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The use of a frame can turn an otherwise plain picture into a pleasing one. Usually a foreground element is used to create the frame. Examples are an overhanging tree branch, a window frame, a door, arches, a fence, rows of trees, etc.
A frame serves to isolate your main subject and create an interesting composition. Oftentimes, it's the feeling of depth you're after. You may choose to keep the detail of the frame (as in a wall, fence or branch), or let the frame go completely dark (as in a window frame).
When you are composing a shot, keep your eyes open to foreground (and sometimes, even middle or background) objects that can be used as a natural frame. You may need to physically back up a bit, kneel down for a more pleasant composition, or zoom in to include your subject within your chosen frame.
Bridge at Kariya Park:
Here, the tree and its branches serve as a natural frame to the bridge.
The tall grass and rocks contribute to the frame effect and give the pleasing impression that we are 'peeking' into a peaceful scene.
Canon PowerShot S50
Program AE, Evaluative, Auto WB
7.1mm, 1/250 sec., F2.8, ISO 50
By cropping tightly, a frame is created and draws attention to the bell. This picture would have been more effective if the background was blurred (by using a larger aperture combined with a long focal length).
Nikon Coolpix 8700
13.7mm, Programmed Auto, Partial, 1/95.7 sec., F3.5 and ISO 50
Levels adjusted in Photoshop Elements
A Word Of Caution About Artificial Frames
Framing can also be done after the fact by combining two or more pictures in an image editing software. Very dramatic effects can be accomplished this way and you are only limited by your imagination.
However, a word of caution is necessary here. Though there is nothing wrong with combining different images to create another one, be very careful about employing artificial frames on recognizable scenes and landscapes.
As an extreme example, don't frame the Statue of Liberty by the St. Louis Arch. Unless your purpose is to create dissonance within your viewers' minds, that picture will just look strange.
So, before you take that shot next time, look around and see if there is an object that you can use as a natural frame. Take a picture without the frame, and another one with the frame, and compare. Betcha, you'll like the one with the frame better!
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