What does framing mean when composing a photograph?


Since a Photographer does not control the elements in a Photograph, like a Painter, who can add, subtract or change elements. The Photographer must use the “What you see, is what you get” in the initial stages of the photographic process. The Edges of the photograph are the only way Photography  has to “exclude” elements that detract from from the photograph. It is in these edges that helps define the meaning of the photograph.  Whether to include or exclude something at the edges, is as important as the main subject is to the overall power of the final photograph. The edges help define the “space” in your photograph, and help guide your eye to the main subject.

Framing a photograph can have different forms, it will always help close the photograph in, so our eyes don’t wander off outside the framing.

Here is an example that uses a object “Inside” the photo to stop your eye from going to far to the left. and keeps you inside the photograph.

The biker is on the far right, and looking towards the left, so we will, by nature, will want to see “what” he is looking at. Hence, the need for something on the left to “frame” in the photograph, so our eyes “Stop” at the left edge.

The Sidewalk sign on the left, “Stops” your eye from leaving the photograph.

There are many ways to “frame” a photograph. In landscape, you can use tree branches to frame the photograph. This will help add a 3 dimensional look to the photograph.

By using the tree in the foreground, I framed the left and top to add a dimensional feel to the photograph.

It is not always necessary to “Frame” every photograph, the power of your subject may be enough to hold the viewers attention. Like in this photograph

The man with his head-in-hand, and an open newspaper provides plenty of power to hold your attention.. the chair on left may be a distraction. But, with “Street Photography”, removing a large object like that is not right in the ethics of editing this kind of photograph.

Here is another example with a well defined frame.

Here, each person defines the frame for the left and right side.

Here is one, that does not have a well defined frame, and there is no powerful statement to hold your attention. So, the photograph was unsuccessful.

Bulls-Eye composition, without any framing to define the photograph better.

More examples of “Framing”

The best way to help you with with “framing”, is to say that you don’t want the things around the edges to distract you from the main subject. In many cases, you may not have a perfect choice. But, you may be able lessen the framing distraction enough to be ignored, for the most part.

3 thoughts on “What does framing mean when composing a photograph?”

  1. Peter, as a new reader (and new OMD E-M5 owner), I appreciate and enjoy your comments and pictorial examples. I don’t know if English is your first language, but I do think your writing could use some editorial help in order to make it clearer to your readers. As a wordsmith, I would be happy to be of help to you in that regard, if you so wish. Cheers. Randy Hyde

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