Why you Should use a Frame within a Frame
Using a frame within a frame is a great way to lead the viewers eyes into a photo, adding depth and context, and drawing their attention to a certain point. A photo of a scene with a foreground feature makes for much more interesting build up to the main part of a photo and can, in some cases, carry equal weight to the rest of the photo.
The technique of framing within a frame is often underused as a method of drawing attention to a particular part of an image, even though it's remarkably effective. The idea is that you choose the part of your scene that you want to be the subject and then find a shape within the photo (usually in the foreground) that will hold it. Here's the simplest way of demonstrating this below.
Foreground frames are the simplest way of using a frame within the frame of the photo, but there are less obvious and more imaginative ways to do this. The most important thing to do, is what I always sugest, and that's to think before you shoot. Have a good look around what can and can't be used and decide how you want to compose your shot. The more you do this, the faster you'll be and the better your shots will come out. Below is an example of using multiple frames in a shot and having them in the background. The frames being in the background reinforce the subject and lead the eyes in an obvious order and the empty frames balance the rest of the photo.
Leading The Eye
Frames are great at leading the eye into a particular direction or subject and can be achieved just as effectively by using half frames like in the photo below. The lines along the left and bottom encourage your eyes towards the center of the image and the vertical line converging with the diagonal give you direction. The eye is drawn towards the center of image below before working its way outwards.
One of the best reasons to use a frame is because it provides a sense of depth in the photo, and this is encouraged by use of a shallow depth of field accentuating it like in the photo above. Another way to reinforce a sense of depth is by repetition and this is clearly demonstrated in the photo below. It’s easy to create a sense of depth in a photo by using 2 or more objects (like the door frames below) that we know to be the same height and placing one further away from th
Once you know how to lead the eye using frames and understand a frames effect on depth, it's easy to create a path for your eye to go down, like in the photo below. The repeating frames start to diminish the further away they get and this is a great way of drawing your eye to a single point.
Now, if you've read my post on metering modes, you'll understand how the camera looks at a scene, and if it sees the single bright point in the center, it's likely to try and expose for that and underexpose the frame as a result. This can of course be used creatively, but be careful if it's not the look you're trying to achieve, like in the photo below. There's a distinct difference between the overexposed and underexposed parts of the photo, and there's very little that you can do about it without going into complicated photoshop techniques, so put your camera into manual mode and find an exposure that you're comfortable with.
Making the Frame an Equal Part of The Photo
If the frame is particularly interesting then don't neglect it; use it. I found this run down old building in Greece and the window frame was so knackered and full of character that I considered it as important as the view I had walked up the hill to take. This provides the photo with a sense of location and interest, rather then just a view, and leads the viewer through the window, which it is typically used to doing.