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Four In-Camera Framing Tips

Post by Andrew Darlow

Ive always admired beautiful frames. From heavy, gilded gold frames holding oil paintings and hanging in museums around the world, to more modern approaches, such as the refined white painted frames often seen in photo galleries and exhibitions, a frame can contribute to the overall presentation of an image in a profound way.

The same can be said of in-camera framing. Over the years, Ive been drawn to natural and man-made frames when taking photographs. Car windows, rock formations, people standing in a crowd, and even your own hands can help to make ordinary images extraordinary. By looking for frames in your environment while youre shooting, you can often present a subject in a way that is new and unique. Here are a few specific tips for in-camera framing.

1. Use Windows as Frames

One of the most common in-camera framing techniques used by photographers is to include a window (or multiple windows) in a photo. This can be very dramatic because it generally creates a sense of depth and place, giving the viewer the feeling of looking out the window(s). In many cases, the challenge with photos like these is balancing the light inside a space vs. outside a space, which can be done via a number of techniques. One technique is to shoot multiple exposures with the camera held very steadily (a tripod is best) so that you can later combine them without sacrificing detail.

I photographed the image above while on a trip to La Sagrada Famlia, a famous church designed by Antoni Gaudi located in Barcelona, Spain. While walking up a seemingly endless staircase, I came across many beautiful views and open windows with an array of shapes and sizes. In this case, I was not too concerned about holding detail inside the church because I wanted the windows frame to render very dark, which showcases its shape.

2. Find a Fence

Fences of all types can offer interesting framing opportunities. For example, chain link fences, commonly found surrounding many tennis and basketball courts, offer a great opportunity for framing. One approach is to get very close to one of the openings in the fence, then manually focus on something inside or outside depending upon which side you are on. Or fill the frame with the diamond-shaped openings on the fence and take some photos at different apertures while focused on the fence. Then focus on something beyond the fence so that the fence becomes blurred. In both cases, I recommend using manual focus.

3. On the Road Framing

I really enjoy traveling, and some of my favorite images were shot from the inside of cars, buses, trains and planes. By incorporating a window or part of a window in your images, you can create captivating images that bring the viewer along for the ride.

4. Vignette Framing

Vignetting can be described as the reduction of an images brightness in or near the corners of an image. Vignetting can serve as a type of frame, especially if the vignette is very strong. Vignettes can be created in some of the following ways: optical vignettingsome cameras, like the Diana or Holga, will often create dramatic vignettes naturally; with certain lensesespecially super-wide lenses and specialty lenses such as some of the lenses made by Lensbaby Inc.; or by creating them in a software program such as Adobe Photoshop, Apple Aperture or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

I hope that this tip inspires you to start framing more of your work!

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