This is one of my favorite compositional techniques because it can be very obvious or really subtle in nature. But either way, it is always effective. Natural framing is really a focus on framing while looking through the viewfinder in the camera. This can be done with an actual pre-existing “frame” (things like windows and doors) or with organic frames (tree limbs or climbing ivy). Thinking about how to use frames that are naturally occurring in your everyday life—what about a fence? or a mirror? or walking around with an actual empty frame? Or even a lock hole? With natural framing you can also create your own shape and photograph through that, or use your imagination to make the natural and organic environment offer an interesting framing technique for your photos. It is endlessly interesting.
Organic Natural Framing
The first of these is organic natural framing, the frames that exist in nature and you find while walking around. These frames are great for portraits of people since they seem the most natural overall. Placing your subject between some natural hanging branches, or in a trail between beach grasses helps to keep the subject contained and the viewer can really hone in on the subject without getting lost in the background information. I sometimes even have my client put their hands on the object I am using as a natural frame. this helps to use the space between the subject and the “frame” itself.
Man-made Natural Framing
When people think about man-made natural framing they often think about an actual empty frame or something that has hard lines. But not all man-made natural frames have to be boring. I often find gates, parking meters, and doorways can create really captivating natural frames for my clients. I like to add something to the background to help anchor the portrait and add some visual interest. One of my favorite ways to use natural framing is with unexpected openings, like the parking meters below. Using a good amount of shallow depth of field and focusing through the man-made natural frame really creates a more captivating composition overall.
So next time you have the opportunity to photograph someone, think about how you can make natural framing a priority. Using both man-made architectural elements and natural and organic objects as a natural frame takes just a little bit of forethought and creates something really interesting for your subject. This can also be easily done for landscape photography as well. Using something as simple as a cut-out in the cliff or trees that frame the top and bottom of your landscape helps your viewer to feel a sense of where they stand within the image. Giving the viewer a sense of place is really helpful in making the overall landscape more captivating and even more accessible.