Alongside composition and the rule of thirds, framing is one of the key elements of photography that every artist needs to know. Framing in photography refers to the technique of drawing focus to the subject in the photo by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene. Frames can be located in the center of the picture or alongside its edges. They can span over all four sides of the photo or encompass just one or two edges of the image. Though its main goal is to attract the viewer's eye to the main subject of the image there are quite a few benefits of framing. Frames can be made from a variety of objects and forms, and photographers often use branches, tunnels, arches, windows or even people to make a frame. Famous photographers often used framing to achieve a variety of effects. Framing can provide the context for the photo and tell the viewers something about the person or a place where it was made. Or it can create an illusion of depth, a third dimension or various layers in the photographs. Using architectural objects and natural elements to make a great frame can convey the feeling of walking trough the forest or a building a feeling of stepping into the photographer's shoes and looking at the world trough his or her eyes. Due to its numerous benefits framing is a common choice of both emerging and established artists from all over the globe. From natural frames in the photographs by Ansel Adams to Shunk-Kender's bold yet effective hand framing technique these art the examples of images and subjects framed to perfection.
Photographer Ansel Adams is known for his black and white landscape photos of the American West. In his Wawona Tunnel View photograph, the celebrated artist used the edges of the cave to frame the lake and the mountains of Yosemite valley spanning in the background. This clever way of framing the objects created the dramatic effect and made the photo stand out among the numerous depictions of the same valley.
Featured image : Ansel Adams - Wawona Tunnel View
Japanese artist Yasuhiro Ishimoto proved that landscape scenery can be wonderfully framed with architectural objects as well. In this photograph he used the terrace doors to frame the landscape thus achieving a dual effect. On one side he has successfully drawn the viewers' eye to the landscape that represents the focus of the image and on the other, he managed to convey the notion of sitting in a Japanese villa room while enjoying the view from the outside.
Featured image : Ishimoto Yasuhiro - Katsura Villa Portfolio
In the famous portrait of Andy Warhol taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer placed his friend and fellow artist into a white circle thus highlighting his pale almost ghastly appearance. The artist face and wig were further highlighted by the empty black edges of the artwork. The image represents a symbol of both affection and idolization as the main subject appears almost saintly surrounded by the white halo.
Featured image : Robert Mapplethorpe - Andy Warhol
American artist Lee Friedlander is known for his America by Car series in which he often used objects like car windows to frame everything he saw on his road trip trough the vast country. But in this photograph, he took on a different approach and framed his subject with light. The artist's skillful use of light and shadows powerfully highlights the women on the picture while the rest of the image fades to black.
Featured image : Lee Friedlander - Maria Las Vegas, 1970 via moma.org
Self Portrait that Arthur Felling made in this vehicle is a wonderful example of how framing can provide the context for the photo. By using the doors of the police van for framing the photographer is giving the viewer more information about the location where the photo is taken thus shifting the attention from the subject to the surrounding space.
Featured image : Arthur Fellig - Self Portrait in Police Van
In this famous photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson we can see how the artist used the stairways to frame the bicyclist in motion. The staircases frame the subject from the bottom and the right side while leaving the top and the left corner open. The photograph is taken from a high point, looking down towards the road that curves across the top of the photo.
Featured image : Henri Cartier-Bresson - Hyeres, France
Though framing mostly serves to focus the viewer's eye to a certain part of a photograph this technique can be also used to do the opposite. Clever framing that hides as much as it shows often leaves the viewers wondering and imagining what is behind the frame. Choosing the right balance between secluding and revealing can be tricky but it's fair to say that Erwin Blumenfeld nailed the technique with this self-portrait with a camera. The composition is giving the viewers just a glimpse into the photographer's world while simultaneously leaving them wanting more.
Featured image : Erwin Blumenfeld - Self-portrait via theredlist.org
Thomas Leuthard used framing to provide his photos with a sense of depth and multiple layers. By placing the passer by's legs in the foreground the artist managed to add an additional dimension to the shot. The interesting triangular frame will make the viewers look twice before they notice the teddy placed in the background.
Featured image : Thomas Leuthard - Untitled
Here's a very basic yet effective way of creating a frame within a frame. Harry Shunk and János Kender who worked together under the name Shunk-Kender for two decades photographed an array of places and artistic happenings in Paris and New York. In this iconic artwork the duo used their hands to frame the ship located in the New York Harbor thus drawing the focus of a viewer's eye to both the object and the photographers' hands.
Featured image : Shunk-Kender - Hands Framing New York Harbor, 1971 via moma.org