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Rocky Nook

The Enthusiast’s Guide to Composition: Find a frame with in the frame

Composition is a key skill for every photographer. Our continuing series of excerpts from “The Enthusiast’s Guide to Composition” published by Rocky Nook explains using natural frames. See all of the great photographic skills books from Rocky Nook.

Seattle's Space Needle framed by trees.
Seattle’s Space Needle framed by trees.

Visual frame

Another way to draw attention to your subject is to frame it—not with the kind of frame that you hang on a wall (though those are great, too!), but with one that exists within the photo itself. In other words, use something in the scene to “frame” your subject, and then include both your subject and the frame in your photo. Pretty much anything can be used as a frame: trees, plants, walls, architectural elements, even other people who happen to be on the scene.

Find frames everywhere

Once you know what to look for, you’ll find framing options everywhere. The photo of Seattle’s iconic structure was captured with my phone while wandering the grounds around the Space Needle. The branches of several nearby trees came together in such a way that, if I stood in just the right spot, I could position the Needle in the opening between them, creating the perfect natural frame.

Of course, frames aren’t limited to those made only by Mother Nature. Architectural elements make great framing devices, too. Below, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., captured through a porthole cutout on a nearby bridge. This frame-within-the-frame technique provides a refreshing perspective of a very recognizable and highly photographed subject.

A porthole on a bridge frames the Jefferson Memorial.
A porthole on a bridge frames the Jefferson Memorial.
Architectural elements make great framing devices.
The red door is a frame within the camera’s frame.

Sometimes, the “frame” can be quite literal, as seen above, where the subjects are standing in a door frame. Other times, the frame can be much more subtle. Below, the bride’s veil is loosely framing the couple’s faces.

The bride's veil frames the couple.
The bride’s veil frames the couple.

Thanks to Rocky Nook for this chapter from the “Enthusiast’s Guide to Composition.”

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