I love the creative energy at an art school.  I was recently a guest lecturer at California College of the Arts and walked the campus with students looking for plants to photograph and saw this empty frame hanging in a tree.

Empty frame hanging in tree at California College of Arts

I assume whoever hung it was very careful, because tit perfectly frames the branches of the tree behind.

I often show students the simple framing tool of one’s own hands hands-framingand also explain that the camera viewfinder itself is a framing device.

In some workshops I actually set up 4′ x 8′ frames in the garden for students to look through in composing a scene, wanting the exact effect found here at the art school.

The frame has been hung so well I am tempted to go one step farther, explaining how the branches are composed with shape and balance.

Before and After Slider


Framing and Composition is a chapter in Think Like A Camera


and also its own mini-ebook available for $1.99 in iTunes of Google Play




  1. RE – framing a shot. I wonder about something. You can teach all the rules of composing a shot, making it balance, knowing whether to turn it vertical or horizontal for the best effect, but if your student doesn’t have an innate sense of design and composition, and they have to run the “rules” through their brains every time they aim a camera, isn’t their work apt to look mechanical and robotic? I say this especially because of observation of a couple of adult friends who just don’t get it, plus school days’ experience of little kids who “got it” while their seatmates didn’t. The “seatmates” could be robots, but had no “soul” for this sort of thing. I got it without the instruction; it seemed to always be within me. I cannot stand to take pix with someone who has to discuss “the rules” before each shot. She’s fine for lunch, but not for picture taking!

    • Marilyn – Certainly some folks don’t get it, but more often than not, students who are seeking help do learn. They know in their soul there is something to come out and a few “rules” gives them a place to start working. Some may never “get it” and may always have to think of a rule to make a better picture, but it will be a better picture. If a beginner looks at a seascape thinking how to photograph it, and remembers the rule of thirds to put the horizon in either the top or bottom third, the result may be a bit mechanical, but better than someone who had no rules to help.


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