01.11 – Visual Framing: Technique and Methodology

Don Bergland
University of Victoria

Visual Framing is the process of creating a composition by using a moveable frame.

In its simplest application, a frame is positioned over a visual field and moved forwards, backwards, up, down, or to either side, until a composition is discovered within the frame opening.

The process of visual framing involves three components: the frame, the visual field, and the framer.

The frame is a moveable device which is able to showcase some parts of a visual field while hiding other parts. The frame provides focus and clarity to a selected part of the visual field. The ideal frame is small, portable, moveable, and easily handled and manipulated. It can consist of different devices such as the hands, a cutout, or a camera viewfinder.

The visual field can be anything that can be seen. Any visual experience can be framed. This includes existing paintings, landscape. furniture arrangements, and the built environment.

The framer is the one who conducts the process, identifies a potential visual field, and then manipulates the frame according to a set of personal reasons. It is the framer’s ultimate decisions which creates the specific composition within the frame opening.

Any visual field offers infinite framed selections depending on the values, beliefs, and intentions of the framer.

The concept of visual framing is certainly not a new or unfamiliar idea. Although artists have used it throughout history, people generally use it all the time. All people who use a camera in any form employ this technique. Whether looking through a viewfinder or an LCD screen, the camera is a perfect example of the “moveable framing device” able to reveal some parts of a visual field while hiding others. The camera also has the added function of being able to easily document the resulting image through the photograph. Visual Framing with a camera is probably the most widespread use of this technique today.

When used consciously, Visual Framing is a process which can help educate perception, train design skills, and help the framer attain the right visual composition.