Framing Depth Artistic Composition Rule
Photographic composition is arranging various parts of an image in the frame, so they look appealing at first, second, and third glance. Composition is an art form, so it’s little wonder that artists have always set up their drawings and paintings along carefully considered lines and angles. Even abstract work follows certain design principles, either consciously or unconsciously arranged by the artist. Various parts of abstract paintings always relate to the image as a whole, and photographers apply these same rules if they want their photos to be appealing and interesting to the viewer. One of the best artistic composition rules that flowed from art to photography uses framing depth. Just as a physical frame surrounds and complements a photo, placing something around the main subject of an image gives it depth and makes it stand out.
What is Framing Depth?
Framing depth is a simple concept: if you narrow the field of view surrounding the subject of your photograph, the viewer’s eyes can’t be distracted by anything else! This idea works so well it’s been used by artists for hundreds of years. In photography, the camera user makes sure the main subject is ‘framed’ by objects or people nearby. The subject is the central focus point of the photo, and other parts of the environment cover the foreground, sides, and top of the image. This directs the viewer’s eyes to lock onto the subject straight away.
When using an iPhone, you don’t always have the luxury of planning how much of the framing elements stay in focus or blend into blurriness. Often an iPhone will focus on the object that’s closest to the lens, which isn’t what you want. Avoid this problem by tapping your finger on the image of the subject on the screen, and this will show the iPhone where you want the focal point to be. Doing this keeps the subject sharp, and it makes the foreground fuzzy. Then the eyes of the viewer will go straight to the sharply focused subject as intended. The newer models of the iPhone have a ‘portrait’ mode that makes a huge difference to photos. When you choose that option on the iPhone, and it detects a person in the shot, it automatically and effectively blurs the foreground and background of the image, isolating the subject superbly. This produces a substantial level of depth in a portrait.
It’s also worth using the Wise Camera app to fine-tune your composition. Choose the ‘Framing Depth’ option to line up your main point of interest within the oval guideline. Tap the screen to make the area larger or smaller depending on the size of the subject you are fitting into the area. Finish your alignment with the zoom slider to make sure your subject fills up the center of the image.
What Are Some Good Examples of Framing Depth?
A favorite example of artwork that features great use of this artistic composition rule is a piece by Dante Gabriel Rossetti called, The Beloved. Rossetti was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Even though this group of artists lived in England in the 1800s, they chose to paint with the intense colors and style of compositions found in Italian art prior to the Renaissance era. In this magnificent painting, a young woman prepares for her wedding ceremony. The brightness of her face immediately draws your attention, especially since the surrounding faces and clothing are darker. But the main reason why the bride dominates the composition is that she is framed so well by the people around her. Your eyes will eventually drift to other areas in the image, but there’s no denying that the bride is the main figure and the others merely have supporting roles.
The famous image of Afghan Girl on the cover of the National Geographic magazine uses framing depth to perfection. The scarf around her head and shoulders, along with the darkness of her hair, frame the image in such a way that your eyes are immediately captivated by the stunning, dominant green eye at the very center of the image. The combination of framing depth composition, strikingly beautiful colors, and the piercing gaze of this twelve-year-old orphan ensured this photo became National Geographic’s most successful cover image.
A more typical example of framing depth is captured by every wedding photographer who does their job properly. As the bridal couple leaves the church, the photographer will ask them to pause under the arch of the church’s doorway. As they step into the world for the first time as a married couple, the photographer captures the moment as the arch frames them, drawing all of your attention to them in the central area of the image.
Using Framing Depth in Your Photography
You can achieve similar results to The Beloved, Afghan Girl, and wedding couples under arches — and your subject can be anything! It’s all due to the positioning of your subject and their environment. The idea is to add depth to the image by surrounding the main part of the photo with other people or objects to narrow the view of the subject. This works as long as these other elements are more subdued than the main subject, so they don’t take attention away from the central area.
Looking through the overhanging branches of a tree and framing a friend through an oval of green leaves is another popular example of framing depth. This has the added benefit of giving context to the environment of the shot, showing that the friend is enjoying being out in nature. The Wise Camera app helps you with any form of circular gap can be used to channel vision onto your chosen subject. Of course, you are not limited to circular or oval shapes for framing. An arch in a bridge, an opening on a wall, the entrance or doorways in a building, and windows also work perfectly well to surround a subject for greater impact.
When the day is done, and you are admiring your photos on your iPhone, don’t worry if you start having second thoughts about having too much framing in your images. If you feel the central area is overpowered by the items around the subject, use the Wise Photos app and enlarge the image until you shave off enough of the surroundings for better composition. The red guidelines make sure you keep the subject in the exact center of the photo for perfect balance and harmony.
When to Use Framing Depth?
Framing Depth is not just about adding an extra dimension to an image; it’s also useful in landscape photography where there is a lot of flat, empty space around your subject. Shooting through the branches of a tree blocks featureless areas and draws attention to the real subject of the scene. It stops the main point of interest from becoming lost. For example, Japan’s Mount Fuji is definitely not a boring subject to photograph, but there is a lot of flat land around it, so it can be tricky to capture it in a compelling way. Standing behind a branch of cherry blossoms means you can photograph Mount Fuji surrounded by pink flowers. This draws attention to the mountain and adds a dash of color to the edges of the image as well. Taking a photograph of Mount Fuji in conjunction with this other Japanese icon turns the photo into a unique image that you’ll treasure forever.
Using this composition method has another trick up its sleeves. It’s not only useful for blocking emptiness, but it can also cover distracting parts of a busy scene. This tells the viewer to ignore all other areas of the photo and shows them exactly where you want them to look.
There’s a good reason why this composition format has been used for centuries: it works! With just a bit of forethought, you can make a stunning image that accentuates the subject in a naturally pleasing manner. The technique of framing depth does exactly what it suggests: it uses framing of the subject to add depth to an image. Placing parts of the scenery in front of the subject forms a layer that gives the photo greater visual interest.
Whenever you have your iPhone in your hand, and you have the itch to create a special photo, look for a vantage point that produces a framing effect around your subject. Sometimes it can be even more advantageous to find a framing opportunity and then move your subject behind it to get an enticing photo. Framing depth is a composition option that’s worth a little extra effort!
A little about me. I love creating digital products! Making Apple apps has been a fantastic creative outlet and a collaborative experience with many talented people. Helping others with what I love to do inspires me. You can find all my apps at my Digiguys Apps website.