On Composition: Lines

Let’s talk about the only thing I can draw on paper. Lines! It’s important to realize that different kinds of lines work together in creating an entire image, because they each have a different role. Because composing a shot means thinking about how you want to portray a subject, it’s helpful to learn about how lines can play into your image’s character and design.

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This shot of a street in Prague incorporates quite a few different types of lines. The road lined with cars is a natural leading line that, as it leads the viewer down the road, augments the strength of the vertical lines created by the edge of the buildings. The electrical lines of the tramway that run above the city also provide soft horizontals and diagonals.

  • Leading lines draw a viewer into the frame by creating a line that connects the foreground to the background of an image, creating a sense of directionality, great depth, and often motion. This line often runs through the very center of the frame where it creates the strongest perspective, however, it can run through any part of your shot, depending on what you want it to do for your viewer.
  • Vertical lines emphasize height, grandeur, and even power in an image. These lines are like towers, drawing the eyes upward, until you realize the significance of what is towering over you.
  • Horizontal lines generally bring a sense of stability to your shot — think of horizons, long roads — the length gives the viewer a feeling of the never-ending, the constant.
  • Diagonals are perhaps the Queen of lines because they are naturally attractive to the eye. Because viewers tend to read an image from left to right, a strong diagonal line sustains interest throughout an entire frame (if they are not also a leading line, because they can be both; they’re the Queens after all) and is best for adding dimension to an image.

Like in this street shot of Prague, it’s important to remember that different lines can be used together, to create a certain kind of shot. In this case, the verticals draw attention to the city’s distinctive architecture, while the leading line takes the viewer down a classic cobblestone road, and the criss-cross of the tram lines are reminiscent of one of the city’s major forms of transportation. The shot it designed, and its various elements (the lines) all have a purpose that lend themselves to the overarching goal of the image: to capture a part of Prague.

Composing a shot is really half the fun, in my opinion, so I hope this post helps you out with your future images! I’ll definitely be talking a lot about lines in future POTD’s, so be sure to look out for those for more examples.

Happy composing 🙂

Love,
Samah

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3 thoughts on “On Composition: Lines

  1. Thanks Samah, reminders of the basics are always good. I should make post about the use of lines as well: in Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement which I blog about) the line is one of the 3 main elements – line-color-mass. Althou they are all supposedly equal the line for me is “more equal” than the others 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I look forward to reading your post on that – I would love to understand how the lines, colors, and mass work together in creating a whole Ikebana arrangement 🙂

      Like

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