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    Photographic Composition: Lines

    The topic of the forthcoming contest at Shotaddict.com is Leading Lines. This fact spurred us on to spend a few hours around the Web in search for the best tutorials on the subject.

    Lines are a powerful element regarding composition of an image that can add visual and emotional impact to a photograph. They are  widely used by experienced photographers of many types and there are several reasons why:

    • lines create depth in a composition
    • add dynamism to a photo
    • attract attention to areas of interest
    • imply motion and create a sense of direction or orientation, which conveys a certain mood to a photo.

    Lines can be: leading, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved and converging. Each one has a different impact upon a photograph and create a certain mood.

    1. Leading lines are to point towards an interesting subject. They lead the eye from one part of the picture to another: from the foreground to the background, the secondary subject to the main subject. Diagonals and arcs or other unclosed curves are good examples of leading lines.

    Arnold John Kaplan says The line that leads your eye in to the picture area easily like a road or fence, a shoreline or river, a row of trees or a pathway. A successful ’Leading Line’ will lead your eye in to the picture and take it right to the Main Subject or Center of Interest’ - ( IMPLIED LINES HOLD THE PICTURE TOGETHER).

    2. Diagonal Lines are often considered the most powerful leading lines, as they add depth to the image. They give the sense of Action and Force especially when leading in different directions and intersecting with one another.

    Trees bent by the wind, a runner at the starting line or the slope of a mountain as it climbs into the sky’ – these are some ideas for applying diagonal lines from Arnold John Kaplan, IMPLIED LINES HOLD THE PICTURE TOGETHER.

    Digital Photography School says: ‘Different studies have been done into how people view images and many of them say that a natural way into an image is by traveling left to right and so a diagonal line starting at the bottom left and moving to the top right of an image can be quite useful and natural  (Using Diagonal Lines in Photography).

    3. Vertical Lines can be successfully used when shooting architecture and urban settings, trees, fences, people standing up and mountains. Thus they may convey Power, Grandeur and Height 

    A piece of advice from Digital Photography School (Using Vertical Lines in Photography): ‘It is important to attempt to keep your vertical lines as much in line with the sides of your image as possible. This is not always possible if you’re shooting looking up an image as the subject will taper off towards the top - but attempt to keep it’s center as straight as possible and you should be ok.

    4. Horizontal Lines imply Stability and Tranquility. Horizons, oceans, deserts, sleeping people are good subjects for photos with horizontal lines.

    Horizons should generally not be placed in the middle of your frame. This leaves an image feeling unsettled compositionally. A much more effective technique is to place them in the upper or lower third of your frame. Read more tips in Using Horizontal Lines in Photography from Digital Photography School.

    5. Curved Lines or S Curves carry the eye through a scene just as effectively as arrow-straight lines. They have Perfect Grace and Perfect Balance, they are Elastic and Charm and they denote quiet, calm and sensual feelings.  

    Examples of S Curves can be beautiful female forms, the curves in a river or a pathway, the curves of trees or bush 

    6. Lines that converge convey depth, scale and distance.

    Human physiology dictates that our attention is drawn to places where lines converge. Therefore, if your photo includes strong vertical/diagonal lines that converge on the strong line of the horizon where your subject is, then you’ve naturally increased the visual interest and impact of that subject’ -  Foreground and Lines.

    7. While it is a good idea to combine different types of lines in one image, don’t overdo it.

    Kris Butler in the Foreground and Lines writes ‘Likewise, using strong vertical and diagonal lines in combination with exaggerated foregrounds will let you go beyond visual focus and artistic continuity to achieve dramatic results that draw viewers into the scene and inspire thoughts of strength and stability. 

    8. As anything else in photography, learning lines requires time and practice.

    Digital Photography School recommends (Working the Lines in your Photography) A good way to practice is to go back through older images that you’ve taken and look for lines that worked well and those that didn’t. Then next time you go out with your camera, before you frame your shot consciously ask yourself what lines are in front of you and how you might use them.’

    9. Gloria Hopkins in the article Composition: Getting Beyond the Snapshot recommends to attempt to see the compositional elements in every photograph you can find.

    To do this you can use ‘composition maps,’ which are photographs marked in Photoshop highlighting various aspects of the composition, including lines. They help to break images down to their basic parts and see the underlying composition.

    10. Look through the images of experienced photographers who are good at using diagonal, repetitive, S curve and leading lines. You can start from Guidelines for Better Photographic Composition: Lines.

    These are some basic things on the subject. If readers have something to add, they are welcome to suggest their own tips, experience and resources in the comments section.

    Read more about Composition. 

    Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

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