The art of depth: Using frame-in-frame composition techniques in photography

Frame-in-Frame is an easy but, in my opinion, underused compositional technique that you can use to improve your photography. So what is it, and how can you use it?

But first.

Composing in photography means giving all elements a place. Usually within a balanced frame, but it sometimes means leaving elements out. The aim is to direct the viewer’s eye to your subject. It also helps you make the photo pleasing to look at.

One of the possible techniques to use for this is frame-in-frame.

Simply put, a frame-in-frame composition uses elements within the frame to border around the subject. Thus creating a second frame within the frame of your picture.

Using this compositional technique helps you to create depth in your image and to guide the viewer’s attention to the subject of your photo.

Finding opportunities on an excellent frame-in-frame can be challenging, but there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look. Some very common ones are:

  • Doorframes
  • Window frames
  • Arches and gates
  • And mirrors

Of course, you can get very creative with this. Photographing through wheels, for example. Using the trunks of trees to frame a subject. Using a puddle in the paving as your frame. Look around; I’m sure you can find plenty of options.

Looking for a frame-in-frame can become easier with the following techniques.

The first one is to find a foreground element you can shoot through. For example, a window to frame around your landscape or perhaps some fences that allow you to shoot through them. A mirror works, too, especially if you don’t mind being in the photo. Or the stairs of some metro station leading up to a framed exit.

Another one can be to find a frame that’s behind your subject. Like a dark archway that helps you separate the subject from the background. Or a gate of a building where people pass by.

My general method is to find something to shoot through after I take a couple of photos of my subject. If I still have the time, finding a frame often gives me a few extra options that might make the photo and subject pop even more.

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