar are framed not only by Delia’s legs, but also by the shadows and area of light. There isn’t much distraction and the viewer is drawn right to the framed subject.

Dog laying on the ground in a perfect framed light photograph.

The light here, makes a great shape for Sanford to snooze in. The lines are leading your straight to the dog and the subject is really being brought to the viewers attention.

The same goes for framing with shadows or darkness. Since the photograph is only lit in one place, the viewer is forced to draw their attention there.

Black and white image of a child playing with a toy in a window.

What is an example of framing in photography?

All of the examples above are framing in photography so you can see that it covers a lot of different aspects. It’s simple, you are literally framing your subject with what you have available.

A child wearing a white shirt and a cape playing with two cars.

If you want to get fancy, you can use more than one element at a time. The bed is framed by the tree. Delia is both framed in the headboard and the light from the iPad.

Child reading in bed using a tablet. The light frames the child's face.

I hope this article has given you a few new ideas when approaching composition. Framing is a fun and easy way to bring a little something extra to your storytelling.

Read more from our Photography Composition Series:

Creating Depth in Your Images
How to use your f-stop to create amazing photos
Master Depth of Field with 4 Simple Tips

44 Comments
  • Emily
    November 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    This article was very helpful. Thank you so much.

  • Elizabeth
    November 1, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    This was so helpful. Can I ask…What is the golden triangle? thanks for your help…Liz

    • November 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Elizabeth, do you use Lightroom to edit? There is a cropping overlay that demonstrates the Golden Triangle. It’s hard to explain without a visual.

      • Liz
        November 2, 2013 at 7:07 PM

        I googled “golden triangle” and found the diagram. Presently I only have iPhoto…thanks for mentioning it..I learned something new…

        • Laurie Flickinger - Contributor
          November 2, 2013 at 8:44 PM

          Great! That on is a tough one. Just try to get your subject at one of the intersections of the triangles, and two of the intersections of you can! :)

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  • meghan
    November 1, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    The light/dark one is great! Never thought of it as a framing element

  • Kim
    November 2, 2013 at 12:13 AM

    Loved this article, lots of great info for a beginning photographer like myself!

  • Andrea
    November 2, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    Loved that article and such beautiful images. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for frames next time I pick up my camera. Thanks!

  • November 2, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    This post was wonderful and I am so excited to use your tips to hopefully accentuate my clients in my photo shoot tomorrow!!

  • November 2, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Great post, and I love all the pics. I so enjoyed reading and seeing how well you described “framing”. Perfect!

  • Jess
    November 4, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Great tips! Your photographs are beautiful and I’m excited to try some of the new framing techniques I learned here!

  • November 4, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    This is such valuable information and your examples are so easy to follow. Thank you, thank you enormously. So much to practice and experiment with.

    • Laurie Flickinger - Contributor
      November 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      Thank you so much Karen! :)

  • Kira J.
    November 5, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    Thank you for sharing this post! I loved all of your examples. The ideas of using the the dark/light as a frame, and being aware of the feeling your framing conveys were especially interesting to me. Beautiful photographs too!

  • November 16, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    These images are stunning! Absolutely stunning. My biggest problem is using a window to frame a subject. I can’t seem to figure out how to not get the subject blown out by all the light coming in from the window. It’s either super dark or blown out. I’m sure you have a tutorial on this. I’ll have to search around the site.

    • November 16, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Hey Amanda! My first question is…what type of light are you using? Look for soft light. If the sun is directly shining on your subject, it will be harder to get a good exposure and will be a lot more contrasty. Next, meter for the brightest area of your subject. As long as you expose for the area that you want to expose correctly, the shadows will take care of themselves. So, in other words, get a good meter reading first before you back up to use the window to frame by. I hope this helps a little!

  • November 18, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    I really love these pictures…great examples.

  • January 21, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Love all the examples. Beautiful photos!

  • Ivy
    February 5, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge! I have gotten away from professional photography and now just want to take great images of my children. Your article provided me with some great information so I can push myself to shoot inside. Plus coincidently we share the same equipment! Love my Nikon and look forward to more tutorials.

  • October 19, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I’m passionate about photography becos I get to capture my sons milestones and memories for a lifetime. I am still a beginner so this was super informative. Such a creative way to make a photo more interesting and captivating! Thanks for sharing!

  • photography student
    November 2, 2015 at 7:26 PM

    cool pictures, need more information about framing tho

  • photography student
    November 2, 2015 at 7:27 PM

    nice pictures, need more information about framing tho

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  • Ezri
    November 2, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    good information, thx

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  • Simeon
    November 11, 2016 at 7:05 PM

    very useful thanks…..

  • Cassidy, photography student
    March 19, 2017 at 12:54 PM

    Thank you so much! I’m taking a photography class for school right now, but I’m currently on a foreign exchange and my teacher hadn’t posted all of the information I needed in our google classroom. This really helped me out a great deal! Thank you!

  • Danally Ly
    July 5, 2017 at 3:25 PM

    Lovely photos and great composition!

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  • Gwen
    January 16, 2018 at 11:57 AM

    Beautiful examples of framing! I learned a lot! Thanks so much!

  • the juan
    April 27, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    Amazing content!!! These pictures really improved my photography skills. ^-^

  • the juan2
    April 27, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    very helpful, thank you so much!

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    June 5, 2018 at 10:04 AM

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  • Bernadette
    September 24, 2019 at 11:52 AM

    Thanks for sharing some good pointers and tips on framing.

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