Framing Your Experience

By Brett King on February 6th, 2013 / Comments

As a photographer, I discuss and deal with framing and composition in great length. How you frame a shot is arguably the most important aspect of creating a great image. Sometimes a photo could be technically incorrect, but have a very strong composition that makes the image stand out and say something powerful despite the presence of perhaps a soft focus or lens shake.

Framing or composition is essentially visual syntax – an ordering of objects to create a particular meaning. Sometimes that meaning may be as simple as “this park is beautiful”, and to achieve that, you may need to zoom in slightly in order to remove the presence of an overflowing trash can. The overflowing trash can competes with the idea that “this park is beautiful”, so we simply remove it by cropping it out.

This is a conscious choice. It can really be viewed as a form of selective memory, for it is not the entire reality of what was present at the time the moment was captured – nor did it last longer than a fraction of a second. However, the image is the reality that is now forever captured and frozen in time to reference. It is how that moment, that event, that scene, that situation will be remembered.

If we can take this idea and apply it to the experiences that we have in life – we can achieve incredible results. Every situation, every experience that we could face in our lives all boils down to the information that we receive. Did the action we just took work? Was there pain or pleasure in this approach? Do I need to readjust my approach? The information that we choose to pay attention to completely shapes the outcome in our minds. How we choose to frame the situation or experience determines our reaction, emotion, and conclusion.


One of the most well known examples of framing a particular outcome is the story of Alexander the Great and the Oracle of Delphi. Alexander the Great was planning his quest to conquer the known world, and went to Delphi to seek an omen from the Oracle. In his haste to receive, he was physically pushing and grabbing at the Oracle. Finally she blurted out, “Boy, there’s no resisting you!”. Now of course, she was referring to the manner in which he was currently behaving. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and was acting irrationally impatient. However, that is not how Alexander the Great framed the situation in his mind.

To him, this was the omen he had sought. There would be no resisting him in his path to conquer the known world. He had conveniently cropped out the details of his physical behavior from his memory, leaving no other possibility for the meaning of the Oracle’s words. What happened next is perhaps the most powerful takeaway – he did go on to conquer. There was no doubt in his mind thanks to the reference that he had created for himself.

The way in which the situation was framed in Alexander the Great’s mind completely controlled what happened next. It is important to note that this is not an act of being dishonest with ourselves, it is more so being honest about the aspects that we would rather pay attention to, and cropping out the details that do not serve us.

Thinking about each experience that we have in terms of a frame – a frame that we have the choice in what to include – can empower us by turning any situation that we’re faced with into something positive. When you eliminate from your frame anything that competes with who you want to be or what you want to accomplish, you can move past any disempowering thoughts and propel yourself quickly toward your goals.

Own a digital camera? Want to learn how to use it? Join Brett King in his Basics of Photography workshop webinar – where you can learn how to shoot great photos from the comfort of your own home! Space is limited, so register today at


All Photos via The Scene Magic.


For more on photography and creativity, read Brett’s previous post on Why Photography is Good for the Soul.

About the Author

Brett King

Brett King is CEO & President of The Scene Magic Media , a media production and strategy company.