A Frame Up

A frame draws a viewer’s attention to the main subject

A frame draws a viewer’s attention to the main subject. Framing does exactly what the word implies. It unifies the primary focal point with natural or man made objects that surround it. These objects outline the subject, add a sense of depth, and also help identify the setting. Framing can be used to hide distracting elements or strategically fill in areas that otherwise may lack interest.

Successful photographers incorporate good use of space in their images. A frame helps distract the viewer from looking at areas that would otherwise lack interest. It provides a shape around the main subject. A frame can be used to turn a distracting background into a harmonious one with balance among all the elements. The technique is used well when its presence is not obvious to the viewer.

The frame a photographer chooses should have a direct connection to the primary subject. The elements that constitute the frame should be in harmony with it. What typically comes to mind are mountain scenics. Mountains rise upward, therefore sky appears in the photo. If the sky lacks color or interesting cloud patterns, use low hanging branches of trees to surround the peak. Single out the limbs that create a natural formation around the summit in the distance. They should cleanly outline the top of the mountain yet not merge. The limbs should frame the mountain while they simultaneously hide a plain sky.

Frames work well when there is a theme between the subject and elements that encompass it. An image shot through the interior of an apartment window that looks onto a series of tall buildings is a great example. Options to enhance the image include lighting the interior, having the window open or closed, hanging sheer curtains in front of it, or placing objects on the sill that turn into silhouettes. A barn shot through a fence opening, a country road shot through a covered bridge, or a harbor scene shot through a porthole are more examples of subjects that go hand in hand with their frames.

Outdoor Photographer Tip Of The Week

In that the frame element is often much closer than the distant primary focal point, it’s essential you cover the necessary depth of field. Place your camera on a tripod and stop the lens down. Place the active focus point one third into the image to maximize the range of focus. Depth of field falls one third in front of the focus point and two thirds behind it. In essence, you take advantage of what’s known as the hyper focal distance. Check your depth of field preview button to verify sharpness. Live view can be beneficial. Zoom into the image on the LCD to check the range of sharpness.

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3 Comments

    A very good topic for this column with great examples to underscore your points. Russ, ever think about putting these tips into an e-book? Always lots of practical “use it now” information each week.

    Russ,
    Framing was one of the first – and best – techniques that I acquired when I got serious about photography 40 years ago and one that has stayed with me over the decades. I am glad that you are emphasizing this basic of landscape imaging. To me it is so important that it trumps so many others such as the rule of thirds!

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