Yellow crate as framing element for lobster

Fun Framing Elements–How To Give Your Photos An Instant 3D Look

One of the components of photography I have come to really appreciate is the ability to create a three-dimensional image with a two-dimensional medium. Never having had the sense to take a photo class, I slowly stumbled on compositional techniques that create a very real sense of depth, from forced perspective to leading lines.

One of my favorite techniques, however, is the use of framing elements.

Books frame an image of visitors
Books frame an image of visitors chatting in book store

A framing element in photography is essentially a visual frame within the frame of our image. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, but like many techniques in photography, framing elements have their own set of rules.

Winery parking lot hidden with framing element
Winery parking lot hidden with framing element

Usually a framing element is positioned in front of our main subject. Well, pretty much always. In addition to creating a sense of depth, it helps focus a viewer’s attention on the main subject in our image and can be used to hide elements we don’t want the viewer to see—like a parking area in the image above.

corn stalks frame a scarecrow, creating a sense of depth
corn stalks frame a scarecrow, creating a sense of depth

If the foreground framing element is slightly darker than our main subject, it creates a greater sense of depth, as will keeping the framing element softer than our main subject using shallow depth of field.

Having said all this, I occasionally use a framing element solely to capture the viewer’s attention and skip trying to create the 3D effect. The framing element can be tight to the main subject and can be brighter or just a color that contrasts with our subject, like the image of lobster in the .featured image above.

Almost anything can make an effective framing element.

a fence creates a frame for a portrait of a goat
a fence creates a frame for a portrait of a goat

 An open doorway, trees and leaves, cornstalks, archways, window frames, shadows, a fence—the choices are endless. In any case, the framing element should relate to the storyline of the image or increase the visual drama of the photograph. 

Try adding this technique to your own bag of tricks. It can change an average image to a good one and a good image to a great one. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s