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.
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.
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.
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.
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.