Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Design – Lines

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As discussed in the Elements of Design article, Line is the most important element of visual design.

Reason is very simple. Your eye follows the line! What does that mean to you?

You, as a photographer, can guide the viewer to go from one point to another using line(s). Viewer follows the visible or invisible line automatically.

Does this mean just by having the lines, your photographs become visually interesting or technicallly strong? Definitely not. But if you make a conscious effort to use the line as element of visual design in your composition, then YES!

Making a conscious effort means that, you have to place the lines or the elements that form a line in a way that entices the viewer. If you are forcing the viewer to scan from point A to point B to point C, then you better make each of these points interesting.

Based on the characteristic of the line(s) you can create different impact on the viewer.

Horizontal Line

Horizontal line is in resting position. So it indicates calmness or restfulness. It is stable also which makes the viewer feel comfortable.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Horizontal Line

Horizontal Line

Make use of horizontal lines when you want to imply a meaning of calmness, restfulness, peace, or comfort.

By including several horizontal lines forming a repetitive pattern will make a photo more interesting. Say a staircase or repeating plantation lines in a field or something similar.

Vertical Line

Look at a vertical line. It is an indication of power, stability, and strength. Why? Because it is standing against the gravity!

We are powerful, stable, and have strength…isn’t it? We are defying the gravity. We fell hard for several days to months before standing straight.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Vertical Line

Vertical Line

By changing the length of the vertical line either by using different focal length or by placing different vertical lines besides each other, you can indicate the sense of height or strength of that object/subject.

You can create the real sense of height of a 7 ft tall person when you frame him against a 3 ft tall person, instead of framing the 7 ft tall person alone.

Diagonal Line

Diagonal line implies feeling of tension. If you look at the above photograph, the line may fall any moment which creates tension in your mind.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Diagonal Line

Diagonal Line

At the same time diagonal lines create a sense of movement and could be used to lead the viewer to the main focus of interest. Say converging lines (appears diagonal) of a railway track could lead the viewer from bottom of the frame to the top of the frame and finally to the focal point like train or a person.

Curved Line

Smooth sweeping curved lines are more soothing to the eyes of the viewer as they sweep through the photograph taking him/her on a joyful ride.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Curved Lines - Smooth and Sweeping

Curved Line – Smooth and Sweeping

Winding roads, streams, seashores all form curved lines that are smooth and sweeping lines making you feel at ease.

On the other hand, the tight curves create a sense of tension as in case of hair-pin bends in a road.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Curved Lines - Tight Curves

Curved Line – Tight

Jagged Line

Jagged lines implies chaos something that is not right. Jagged lines are combination of diagonal lines and sharp edges making them quite chaotic in their look and feel.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Jagged Lines

Jagged Lines

For instance, a wooden fence with sharp edges or lightning or formation of sand or rocks on a seashore.

Creating Balanced or Unbalanced Effects using Lines

Below are some examples that give you an idea of the impressions that you can create using the combination of the lines.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Unbalanced Composition

Unbalanced Composition

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Balanced Composition

Balanced Composition

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left picture creates a tension in your mind, because the horizontal line would fall anytime! But the right one is balanced and you will be comfortable to sit on it.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Unbalanced Composition

Unbalanced Composition

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques - Elements of Design - Balanced Composition

Balanced Composition

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the above case also it’s the same. Left picture creates a tension as the solid sphere on the right hand side will drop down any second and break the bulb into pieces. Whereas, the right picture is more balanced. The lower sphere which is visually heavier is holding the upper spear from falling.

But the scene is not static as in case of horizontal and vertical lines. It is dynamic, there is a tension formed because you know what goes up has to come down eventually!

Ok…I have intentionally used the spheres without any support to create excessive tension in your mind 🙂

Most often you would have to look for more balanced but striking photographs. Unbalanced ones are chaotic and creates discomfot in the viewer which should be avoided unless you want to intentionally creat chaos.

Leading Lines

Check out the article Leading Lines: Easiest Photography Composition Technique for Landscape Photography

Final Words

This article is all about illustrations. I thought of making it very simple and thought provoking so that you start imagining situations where you can apply these concepts.

Remember to look for lines from now on, surprise yourselves!

The art of composition does not come easy…you know 🙂

Did you like it? Let me know…

Read the article Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Design – Lines (With Examples), which back these concepts with examples.

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12 Responses to Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Design – Lines

  1. Keval Desai December 3, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Thanks for the useful tips..!!

    • Prathap December 3, 2014 at 7:56 am #

      My pleasure! Keval Desai

  2. Sriram December 14, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Instructions are useful and easier to comprehend. Thank you.

    • Prathap December 18, 2014 at 8:09 am #

      Thank you so much! Sriram

  3. Amresh kumar January 3, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    hi Author,
    i’ve read your ebooks & that was awesome. I love it.. & your photographs are damn awesome.

    But regarding this article i’ve a question that how these lines will help achieving a good result in our photographs.
    i mean i cannot think how to use these lines. Thank you.

    • Prathap January 7, 2015 at 12:04 am #

      Dear Amresh Kumar, thank you so much for your kind words.
      I think I have mentioned in each subsection about the impression a line gives to the viewer. For instance, photographing a Tree vertically will heighten the feeling of height and stability whereas photographing a Tree that is diagonally leaning makes a viewer feel tensed because the Tree might fall anytime! This is just one example.
      I would write the next article with image examples for each of the sections to make it more clear. Thanks for the question!

  4. Amresh kumar January 20, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    thanks you sir. I understand a bit , not all.. I think i really need some deep explanation with examples… Will be waiting for your next article .. 🙂 … If possible, please tag the link here of the new article. 🙂 🙂 would be easy to find.

    …….

    • Prathap January 21, 2015 at 10:36 am #

      Hi Amresh Kumar, thank you for the suggestion! I included the link to the article with examples.

  5. taher February 27, 2015 at 2:51 am #

    Very helpful topic. Thanks a lot

    • Prathap February 28, 2015 at 12:39 am #

      My pleasure! Taher.

  6. Jose March 6, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    Your blog makes a wonderful reading. Loving it. Following the techniques mentioned is helping in making good pictures.

    • Prathap March 6, 2015 at 10:23 am #

      Thank you Jose. I am so happy that it is helping you out. That serves the purpose.

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