Enhancing Composition Using Framing Techniques

This is the eighth post of a series of publications in which — from different angles and perspectives — I’m addressing the topic of composition.

This series includes posts and videos that can be located by using the tag “learning-composition” either in the search box above or by directly clicking on the tag name at the bottom of this post.  Also, here is a link to the entire series so far.

In the previous post of this series we explored how to efficiently use negative space to enhance your composition, in this post we’ll look into using framing as a technique to enhance composition.

In my opinion one composition technique that is very effective to emphasize your subject is framing. Framing is used in photography as a way to draw attention to the subject. Now,  the frame usually goes partially or completely around the subject.  The examples in this post show both partial and totally around the subject frames. 

Figure 1. “THE STREETS OF NEW YORK SERIES” © Enrique Peláez

Now, why framing the subject? well first of all framing provides context to the viewer, in other words, it provides information to further understand the image. For example, in figure 1 framing provides an extra context, along with the background, in order to realize the subject — the young lady absorbed at her phone — is standing up over probably a dock or waterway. If you are familiar with the area of New York City, you can probably identify that the buildings in the background are Manhattan and if you’re even more familiar with the area you can probably infer that she is in Liberty Island.

Figure 2 “Americana” © Enrique Peláez

One more benefit of using framing as a technique to draw attention to the subject has to do with providing depth. Let’s examine the image in figure 2, without the framing the landscape in there would look frankly flat and probably uninteresting. So, in this case framing adds depth making, in my opinion, the scene much more dynamic and interesting to look at.

As many other composition techniques framing is about leading the viewer’s attention to the subject, moreover sometimes framing helps to keep the attention on the subject, see the image in figure 3, the frame created by darken the foreground and background not just guide the viewer’s eye to the tiger, but also keeps it there.

Figure 3. “Majestic” © Enrique Peláez

Finally, framing also helps to create intrigue. The sense of intrigue created by framing the subject in figure 3 probably poses questions to the viewer like: What happened? Is the tiger dead? So, this wouldn’t be possible without framing the subject, the original photo before the burning process to frame the subject clearly shows the tiger in a zoo taking a nap which again in my opinion is far less interesting.

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