Frame within a Frame is an original Composition Technique to create a different, more engaging, picture.

Why use Frame within a Frame composition?

The frame can add an additional context that support or help describe the subject of the picture. In this picture, the frame is made of lobster trap. There are Lobster Traps perfectly aligned on a wharf near the fisherman’s house in the distance.   This add to the context.

The surrounding frame also add depth to the picture and help restore the third dimension.  In this picture this is particularly true since the frame includes converging lines leading into the scene.  The combination of a frame and converging lines create an interesting sense of depth.

A frame is also a good option to eliminate distraction that otherwise would make the subject weak.  By changing position while looking at your subject through the frame you can often hide distractions.

In this picture the frame is, in itself, a bit distracting.  However since the subject is brighter than the frame the impact of a distracting frame is less important.  Choosing a frame that is darker help reduces the distraction associated with its presence.

We often see window or door frame that add context to the picture and more so if these frames have details that help support the subject.  Some pictures show a black frame, like a doorway, with nice recognizable curves at the top of it.  This is very aesthetic.

Looking for a composition that leverage a frame

With an interesting subject you should explore additional variation to the usual one.  Looking specifically to include a frame within your composition can give you a winner.

In this picture the subject is this fisherman house. The subject is well positioned on one of the thirds.  The sun is low on the horizon and the light is soft and warm.  The subject is brighter than the surrounding element and attract the attention.   On each side of the picture and in the bottom part of it, Lobster Traps are framing the house, wharf and distant lobster traps.

We could also talk about the clouds in the upper part of the picture acting as the fourth frame border.  Clouds, trees, windows and doorways are usual great candidates for framing your subject.

You want to keep the viewer attention within the frame. This in turn favor the continued exploration of the picture.  The usual few seconds that we glance at a picture extend.

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When selecting element to serve as a potential frame, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will it keep the viewer within the frame?
  • Is it distracting?
  • Is it adding to the context supporting the subject?

Try out creating a picture with a frame within the frame.  Ask yourself and your friends if they like it or not.  Each of us are reacting differently to various composition.  Would I be a lobster…

Here are a few examples of frame within a frame that you need to see:

Use Frame within a Frame to add Context and Depth to a photo.

Digital Camera World Post

DPReview Contest Frame within a Frame


And this great book by David Duchemin: Within the Frame:

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision