5 Tips to Enhance Your Composition with Frames

Enhance your dog photography composition with these framing tips!

First off, what is framing? 

Framing, aka frame within a frame, is a method of composition that uses various elements in scene to create a frame around your subject. This creates a sense of depth and draws your viewer’s eye KA-POW right to the subject of your image!

Sure you could go willy nilly and frame every subject but the best practice is to ask: Does this image benefit from having a frame around the subject? Does it make the composition stronger? If not, then pass on adding the frame. 


5 tips for framing:

  1. Frame with manmade objects
    Windows, doors, chairs, literal picture frames, bridges, etc – if it’s manmade you can use it to frame a dog. Get creative with your framing! Use chairs, the legs of a table, pillows, blankets, dog beds or head to a playground for TONS of framing opportunities. The list of manmade items to use for framing is vast!

    * When using a window or door to frame your dog (if they’re inside looking out), you may end up with silhouetted image with a bright background. Two workarounds: shift from shooting straight on to a slight sideways angle to turn the backlight into sidelight. Or step outside and capture your dog framed by the window as he looks out. The light will be even front light. 

  2. Frame with natural objects
    Trees, rocks, grass, flowers, logs, anything in nature can be utilized. Tiny & small dogs can be framed by big bloomed flowers, while big dogs can be framed by trees or rocks. Or use YOUR dog as the frame! Their paws can frame toys, treats or lovely fall leaves. You could use dog ears and tails too!

  3. Frame with people! 
    That’s right use people to frame your dog! Arms in a hug or clasped together above your dog will create a cool frame. Legs create awesome frames if your pup is tucked at your feet or standing between two people. 

  4. Frame with shadow
    An abstract way to create a frame is to use shadow to frame your dog. Shadows are cast from objects when there is ample light available. In the morning and evening shadows will be long and stretched out, while midday shadows will be crisp and small (barely farther from underfoot). Look for shadows that create a pattern and put your dog in the non shadow part of the pattern.

  5. Frame with out of focus elements
    An out of focus element is a cool way to add a frame to your dog’s image. And the possibilities of what the abstract element is are crazy vast! Grass, leaves, touches of color from flowers, steps, sidewalks and dirt paths. Narrow depth of field will help aid you with this.
    * Create your own out of focus elements with leaves, grass or flowers. Hold them on the edge of your frame close to the end of your lens. Being really close to the lens and your focus being farther out on your dog, the element will blur. Use the color to create a cool out of focus frame around your dog. 

Some other notes: The frame does NOT have to go all the way around your dog! The frame can have 3 sides, 2 sides or even one! Plus frames don’t have to be straight! 

In sum 5 tips for framing:

  • Frame with manmade objects
  • Frame with natural objects
  • Frame with people! 
  • Frame with shadow
  • Frame with out of focus elements

Which framing elements will you incorporate into your images?

We’re in a blog ring composed of awesome dog photographers from around the world. Next up: BARKography by Kim Hollis in Charlotte NC talks about her 3 most popular framed wall art options.