What Is Frame Within A Frame?

View of Williamette National Forest From Gold Butte Lookout

Frame within a frame is when the photographer shoots through natural elements in the scene to form a frame around the subject. This technique separates the eye from distraction, creates depth, a sense of location, and draws the viewer’s eye towards the subject. From the obvious to the not so obvious, there are a variety of ways to create a frame around your subject.

Framing and Composition With Man-Made Objects

Starting with the obvious, doors windows, and archways are perfectly shaped and surround all sides which can create a sense of isolation. 
Frame With in a Frame Using light

Located in a dark abyss, a faceless subject is framed by the window as he looks into nothingness. He is framed by the darkness and the light giving a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Photo by Sasha Freemind

Windows give a sense of location and perspective. Here the photos feels as if the viewer was looking through the window themselves.

Framing Photography With Natural Elements

Frame the subject with nature from the environment.  This is one of my favorite ways to use frame within a frame because it adds depth, texture, and something unique to popular travel photos.

Girl on a dock during the summer
Berlin Cathedral

Use Contrasting Colors to Frame the Photo

The photographer used the stark contrast in colors on the wall to frame the mother and child in the lighter blue. It adds layers and color to an otherwise flat wall. In this case, less is more. There aren’t a lot of distractions to take away from the subject.

photo by Dakota Corbin

Frame With a Frame Using Color

Make A Frame With Bokeh

Perhaps the least obvious of all is Bokeh – better known as background/foreground blur which is achieved with an open aperture. Remove distractions in the environment by blurring them out; frame the subject by making it the only thing in focus. This is especially useful when the setting contains clutter such as power lines or people.

Photography Composition Using Light and Shadows

Photo by Evan Leith

The lighthouse is well lit while the rest of the photo is in the shadows. Using light to frame your subject can be accomplished with sun glares, flash, or light peeking through trees. Depending on its usage, light can create a sense of peace and serenity as seen here, or darkness and moodiness as in the photo by Sasha Freemind above.

I love this photo because it combines several of the methods discussed in this post.

Frame within a frame practice example

Using Half Frames

A frame does not have to enclose all four sides of the photo, nor does it need to be left to right, or top to bottom. In the examples below, notice how The Louvre on the left is framed by the pillars on the side as well as the buildings as they move towards the background. This is also a great example of leading lines. On the right, the dock frames the boat from front to back and gives a sense of depth to the image.

The Louvre - Paris, France
Small Wooden Row Boat Floating in a Dock


Frame Within a Fram Pin