framing in photography

by Krista Campbell

Framing is a popular compositional technique that photographers use to draw attention to their subject or the main part of their image.  I love to use framing because it draws your eye right to the most important of your picture.  Framing can also create depth and add interest to your photos.  I use 5 different types of framing in my photography to create interest, balance, and depth.

Framing with architectural elements.

This is possibly the most commonly used framing type.  When shooting weddings or engagement clients, I am constantly searching for windows, doorways, arches, columns, and any area where I could place my clients inside the architectural element to frame them.  Begin by looking for geometric shapes: rectangles, squares, triangles, circles.  You’d be surprised at how many architectural framing elements you can find and you will begin to see them everywhere once you start looking for them.

Remember, you don’t always have to place your subjects in the center of the arch or doorway… try placing your subject on one side or the other, keeping in mind the rule of thirds.

framing in photography photo

Framing with darkness or light.

An easy was to isolate your subject and make sure that the subjects you are photographing are the most important part of the image is to surround your photo in darkness.  This picture below was taken in my house during the evening.  I turned all of lights off in my home before lighting the candles on my daughter’s birthday cake.  The only light in the room was the candlelight, which was illuminating my daughter in the picture.  This image was taken with my Canon 5D Mark III with my Canon 35 1.4 lens.  My settings were: f/2.0, ISO2000, 1/125s.  I then pulled my image into Photoshop CS5, converted it to black and white and darkened the edges of my image to enhance the darkness framing my subject by creating a curves layer and pulling down the middle to darken the midtones in the picture.

framing in photography photo

In the next image, I surrounded my subjects with beautiful white light.  I placed this gorgeous momma and her new baby in front of a sliding glass door in her bedroom.  I used spot metering to expose for the baby’s skin, this exposed my skin properly, but overexposed the background so that you no longer see the patio furniture or deck outside.  “Blowing out” the background allows your eyes to naturally be drawn to your subject… framing the subject in light.

framing in photography photo

Soft foreground framing.

Using soft foreground framing in your images can create interest, and a feeling of “peeking” into the subject’s world.  To use this framing method, I first find a bush, tree limbs with leaves, or even a bedroom doorway.  I then place my subject behind the foreground and use a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) to blur the foreground elements in my image and focus on my subject.  If you use an f/4.0- f/1.2, your foreground with become blurred, naturally framing your subject with a soft frame.  I have even asked an assistant to hold a branch or two to “create” a frame in front of my subjects before.

framing in photography photo

Framing with limbs.

An easy framing method is to use a subject’s arms to frame your image.  By placing your subject’s arms and hands around her face, you can create the illusion of a frame around your subject’s face.  This will draw the viewers eye directly to the most important part of the picture, the sparkling eyes and the beautiful face!

framing in photography photo

Framing in nature.

I absolutely love framing with natural elements.  I am constantly scanning for natural frames while I’m driving in my car.  Framing in nature examples are archways created by trees or bushes, a small clearing in the woods or in a grove of trees, anywhere you can find a space to place your subject in the middle of the frame.  Sometimes I find the perfect location, yet because we are working with nature, the frame isn’t perfect.  I will use the clone stamp tool or the rectangular marquee tool in Photoshop to duplicate a section of the image to “create” a better frame in Photoshop.  In the picture below, I was walking through the woods with my daughter.  I saw a log with a beautiful lone tree that had turned a beautiful color of yellow.  I wanted to “frame” my daughter with the tree.  Because the tree didn’t create a perfect arch around my daughter, I enhanced the frame by adding more leaves.

framing in photography photo

1. Duplicate your background layer.
2. Select the rectangular marquee tool and select an area that you’d like to duplicate.
3. Edit> Copy.
4. Edit>Paste.

framing in photography photo

5. Select the move tool and drag that duplicated part of the image to a part of the picture where you’d like to “add” leaves.

framing in photography photo

You can then click Ctrl+T on your keyboard as a shortcut to “free transform” your duplicated layer.  I then use my move tool to drag the corners and rotate that section of leaves until I am happy with the placement.

framing in photography photo

6. I then added a layer mask to the top layer in my layer’s pallette and used a soft black brush, (making sure that my layer mask box was selected) and removed the edges of the new layer of leaves to the picture, to make it look more natural.

framing in photography photo

As you can see, using different types of framing in your images can add depth and interesting compositions.   Now it’s your turn…  I’d love to challenge you today to find 5 natural or architectural frames in your city, neighborhood, yard, or home.  Learn to see frames everywhere and watch your photography improve.

framing in photography photoKrista Campbell, Arkansas
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Krista is a lover of vintage props, golden fields, backlight and a momarazzi- extraordinaire to a sassy 6-year old who dons pink tutus and cowgirl boots. She is an on-location, portrait photographer serving Northwest Arkansas. Krista is also a vendor on ClickinMoms and teaches online, post-processing workshops called Digital Darkroom Secrets.

Read all photography articles by Krista Campbell.


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19 Responses to “framing in photography”

  1. Jul 15 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Loved this!

  2. Carla
    Jul 15 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Thanks so much for the reminder/article! Will pay special attention to framing the remainder of the week :)

  3. sarah timmerman
    Jul 15 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    That is awesome advise amd an amazing picture …thanks for teaching

  4. Jul 15 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Hope this was helpful! Thanks so much for your comments :)

  5. Jul 15 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    fantastic article, krista! i esp liked seeing your steps in post processing.

  6. Jul 15 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Thank you, Jodi <3

  7. Deb Marak
    Jul 15 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    A very informative article on post processing and creative framing. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jul 16 2013 at 2:53 am #

    Great post – I especially appreciated the tutorial on how to enhance a frame in photoshop! Krista is such a beautiful photographer and teacher!

  9. Jul 16 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Thank you Deb and Mindy <3

  10. Kim Peterson
    Jul 16 2013 at 11:16 am #

    Thank you for the awesome tips!!

  11. Jul 16 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Great article! Love the tips!!

  12. Jul 17 2013 at 10:25 am #

    oh my gosh! the log & the tree…. LOVE – I never would have thought to add more leaves, but that is brilliant!! Love this tip!

  13. Jul 18 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks, girls :)

  14. Jessica Reischel
    Jul 20 2013 at 7:58 am #

    So informative! Thank you Krista! Your images are stunning!!

  15. Jul 21 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Thank you Jessica :)

  16. Jul 27 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Is this during your summer weather? I wish! Came out beautiful.

  17. Aug 21 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I love framing but this reminded me of all the other options there are to frame your subjects! Great tips!

  18. Hali
    Aug 21 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    What a creative way to photograph! I’m always looking for fresh new ideas! Thank you!


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