Using Lines in the Landscape to Improve Your Photo Compositions.

May 9th, 2012 by Jerry Monkman

 

Monument Cove and Otter Cliffs in Maine's Acadia National Park.

 

 

Monument Cove and Otter Cliffs in Maine’s Acadia National Park. The curve of the shoreline in this photo adds a peaceful line that leads the viewer’s eye to the cliffs.

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.

Dawn over the Atlantic Ocean at Wallis Sands State Park in Rye, New Hampshire.

 

 

Dawn over the Atlantic Ocean at Wallis Sands State Park in Rye, New Hampshire. I repositioned my camera for this photo so that the lines in the rock were at an oblique angle to give the photo more energy.

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.)

Waterfall at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, New Hampshire.

 

 

Waterfall at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. The relatively vertical flow of this photo has less of a sense of motion than the version below.

Waterfall at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, New Hampshire.

 

 

Waterfall at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. By recomposing this photo so that the water flows from top right to bottom left, gives the image a greater sense of motion and energy.

A man hikes over a footbridge near the Presumpscot River in Portland, Maine. Fall.

 

 

A man hikes over a footbridge near the Presumpscot River in Portland, Maine.The implied line (at an oblique angle) between the sun and the hiker adds to the sense of energy and movement in this 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.

A woman kayaking in New Castle, New Hampshire.

 

 

A woman kayaking in New Castle, New Hampshire.

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.

Canoeing in Lily Bay at sunrise, Moosehead Lake, Maine.

 

 

 

Canoeing in Lily Bay at sunrise, Moosehead Lake, Maine.

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.

Cheers!
-Jerry

Find out more about Jerry at his website, and follow him on Twitter at @jerrymonkman

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