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Photographing Lines

In photography, lines can lead you, trick you and please you. They are a tool with which the photographer can liven up an image and draw in the viewer. In this article, we will discuss three kinds of lines; horizontal, vertical, and leading. Each one delivers a different effect and ultimately contributes to the overall composition.

Look up, look down

Vertical lines can add height and texture to a composition. Almost immediately, the eye is drawn to the top and bottom of the image, accentuating its frame and adding to its height. To take full advantage of this effect, try framing your shot vertically to lengthen the image even more. Alternatively, you can also go in the other direction and frame your shot horizontally. This gives a sense of continuity to the image, as the repeating lines seemingly go beyond the frame. The key to capturing vertical lines is the keep the lines parallel to the edge of the image. Although sometimes difficult, it helps to intensify the effect in frame. Another way to utilise vertical lines, is to have a subject in your composition. This will act as a disruption or point of interest, breaking up the repetitive pattern and placing more emphasis on your chosen subject.

Side to side

Horizontal lines are very commonplace in photography. Horizons, tables, and even roads, are all made up of horizontal lines that give viewers a sense of balance and stability. Horizontal lines are also a great way of dividing up a composition, or even acting as an anchor for the rest of the image to form around. To do this, simply compose an image with a horizontal line running through the centre. The eye will immediately be drawn towards the middle of the image, giving the overall composition a sense of symmetry. As mentioned above, another great way to play with horizontal lines is to disrupt them with a subject. This gives motion to the image with the viewer being drawn to the point of interest.

Leading the eye

Here, we begin to understand the importance of composition, and how to create a ‘visual journey’ for the viewer. Leading lines refer to a technique of using linear elements to draw attention to the main subject of an image. They usually begin at the bottom of the frame and lead inwards towards the centre. This instantly gives the photograph an element of depth and dimension. In art, Da Vinci’s Last Supper is a wonderful example in use of leading lines to create the illusion of depth.

The quickest and easiest way to experiment with leading lines is with roads. Roads are perfect as they already lead off into the distance and give us a sense of motion due to its association with going on a journey. Now if you really want to create a composition with depth, you can create something called a vanishing point. This is where two or more leading lines converge at a single point in the image. To make a vanishing point, pick a point in your composition where you want your lines to converge, and position yourself so you can capture the exact point where all the lines meet. It’s best to use subjects that the eye is naturally drawn to as your vanishing point. An important point to remember, is that you’re always trying to lead the viewer from the foreground to the background.

To get the most out of your composition try experimenting with different lenses to get a new perspective or simply reframe the shot until you have your desired composition. As always, practice makes perfect. Keep on snapping and soon you will be creating deep and dynamic visual journeys.