Visual Techniques: Frame within the frame

Framing is a very important technique to know about, which probably happens naturally most of the time. When I take a photo I don’t usually consciously think about how I’m going to frame or compose the image. It just happens.
Still it’s really useful to be aware of what framing does - a photo that contains some kind of ‘frame within the frame’ is so much stronger than one without.
Let’s look at this famous image of W. Eugene Smith for example - it’s probably one of the best examples to illustrate this visual technique. The trees give the image a second frame, which nicely puts the focus on the two children. Now imagine the photo without the trees, just two children walking away from you. It would be nowhere near as strong.

The frame within the frame leads the eye to the subject, and it fills in the foreground. Filling the image is important, too.

The first image in this post shows the technique in a very slight way, the people at the bottom of the photo kind of give it a border from below. The second photo frames the flowers through the bodies and heads of the ladies around it. Image three blurs the background which gives it a soft border. The next one does the same thing but in the opposite way - the foreground (the two women) is blurred, which puts the focus on what’s behind it. And in the last photo Charlotte’s arms nicely frame the flowers she’s holding.

A lot of the time different techniques will overlap as well - reflections in mirrors for example are also part of the frame within the frame.

Consciously give this technique a go at least once, and you’ll see over time it will happen naturally. :)


  1. Very insightful post, Helena! I had barely noticed the importance of framing within a frame and the more I think about it now, I do see its power. I'm definitely going to try and shoot with this in mind next time!

    I love the sweetness of the flowers in the last photo. :)

    1. That's so cool you can actually see the power of framing now that you think about it. :) I'm really glad this helped - and hope it will improve your photos next time you shoot!

  2. Thanks for your encouragement about it coming naturally after practice. It gives me hope. With your tips, I have greatly improved my photography skills! Thank you so much.

    Kate from Clear the Way

    1. Kate, that's so GREAT to hear - makes me happy! I'm really glad it's been helpful for you so far and you actually learned something - that's encouraging for me to know as well :) Thank you!