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Frame your shots better by using natural elements

Added on Friday 5th of August 2016 02:13 am EST

by Stephen Dow

When you think about framing your images, you might imagine a nice walnut frame and some low-reflection glass. But there's another type of frame you can use when shooting your digital images—a natural frame. Don't be deceived by the word natural, as a natural frame is actually any object in your scene that can create a frame within your image. Natural frames can be doorways, windows, fences, and trees, as shown in Figure A, or any number of other everyday objects. They can be very useful for adding visual interest and further defining the subject of your image. Including frames in your digital images isn't difficult; in fact, we'll show you how digital cameras make it easy to take advantage of this technique.

Figure A:  

Article figure image

The digital advantage

So, what makes this a digital topic and not a pure shooting-technique topic? Digital cameras have several advantages over traditional cameras that can help make capturing framed images easier.

bullet First, the LCD screen lets you not only quickly preview your images, but it can also help evaluate exposure adjustments without having to wait for film to be developed.

bullet Second, many digital cameras offer articulated LCD screens, so selecting unique viewpoints and capturing that perfect frame is much easier than with a fixed viewfinder.

bullet Third, selecting frames can even be done after the fact, as the digital format makes it simple to use image-editing applications to crop your images to a perfect framing.

Have your images been framed?

The use of natural frames in photography is a technique that has been used since the introduction of the medium. Frames add an intimacy to photography, as the borders around the image provide a ''window'' effect and allow the viewer a sneak peek into the scene. Natural frames also add ambience to the photograph, as the elements used often better define your scene and offer a sense of place. Most importantly, natural frames emphasize your main subject by creating this frame within a frame. This technique allows you to obscure unwanted image details, tighten up your composition, and ensure the visual focus of your shot. Of course, using natural frames isn't for every shot, as a poorly conceived shot can be more distracting than eye-catching.

Considering the frame borders

There aren't any unbreakable rules or regulations regarding the use of natural frames, as the subject matter and shot selection are so dependent on the elements available in the scene. However, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when setting up a framed shot. In most cases, a frame needs to dominate at least two sides of the image. In fact, partial frames are often more pleasing, as a frame that fully encircles the subject can isolate your subject and make the frame appear insignificant to the shot. Figure B shows an image with a strong circular frame but a fairly uninteresting center area. You can see how the purpose of the image is never truly established.

Figure B:  

Article figure image

Most framed shots place the frame in the foreground, as it can be difficult to keep your main subject in focus and present a strong frame in the background. If you have a strong background frame, consider exposing for the frame area and allowing the subject to fall to silhouette for a very interesting effect, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C:  

Article figure image

Be true to your main subject

When setting up a frame shot, always keep your ma...


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