Framing the Subject | Pro Photographers Composition Secret No. 3

Much of what we do in composition relates to making the subject readily recognizable as the most important part of the frame. We’ve already discussed using the “rule of thirds” and the “golden mean,” two approaches to positioning the subject near locations that seem to be naturally pleasing to humans. We also covered using “leading lines” to draw the eye from the edge of the frame to the subject.

Another way is to draw attention to the subject is to separate if from the rest of the scene with some sort of frame. We do this by framing pictures and paintings on our walls, and it also works in photographs. Usually photographers accomplish framing the subject positioning themselves so that the subject is seen within some larger part of the scene. It can be man made like the arch that frames the door or the fence that frame’s the child’s face.

door peek

Some frames are created by nature. The examples here are the arch that frames the leading line of the path going into the woods, and the arch of the tree that frames the moving parts of the lift bridge in the winter scene.


The next photo uses the subject of the previous photo in its raised position to frame the boat passing through. There are two frames in the next image. The ornate mirror is itself a frame that reflects an arch framing a view of a neighboring building.


The last two are examples of three-dimensional framing. The first is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge whose deck, sides and ceiling form an enveloping three-dimensional frame for the cyclists. The eye follows the horizontal lines of the bridge sides to the cyclists, pauses a moment before traversing the depth of the photo to the people just entering the bridge at the far side, and then returns to the cyclists.

The final image is of a breaking wave and ocean and sky beyond that are framed by the concrete pier. The eye tends to travel quickly beyond the spray to the patch of sky and then returns to the spray and the waves causing it.


Be on the lookout for frames and you will find them. Windows, open doors, garden arches, an arc or water from a fountain, a play structure, even a rainbow will help set off a subject. Use your imagination — you’re not limited to finding frame and subject pairs. You can physically place a subject within a frame, such as a potted plant or vase of flowers on the sill of a window. Try it looking in, and looking out.

Framing is one situation where breaking the rule of thirds can work very well, but it is also OK to use the rule with framing. Leading lines can be a complimentary way to emphasize the subject as we saw in the photo of the path going through the natural arch, and the lines of the bicycle bridge that carried our gaze into the image. Use the techniques of composition by themselves when it makes sense, and combine them whenever they work together to produce a better image than possible with only one technique.

Check out all the Pro Photographers Composition Secrets:

1. Leading Lines
 2. The Rule of Thirds
 3. Beaking the Rule of Thirds
 4. Self Assignment: Leading Lines and The Rule of Thirds
 5. Framing the Subject
 6. Negative Space
 7. Graphic Design
 8. Backgrounds
 9. Foregrounds
10. Patterns & Repetition
11. 9 Composition Self Assignments
12. Use Color as a Focal Point
13. Balance and Symmetry
14. Unique Perspectives
15. Geometry and the Triangle

© 2011, All rights reserved.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Leave A Comment...

You may use these HTML tags & attributes in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Sharing Buttons by Linksku
SEO Powered By SEOPressor