Incorporating a frame within a frame in the composition of a shot creates a structure for your image. It draws the eye to an area of your image, and using a frame within a frame is a photography technique you can use to tell a story or develop your aesthetic as a photographer.

What is a Frame Within a Frame?

The idea of using a frame within a frame is a photography concept that calls for framing a portion of your composition with some elements from your surroundings.

This technique draws attention to a focal point in your frame within a frame composition, creates a contrast, and adds structure to your shot.

You should use this technique to add depth to a shot, lead the eye of an observer, and tell a story by reflecting your own experiences with viewing the scenes or landscape you’re capturing.

Background Framing

Using a frame within a frame in your background adds structure to your shots and guides how people see your images. You can use buildings, trees, and other natural elements to create a symmetrical effect in your background and create a focal point.

red door with gothic black hardware

Image by Free-Photos (Pixabay License, no rights reserved)

Foreground Framing

Foreground framing is a standard frame within a frame photography technique. With foreground framing, you incorporate in your composition some elements that will form a frame in the foreground of your photos.

Using a frame within a frame in your foreground can result in a tunnel effect, or give viewers the impression that they’re looking at a scene through a layer of vegetation.

Look for Different Opportunities for Framing

The key to creating the frame within a frame effect in photography is to learn to recognize opportunities for framing your shot. Here are a few examples:

  • Create a frame within a frame composition by using a window.
  • Focus on using door frames within your composition, entryways, and hallways to add a frame within a frame.
  • Buildings and architectural elements often provide you with a background frame within a frame.
  • When shooting outdoors, you can often take trees and vegetation for foreground framing.
  • Landscape elements can create a background frame.
  • Add photography accessories to your shots, like picture frames.

Try Some Composition Tips for Creating a Frame Within a Frame Effect

You need to think about composition when you use a frame within a frame to your shots. Here are a few things to consider.

Winding Paths

Viewers typically look at a number of points when analyzing an image. Photography framing will guide their eyes from one area to another in a natural manner.

You can create a path by using a succession of frames within your shot, playing with focus and depth, or using shadows and highlights.

oak trees lining a road

Image by Tama66 (Pixabay License)

Underexpose Your Image

You can create a stunning frame within a frame effect by leaving your frame underexposed. It’s a technique you should turn to if you’re shooting an outdoor scene through a window. Adjusting your exposure for the frame will result in a landscape that looks overexposed.

Create Depth in Your Image

Photographic framing emphasizes depth. You can accentuate this effect by adopting a shallow depth of field and keeping your foreground frame in focus. Using more than one frame can also add depth.

Attempt to Find a Balance

A common mistake when using framing in photography is to give your frame too little importance in your photography composition. With framing, you can create a more dramatic effect if your frame takes up around half of the space available in your shot.

Catch and Lead the Eye

Adding a frame within a frame to your shot will guide how people look at the image. Look around and ask yourself which elements you should frame and how the frame will influence how people feel about your work.

Creat Frames and Shapes

Play with different shapes when adding frames within your composition! The idea of frames within a frame suggests that you should go for rectangular shapes.

However, you can create a frame within a frame effect with different shapes. Remember that your frame doesn’t have to be on all sides! You can create a unique effect by having a frame on two or three sides of your composition.

Ask Yourself: Does Your Frame Add Interest?

The choice and position of your frame should add interest to your image. Adding a frame within a frame for the sole purpose of applying a technique will not help you tell a story with your shot.

The purpose of this technique is to create emotions. Ask yourself how the frame will surprise or delight the viewer, how it will guide their analysis of the image, and what the choice of frame conveys. If you can’t find answers to these questions, a frame might be out of place in your photography composition.

Creative Frame Within a Frame Ideas

The best way to create frame within a frame pictures is to practice with this technique! Read on for some creative ideas to explore.

Explore the Use of Bokeh

Capturing some out-of-focus elements will create a soft bokeh effect for your photographs. You can apply this image effect to frame your photos, for instance, by adding some out of focus lights in the background.

Utilize Ceilings and Walls

Architectural elements like ceilings and walls can create a frame around your subject for your indoor shots. Your instinct might be to hide the ceiling in your pictures, but you should consider using it as a framing element. Most ceilings have a white color that can brighten your composition and make your subject stand out.

Look for Eye-Catching Archways

Look for archways in your surroundings! You can create a frame within a frame effect by taking an image of a subject or landscape through an entrance. You can also have a subject lean against an entrance for an original portrait.

concrete archways

Focus on a Secondary Subject in Foreground

You can focus on a subject that is in your middle ground or a subject in the background, and have a secondary subject in your foreground that will create a framing effect. A typical example is to take an image with tree branches to structure it.

Discover Different Colors and Textures

Think about colors and textures when integrating frames in your photos. You can introduce a contrast by using a frame with a neutral color to take a pic of a subject with bright colors.

Using architectural elements like archways and walls as frames allow you to work with textures like bricks and stones.

Identify Reflections

You can find natural frames for your subject when you take a shot with a large body of water. Use a frame with elements that are reflected in the water can structure your shot.

One of the ways you can work with frames and reflections would be to take a picture with a mirror! Capturing a reflection of your subject in a mirror is a creative exercise, and the mirror itself will create a frame for your shot.

The Use of Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are a fantastic way of getting started with frame within a frame photography. You can create a tunnel effect and structure your shot with a natural path by integrating a door frame in your shot.

Using windows for your shots. You can experiment with angles, and decide how much importance the window should have in your shot. Curtains can add a soft frame to your image!

Additional Questions

There are a few concepts you should be familiar with to create better compositions for your shots.

  • Using The Triangle Rule in Photography

The triangle rule is a concept you can apply to create harmony in your images. You should be able to divide your shots in different triangles, and the main area that is in focus should have the shape of a triangle. You can incorporate frames to emphasize the lines of these triangles.

  • Using the Popular Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is another photography idea you can follow to compose your shots. Imagine that there is a grid with three vertical and three horizontal lines over your shot. Your main elements should be located at the intersection of these lines, or along these lines.

If you decide to go for a frame within a frame effect, try positioning your frame along this grid to create a more aesthetic effect.