Lesson 16: Lines – Part 1: Horizontal

LinesWhen considering the composition of an image one of the elements that photographers look for are ‘Lines’. The lines that can be found in images are very powerful elements that with a little practice can add dynamic impact to a photo in terms of mood as well as how they lead an image’s viewer into a photo.

Basically we will consider three types of lines, ‘horizontal’, ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’. Each one has a different impact upon a photo and should be looked for as you frame your shots. Learning how to use lines in photography takes time and practice to become good at it. 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 ask yourself what lines are in front of you and how you might use them to add something to your next shot by working with them rather than against them.

Horizontal line in an image conveys a message of ’stability’ or even ‘rest’. Horizons, fallen trees, oceans, sleeping people – all of these subjects have something about them that speaks either of permanency and timelessness or rest. Horizons are the most common horizontal line to be found in photographs and they often act as a dividing point in a photograph – in effect an anchor that the rest of the image is formed around. If you want to accentuate the calming stable impact of a horizon one effective technique to use is to shoot your images with horizontal framing (with the longest part of your cameras frame from left to right. Alternatively if you want to reemphasize horizontal lines shoot with you camera in a vertical framing. Also keep in mind that unbroken horizons can lead to a photograph feeling static and a good strategy is to use other shapes in the landscape you’re photograph to break things up and give a point of interest (mountains, trees etc).

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 the Rule Of Third lesson). Layers of horizontal lines can create rhythm or patterns in an image that can become the focus of an image in and of itself.

2 Responses to “Lesson 16: Lines – Part 1: Horizontal”

  1. Without a doubt, this article is really the latest on this deserving topic. I agree with your conclusions and am eagerly look forward to your future updates. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the extraordinary clarity in your writing. I will at once grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Gratifying work and much success in your business endeavors!

  2. niresh says:

    Thanks for your excellent tutorial. You have obviously put a lot of time and effort into this and is much appreciated. I am a complete beginner to photography.

    Some suggestions to make the topics more useful to beginners to manual mode photography:
    1. Include a copious number of twin photos, ie one properly taken and one improperly taken pointing out the defects, ALWAYS give the fstop, shutter speed and ISO used so we beginners can use them as a reference for similar photos.
    Provide in your tutorial at least a few hundred good photos taken in different situations ie portrait, indoors, outdoors, landscape, at dusk, at night indoors, at night outdoors with ISO, fstop and shutter speed values would be enormously useful as a reference for those new to manual mode.
    2. What beginners to manual mode photography find most frustrating is the lack of practical (photo) examples ie sample photos with ISO, fstop, shutter speed, white balance compensation if used, flash if used, was an external flash used, was it set to bounce off walls or ceiling, was a tripod used, etc,etc. You get the idea!

    I hope to see many more practical examples(photos) in all your excellent tutorials. Keep up the good work and many thanks for helping out us newbies.

    Best Regards