Using Framing to Create More Interest in Your Architectural Subjects

One of our favorite ways to compose architectural subjects is to frame them. There are many ways to do this, from abstract takes to cityscape views. Let’s go through a few examples to give you an idea of what we mean.

Starting with an abstract perspective. One way is to use a portion of the building or structure to frame itself. Here, I’m using one side of the pavilion to frame the inside of the other side of that same pavilion.

lincoln park pavilion, studio gang architects, angie mcmonigal photography

Going a tiny bit wider, here is a building with a glass atrium that frames the tower portion of the building which is set back from its atrium.

You can also use a neighboring building to frame another nearby building. This works both a bit more abstractly, mid-range and from a cityscape point of view.

the broad, walt disney concert hall, diller scofidio renfro, frank gehry, angie mcmonigal photography
union station chicago, willis tower, sears tower, angie mcmonigal photography

chicago skyline, angie mcmonigal photography
new york city, michael muraz photography

Sculptures and sculptural architectural elements make for great framers of either one building or a wider city view.

les halles, paris, angie mcmonigal photography

exp., washington wabash cta, angie mcmonigal photography

mary bartelme park, angie mcmonigal photography lincoln park pavilion, studio gang architects, angie mcmonigal photography

Be on the lookout for the less obvious urban elements to frame the city. The subway windows…

chicago skyline, angie mcmonigal photography



chicago bridges, angie mcmonigal photography

And, even more unexpected: shadows. In the first shot, the awning of the building and its shadow create a frame for the background building.

aga khan, ismaili center, michael muraz photography


Or reflections, a bit more challenging to find but here you see the bridge and its reflection frame the sailboat traveling through the wider urban landscape.

The Trump Tower is reflecting back into itself and carving out this little triangular space that highlights the reflected Wrigley Building.

trump tower, wrigley building, angie mcmonigal photography

One last example, using nature to frame an architectural subject.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas and things to be on the lookout for. We’d love for you to share your take on this compositional tool in our Facebook Group.



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