How To Use Lines To Take Your Composition To The Next Level

Our world is a 3-dimensional space, yet every photograph we take is a 2-dimensional representation of it. Therefore, it makes sense that lines play such an important role in composition.

In composition, lines play various roles, from giving the image a structure to even guiding the viewer in and out the image's own space. Lines are the most basic element of visual composition, and yet, they can be challenging to many photographers no matter their level of expertise.

The great thing about lines is that you can start looking for them pretty much right now, and you'll start to grow as a photographer in no time.

There are 5 types of lines that you can find around you and I'm going to group them into 3 categories – easy to findhard to capture and extremely difficult to master.

1. Easy To Find Lines To Use In Your Compositions

Photo by Federico Alegría

Easy to find lines are the simple ones,

  • verticals, and
  • horizontals

You can find vertical and horizontal lines by using roads, trees, buildings, fences etc just to name a few. 

A note on vertical and horizontal lines – verticals can give a feeling of movement and direction and, of course, height, this compares with horizontal lines, which while still a strong compositional element, can convey more stability, calming or more substantial qualities. 

2. Lines That Are Hard To Capture In Your Images

Photo by Federico Alegría

In the harder to capture field, are those that are more fluid in nature:

  • diagonals, and
  • organic lines

Diagonal lines are still obvious to the naked eye, but they have a twist thanks to their dynamic position in the frame. You need to be careful, as you can “cut” your frame in half or remove the focus from subject easily.

Organic lines are those created by nature, which are obviously not perfect but can give an extremely uplifting notch to your photographs. 

Diagonal and organic lines can be found in the shape of a path, a river, or even the fall of natural light on a scene.

PRO TIP: Blending together easy to find lines with diagonal lines will help you create a nice composition filled with power and dynamics.

3. Extremely Difficult To Master, But Worth Your Time

Photo by Federico Alegría

Last but not least, we have those lines that are super difficult to master:

  • implied lines

Implied lines are those lines that are not really present but can be felt. The best example is when a photograph depicts two people looking at each other. The sense of tension between them creates an implied line that is not really there but can be felt.

If this overview of lines and how they can take your photos to the next level has whet your appetite, then take a look at Understanding Composition by Kent DuFault over at Photzy.


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About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a one of our staff writers and has 8 years of experience in making documentary photography, he is currently working in long-term photo essays and you can watch more of his work here. He is also a photography educator at a design-focused University, and is currently pursuing his PhD (and of course, his thesis is around Photography). His work has been featured in museums, newspapers and magazines. He is currently based in El Salvador.

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