The Dice of Trégastel, Brittany, France, 2014. Nikon D800 and 16-35mm f/4 lens, 16mm, f/11, 1.3s, ISO 100 © Amaury Descours

When you take a photo, what interests you most is its content: your subject and its environment. But a photo has its own limits: borders at the top, bottom, left and right of your image. That’s the picture frame!

For beginner photographers, the frame is often seen as a constraint. The frame never seems big enough, we wish to put more content in the photo.

But making successful photos is capturing the emotions you have felt about your subject, not packing as much content as possible.

Because it is part of key composition techniques, working the frame as much as the content is paramount to bring out your emotions.

So here are my 3 tips to consider the frame differently.

Tip #1: Don’t Let the Frame Direct Your Photo

The boundaries of the frame must not impose themselves on you and deprive you of your freedom.

It is up to you to select the limits of your image and show what you have chosen!

Your subject is not everything your eyes capture at 180º. There is always a particular element in front of you that pushed you to take the picture.

Then use the frame to get out of the image anything that will dilute attention. In front of your subject, let your emotions emerge.

Choose a wide or tight frame, play with the zoom, change lenses, move back or forth, or simply point your hands in the right direction to remove all visual disturbance from the frame.

Tip #2: Consider Also What is Not in the Center

With a frame you bring out 3 things: the center of the image, the edges and also the corners of the image.

Of course if there is something in the center, the eyes will focus on it immediately.

But the edges and corners are just as magnetic!

If there is nothing in the center, anything against one edge will automatically catch the eye. And it’s even more irresistible in the corners. It is this power of attraction that is used with the rule of third, for example.

So choose well what you are going to put against an edge or in a corner, because you are not going to lower its importance: all the reverse actually!

I composed this photo by playing on opposite corners. The rock of the dice is in one corner, the hole in the rocks in another. By placing the main subject and the secondary subject in the corners, there is a visual tension that catches the eye and brings out the emotions of delight of this landscape.

Tip #3: See The Long Edge as the Scanning Direction

A frame is like a magnifying glass, you zoom in on your visual experience to convey your emotions.

But inside the magnifying glass, the eye does not remain static, it looks at the 4 corners of the image.

And you can force the eye to scan your photo in a specific orientation. Just give it the longest edge. It’s up to you to take your picture in portrait or landscape orientation.

In a landscape photo, the long edges crush the image horizontally and push the eye to look left and right.

In a portrait photo, the long edges compress the image vertically and push the eye to look up and down.

The long edge of the image links the foreground with the rocks in the shade, and the dice rock bathed by the rising sun. Here, the long edge immediately guides the eye to give a sense of the depth of the photo.

The Frame is the Essence of Composition!

To make great photos, your creative pyramid must be based on a good composition.

Without composition, the eye loses itself in understanding what is in your photo. And it will miss the subject and the emotions you wanted to share.

What Do You Think?

Do you pay as much attention to the subject as to the frame of your photo? How do you usually compose your photos?

Leave me your comment, I will answer with pleasure.

Do you like what you’ve learned? Share this article with your loved ones!


  1. I have to agree with you when you said that not only the center but also the sides and corners of the picture attracts the attention of the viewers. Personally, the photo that my brother took of the dog got me because, at the side, I can see the flowerbed and some other things. That is the one that I chose to have framed. What I need now is a good frame to highlight the beauty of the picture.

    1. Hi Dino, thanks for sharing your experience. For a lot of people, realizing that the image borders are completely part of the picture, is for many totally counterintuitive. That’s why it is so powerful!

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