Composing within a frame

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This week I’m talking about framing, not the frame around the image, but the frame within the image. When seeking out locations for a portrait session, we can easily miss the simple little things around us that can make a portrait more interesting. I’m always looking for the big vista, the more scenic the better, but sometimes the better shots are right in front of you.

For years I had been photographing at this old pier, using it as a background for my children’s portraits, but the white hand rails had always been a distraction. Being white amongst a predominately dark structure and surrounding rocks, it really annoyed me, especially when the late sun would bathe all over it, causing it to be overly bright.

One day, while waiting for a client to arrive, I noticed how the white hand rails were framing the bench seat. I thought with the seat and hand rails in the shade and the background lit by the late sun, I could turn this into a “high key” setting.  High key is when the subject is surrounded by soft and lighter tones in the background and generally has lower contrast lighting. Quiet often the subjects are dressed in white or pastel coloured clothing, but in this case I think the dark coloured clothing and dark hair help draw you to their faces.

The top and bottom hand rails frame the children and with a shallow depth of field (F4@1/250 70-200mm) the background and sky have softened to give an almost surreal look.

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TECHNICAL  |  Canon 5D  70-200mm F2.8L IS  | ISO 400  F2.8 @ 1/80 130mm

In this image I placed the children between the rails of an old gate. The boy’s left eye was placed on the top right third point. (rule of thirds) I also moved the children so the door opening behind them was included in the background. This creates a feeling of depth to the image, rather than the solid timber wall as the background.

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Windows make are great for framing. In this image, I used the window of an old 1948 Chevolet Pick- Up truck to frame the siblings. I love the arms out the window and the expressive eyes, all I did was direct them to look at their parents. By looking at their parents the kids give a more natural reaction, rather than looking into the camera. I recommend photographing both ways

TECHNICAL | Leica M6 90mm F2 lens | Kodak T400cn

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In this example the boys wanted to play in the old truck. Sometimes it’s a case of seeing what happens and in this situation they positioned themselves, so I was able to take advantage of the double framing. i always try and use what’s around me for props rather than dragging studio props to every session.

The composition places the eldest boy to the centre, but that’s the only way I could capture the second boy in a reasonable position. Sometimes you have to break the rules, but I think this works.

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Another example of using your surroundings. Here I have used this window opening of an old shed/barn to frame the brother and sister.

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In this image I have used the structure under the pier as the framing. The face of the boy on the R is In the top third intersecting point and all the faces are in the two third facial plane. The lighting on the faces is “short lighting”.
Also note the depth in the portrait was created by angling my position, so that the rocks and the area above and behind the boys diminishes into the distance. 

*short lighting is when the main light source strikes the plane of the face, furtherest from the camera

TECHNICAL Canon 5D  50mm F1.2L  |  camera settings: ISO 400  F2.8 @ 1/125 | Nik Silver Efex Pro 

Well that’s it for this week, I hope this post on ‘framing” gives you some ideas to go and try. Just look for natural frames like windows, doors, fences, gates, bridge structures, car/truck windows & doors. Opportunities are everywhere, we walk and drive past them all the time. 

Until next week, happy shooting