Understanding Photography Composition Techniques: Tips for Framing Your Shots
- Photography Composition Techniques - Framing
- Photography Composition Techniques - Equipment
- Framing Landscapes
- Framing Portraits
- Framing for Stock Photos
- Frame Within a Frame
- Recommended Photography Gear
- How To Use Leading Lines in Photography Composition (with Examples)
- Essential Camera Accessories
- Get Better at Landscape Photography
- How to Create Foreground Interest in Landscape Photography
- What Is Lifestyle Portrait Photography?
- Automotive Photography Tips
Photo by Anton_Sokolov via iStock
Composition in photography is a fascinating subject. There are several photography composition techniques you are probably already using. Concepts such as the Rule of Thirds, Curves, and Leading Lines are common and easy to implement.
Some other composition techniques for photography might be less familiar, such as the Golden Spiral, Negative Space, Symmetry and Asymmetry, and Centering. Whether you shoot mainly portraits, landscapes, weddings, or products, you are using photography composition techniques all the time.
Other photography composition techniques don’t necessarily fit into those categories I listed above, but it is still important to know when and how to use them. Framing your shots is what I’ll present in this discussion.
Table of Contents:
Photography Composition Techniques - Framing
Photo by Pict Rider via iStock
Framing as one of the photography composition techniques is how we draw attention to the subject. It’s also how we decide what is in the view of the image we capture and what isn’t. Framing can also be described as placing the main subject in relation to other minor subject elements.
I like to take all of those into consideration. After a while of doing this, it pretty much becomes second nature to mix and max these ideas of photography composition techniques. All you really have to do is watch what’s in your viewfinder as you’re using your other composition techniques for photography.
One important thing to remember with your framing composition in photography is what shape and aspect ratio your final image will be. Horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) orientation, square or rectangle, and 3:2, 4:3, or 5:4 aspect ratio are things to keep in mind.
You don’t want to lose part of your in-camera framing by having to crop to change the aspect ratio. Such as, you filled the frame of your Full Frame or APS-C format camera with your composition, but you need to print it out as an 8X10 enlargement. This changes the aspect ratio from 3:2 to 5:4, meaning some things on the edges could get cropped out.
I keep the gridlines turned on in my viewfinder and viewscreen, which helps out in many ways. It helps me keep my camera level, lets me see how my composition is doing, and reminds me that the viewfinder edges may not exactly correspond to my final image. It keeps me on my toes!
Photography Composition Techniques - Equipment
There are two pieces of equipment that I use a lot for using framing in photography composition techniques: dual shutter releases and a camera mount.
The dual shutter releases will be found primarily on cameras at intermediate, advanced, and professional levels, either built into the camera or on an additional battery pack. It makes it easier to compose and frame in portrait or landscape orientation.
A camera mount like the low-cost and compact Octopad is invaluable as a tool for framing. Instead of a tripod, I carry one or two of these on many of my photo treks for work or fun. I haven’t put away my tripods because I need them for certain situations. But when the situation allows, I enjoy using my Octopad camera mounts.
Super compact, I can fit them in my camera bag or camera backpack. Octopad is a weighted disk of heavy-duty material that has a very slight bit of flex to it. Underneath is a non-slip pad, and on top is a screw for a ball head or an extension arm.
I can use my Octopad indoors and outdoors, plus it can hold my camera on uneven surfaces, such as I might encounter outdoors or inside in a venue I don’t control. It will even hold my camera on a surface angled up to 45 degrees! Besides my camera, I also use them to hold an LED light or an external mic if I’m recording video.
Photo by tobiasjo via iStock
When framing landscapes, I look within the scene for any naturally occurring boundaries. This could be a shoreline, the edge of a forest, or a rock face. Once out in the field, you’ll see many natural boundaries.
I’ll mentally butt up against one of those boundaries as I use my other photography composition techniques. It’s a good idea to change up sides as well as backing out a bit from the edge to make sure you have room for whatever cropping you may be doing for the finished image.
Photo by filadendron via iStock
Framing portraits often has me adjusting between portrait and landscape orientation as I search for the best composition or something a little different.
Those same ideas I use for framing landscape photography also come into play for portraits. Whether indoors or out, there are many naturally occurring borders to make use of. You can add props for those borders if you’re in an environment with more control, such as your home studio.
Shooting environmental portraits will allow for many options for framing, and group portraits might even use the number of people to create framing options, such as a wedding party framing the happy couple. Try out several ideas as you mix and match framing and the other photography composition techniques you regularly use.
Framing for Stock Photos
Photo by miniseries via iStock
Shooting for stock agencies adds its own ideas and challenges concerning framing. Wherever you can, try to capture several images of the same subject but with that subject in different areas of the frame. Also, it’s a good idea to include negative space in our framing composition.
This gives our images a higher chance of being chosen since whoever is considering them can choose our file defending their editorial use. Ad copy is a major consideration for stock agency buyers. Giving them several options from which to choose is a smart way to shoot for stock images.
Frame Within a Frame
Photo by FG Trade via iStock
Among the more fun framing ideas in photography composition techniques is to use a frame within a frame. This idea works with portraits, landscapes, street photography, architectural studies, nude and glamor photography, sports photography, and product advertising.
Here’s how you make it work: look for those borders and boundary lines that exist in a lot of scenes and put the main subject INSIDE those boundaries. As in the image above, it can be as simple as posing the portrait subject in a window frame.
We’re not limited to only portrait subjects for frame within a frame; it works great for landscapes, too. It’s not posted here, but one of my favorite images of the Colorado Rocky Mountains is on I-70, just a few miles from Denver. I framed the mountain peaks underneath an overpass. Simple, true, but I love it. It’s hanging on my office wall as a large metal print!
The bottom line is that framing as part of our photography composition techniques and tools is valuable and necessary. Use these simple to implement ideas and enjoy your portraits, landscapes, and other images that you purposefully framed in-camera and afterward in post-processing cropping.