Using lines in photography is just another powerful tool that can be utilized when there’s an opportunity to do so. It’s a great tool in your compositional toolbox.
Lines guide the viewer’s eyes to the subject, they also control the way people will view your photograph. If you make it hard to find the main focal point in your picture the viewer will become quickly bored and won’t appreciate what's being shown. Or in another words if the person has to search for the subject they become disinterested, in a hurry. Using lines assists the viewer therefore making it easy and pleasing to look at your photograph.
Lines come in many different types, shapes, forms and sizes. There are curved lines, zig zag lines, natural lines, radial lines, diagonal lines, vertical lines, horizontal lines, S curve lines, converging lines and many more.
You can find lines everywhere, power lines, roads, trails, paths, fence lines, walls, buildings, rivers, shorelines, just to mention a few. When you can find a line to use, it makes your composition so much stronger.
Curved lines can draw you around the frame leading your eyes to the point of interest. It allows the eyes to wander along that line right into the subject in a pleasing way. Note the use of the rule of thirds placing the bee in the left lower golden point.
An example of a S curve being the subject by itself.
S curves are another flavor of curves but can be much more powerful, so powerful that they in themselves can become the subject and point of interest. Or, like curves S curves can gently lead the viewer’s eyes to the focal point or subject. To me S curves are pleasing, being graceful, elegant and even stylish.
S curve used by the roadway
Converging lines have a three dimensional depth with a sense of perspective making it very easy for the eyes to follow. They can create many shapes such as triangles, rectangles, squares, and curves
Diagonal lines can add more mystery, depth, drama or movement. If you have to, tilt your camera to introduce these diagonal line and experiment. There’s a wow factor to be found when you use diagonal lines effectively. Although I’m not a big fan of tilting the camera, I won’t hesitate if it makes my capture more appealing and getting diagonals in there can do that. Diagonal lines by themselves can also stand alone as being the subject and they can connect with other diagonal lines giving your capture even more power.
Horizontal lines can be very relaxing, calming or soothing. They can also be a barricade or a separating line in your photograph. Horizontal lines can make or break your picture so caution should be used when adding them to your picture.
Vertical lines tend to be more lasting, permanent, or established. They have power, more muscle, strength and can give a sense of height. Vertical lines are also powerful enough to be the subject, like trees in a forest.
Think about how to use these lines in your photographs. Where do you place it in the frame? You want to entice the viewer into the subject by guiding their eyes through the use of lines. Place the lines in your viewfinder where it works the best. Move around if you have to, go low, high, left, right, or tilt the camera. Get close get farther away, use a different lens, experiment!
When you use lines that go off into the distance you make the photograph so much more powerful by add a sense of perspective and distance. If you have lines that go off the frame, try to position those lines so that they end in the corners.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter on lines and will find it useful in taking your composition to a higher level, or at the very least give you some new ideas.
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