Saturday, June 28, 2014

Composition: Framing

The concept of "Framing" is the fifth and final composition topic this month for the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge. (Join the Google+ Community to share your weekly photographs and receive feedback.) The previous topics this month were the Rule of ThirdsLeading Lines, Fill the Frame, and Orientation.

Composition and Framing

The term "frame" in photography refers to the border of your photograph. Everything that is "within the frame" is what you see in your final image. (Incidentally, Within the Frame is also the title of an amazing photography book by David DuChemin that focuses on vision and motivation, as well as detailed information about shooting different travel situations: people, places, and culture.)

Framing is the use of an element within your photograph that provides a visible frame within the borders (frame) of the photograph itself. A frame-within-the-frame, as it were.

The idea behind framing is that a frame provides another layer to your photograph and the story that you are telling. A frame can limit the viewer by drawing their eyes towards and through the frame. A frame can also add a sense of place or context to the rest of the photograph - a landscape view can be contextualized as the view through your hotel window, for example.

Backpacking in the Badlands of South Dakota | Boost Your Photography
View from within our tent of the Badlands of South Dakota 

There is an unlimited supply of elements that could be used to create a frame within your photograph, but the most common include architectural elements like windows and doorways and natural elements like trees and branches.

Man-Made Frames

Architecture is a great source of elements to use for framing an image within your image. Windows and doors are commonly used to add interest or direct your eye when viewing a photograph. (You can read more about photographing through windows in the article Window on the World.)

Sunset over Prague Castle | Boost Your Photography

Sunset over Prague Castle, framed by the Astronomical Tower | Boost Your Photography

The series of sunset shots, above, were taken from the top of the Astronomical Tower in Prague, Czech Republic. The unframed version (top) provides a more expansive view of the city and the sunset and was shot by leaning myself and the camera out through the window slits. In the framed version (bottom), the inclusion of the masonry arch adds another layer of depth and context to the image. Now the viewer sees the context where the photograph is being taken (from the tower) and the foreground of the frame draws the viewer through the window and into the background of the city and the sunset. (In an ideal world, I would have used a tripod and a narrower aperture to get the entire photograph front-to-back in focus.)

Through the windshield: a view of Jordan | Boost Your Photography

This photograph was taken through the windshield of our minivan while traveling in Jordan. The frame of the inside of the car, as well as the decorative fringe and air freshener, add to the sense of place and gives the viewer the feeling of being inside the van as well. The juxtaposition of urban (edges of Amman) and rural (the horse) also add to what is going on in this photograph.

Frames and Framing in Nature

Think beyond architecture, and you will find a wide-range of frames and framing elements in nature as well. Trees and branches are commonly used a frames and can add a sense of depth an interest to a photograph or scene.

A heron's sunrise silhouette | Boost Your Photography

Trees frame a heron's sunrise silhouette | Boost Your Photography

This series of photographs of a Great Blue Heron comes from one of my all-time favorite sunrise shots. I had given myself an extra 20 minutes on my commute in to work that morning and was stunned by the amazing mist and fog off the lake, contrasting with the bright rays of the morning sun. The heron and its unique silhouette was the perfect bonus.

I took a wide range of shots, experimenting with composition in general and framing in particular. While I loved the interplay of light and shadow in the first photograph (top), I found that the addition of the framing elements of the tree trunks on the sides and the branches above (bottom) really added to the storytelling power of the image and accentuated the brilliant colors of the morning. Now there are three clear zones: the foreground silhouettes of the trees and heron; the midground interest of the lake, fog, and ducks; and the background shapes of the trees and sky.

Framing highlights Milford Sound in New Zealand | Boost Your Photography

A frame can also be used to give the viewer the sense of "being there" themselves. The photograph above, from Milford Sound in New Zealand, grounds the viewer with the photographer - standing on the edge of the fjord, peaking through the trees.

Summary: Use a Frame

Using a frame within your photograph is a creative way to add interest and expand on the storytelling abilities of your image. Pay attention to the architectural and natural elements around you that could lend themselves well to an interesting framing image. Experiment with different angles, views, and compositions to find out what works the best for you. And always remember to have fun with it!

(Looking to grow more in your photography? Consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.)
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