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Friday, December 12, 2008

Create Frames within Frames

There are a lot of little tricks that both photographers and painters use to tie together various elements of landscape or other outdoor scenes. One that I often find myself using is the idea of a "frame within a frame." Using framing devices has several advantages. For one, it lets you bridge the foreground and the background together, as I've done here by framing a pier in Rockport, Texas with a big rusty loop on an old anchor I found on shore. In that case, having a thematic connection between foreground and background also helps strengthen the shot.

Unrelated frames can also be used to focus attention on your main subject: framing a full-length portrait through a pretty garden gate, for example. Still another good use of internal frames is to hide distracting elements: using a clump of arching tree branches to surround a church steeple, for example, to hide nearby power lines or telephone poles. In all cases it's important to keep the frame a bit darker and more subdued tonally than the rest of the frame otherwise the frame will compete for attention with your main subject. I tend to let the frames fall slightly out of focus for the same reason, but that really depends on the specific situation. There are times when it works better if both frame and subject are in equally sharp focus. Remember, these aren't rules, just guidelines and ideas.

Next time you're out shooting a landscape or an informal portrait, look around and see if you can't find an existing frame that you can work into the composition. My guess is that once you start looking for them, you'll see them everywhere: doorways, windows, tree limbs, etc.

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