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Frame - Use It Better


In a bad photograph, a lot of the time, the frame isn't altogether understood -- there are big areas of unexplained chemicals.

It's especially difficult as the picture gets bigger.

If it's small, a little piece of black can look like a dark place, right?

But as it gets bigger, eventually it just turns into a black shape.

And you look at the surface of the picture and it reminds you of the chemical factories on Lake Erie, creating pollution problems by making synthetic materials out of soybeans and petroleum derivatives.

And you don't want that.

The basic material of photographs is not intrinsically beautiful.

It's not like ivory or tapestry or bronze or oil on canvas.

You're not supposed to look at the thing, you're supposed to look through it.

It's a window.

And everything behind it has got to be organized as a space full of stuff, even if it's only air.


John Szarkowski

Talking Pictures

By Holly Myers and Tom Christie

LA Weekly, December 2006

The Frame

Good light is the most important ingredient of a photograph.

The second most important ingredient is how the photographer places the world inside the frame.

It's not easy.

Perhaps when we look into the viewfinder we feel like we're sitting in a theater.

In a movie theater, our task is to watch the movie.

In the viewfinder, our task is to direct the "movie."

We have to be aware of the subject matter—and—everything else including the frame.


Keep an eye on what's near the edges and corners.

What's near the edges and corners of the frame is "louder."

What's just outside the edges of the frame can be important to the viewer, as well.

This unseen outside can be self-evident, mysterious, or ?

One function of the edges is to keep the viewer's eye inside the frame.

This can be done with tone, color, and pattern.

Foreground elements, if any, may also be hung from the top and side edges, or may be supported by the bottom edge.

Bottom Edge

The bottom edge of the frame must often support the photograph visually.

This may be done with a band of tone or color, or a pattern that is different than the rest of the photograph.

Photographers often slightly darken the bottom edge and corners to produce support.