Lines, real and implied are an important component in any photo’s composition. Lines can be straight (horizontal, vertical, or at an oblique angle,) or curved. All lines work to divide your image into distinct parts, so you need to study your compositions carefully to see how these divisions work. Do they cut an image in half, creating a static feel, or do they divide the image into unequal parts which can provide an asymmetrical balance and more dynamic feel?
In general, horizontal lines are relatively calm. Vertical lines possess more energy, and diagonal or oblique lines are the most energetic of all. Lines also take the viewer on a journey through your photographs, as they provide a natural path for the viewer’s eye to follow while looking at your photo. Diagonal lines in particular, move your viewer along at a quick pace. Curved lines also give this sense of motion to a photo, but in a more peaceful, gentle way than a straight diagonal line.
Whenever I’m composing a photo, I’m constantly repositioning my camera to take advantage of curved lines, and to change vertical or horizontal lines to oblique angled lines. The only exception to this is that I generally try to keep my horizon line or the vertical lines of trees, plants, and buildings straight (although purposely angling these lines can add more energy to a photo, and I’ll often choose that energy over a straight horizon line in an adventure photo.)
Photos also have implied lines that you need to pay attention to. In many photos you will have a main subject as well as a secondary subject and if there is an oblique line between the two, the photo will have more energy than if that implied line is horizontal or vertical. Sometimes, all it takes is repositioning the camera by one or two feet to change this implied line and improve the image.
In the above photo, the kayaker is the main subject, with the lighthouse serving as a strong secondary subject. The implied line between the two is slightly oblique. It’s a nice photo, but I think it could be better with a little more separation between the kayaker and the light.
In this paddling shot, the canoe and sun are the two subjects, and the implied oblique line between the two adds some needed energy to a photo that has a peaceful feeling due the horizontal lines formed by the horizon and the canoe.
Any questions? Please post them in the comments section below.
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