with Courtney Slazinik
Photography Composition: 4 Types of Framing


Framing, photographically speaking, is one of my favorite ways to emphasize the subject I’m photographing. Framing immediately brings attention to your subject. 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.

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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.


Architectural Elements:

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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. 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. 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).

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Environmental Elements:

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

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Shapes or other Elements that Enclose the Subject:


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

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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 Bray’s body to cut into the frame, making his sweet hands and caterpillar the center of attention.

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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.

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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.

Here, the opening of a birds nest frames the baby birds.

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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!


Framing using light/shadow:

Using the available 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.

Here, the light used makes a shape on the wall that Bray fills.

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In this example, the leaf and caterpillar are framed not only by Delia’s legs, but also by the shadows and area of light.Fuzzy Caterpillar-33-CIUAN


The light here, makes a great shape for Sanford to snooze in.

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The same goes for framing with shadows or darkness.

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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.

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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. Thanks for reading!

Read more from our Photography Composition Series:

Creating Depth in Your Images

  • 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!

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