Photo Composition for Better Photography
Notes from the Web



Lines are multifaceted: by themselves they have a certain character in regards to their thickness, length, continuity, and shape. In the context of a photo, they can also align and connect objects, outline shapes, and seperate regions.


Generally, the lines you see in a photo are either real or implied.

  • Actual lines - examples include

    horizon line, roads, railroad tracks, fences, trees, ledges, etc.

  • Implied lines - for example

    Objects that are edge or center aligned create an implied line

    Similar objects can appear to be connected by straight or elliptical lines. An example would be three birds that appear to be the vertices of an implied triangle.

    Regions of contrast (color or light) create an implied boundry line. The greater the contrast between the two sides of the boundry, the more prominent the line.

    Another example of implied lines would be contour lines between the positive shapes (objects) and negative spaces (space between objects


The shape and direction of a line have a certain expresiveness and emotional impact.

  • Vertical

    denote stability, height, strength

    example trees, people standing up, buildings, mountains

  • Horizontal

    denote repose, stability, peacefulness

    people laying down, flat lake, desert, or field

  • Diagonal

    give the sensation of force, energy, motion, and action

    trees bent by the wind, people in action

  • Circular

    circles capture the eye, and keep the eye in the picture

    ponds, outdoor track and fields

  • Curve

    can offer beauty and charm

    female form, river, path

  • S-Curves

    charm, elasticity, grace, strength, and balance

    roads, rivers, etc

  • Intersecting

    The human eye is involuntarily drawn to junctures. Intersections are used as strategic points for placement in composition

  • Converging

    Draws attention to the center of convergence

  • Parralel

    reinforce each other and add a strong sense of direction

  • Jagged


Lines: what they do

  • Lines can unify background and foreground
  • Lines can provide relationships between the various elements of the composition
  • Lines provide a path for the eye to follow
  • Lines often outline a shape


Lines - Eye Movement

  • Lines can lead the eye to the subject.
  • Lines (straight or curve) can lead the eye into the picture — the so called “leading” line
  • Do not block the eye's entry to the scene with a large object — the eye will stop here
  • Stop the eye from exiting the photo — capture it with the subject or an object
  • Eye entry is often from the lower left and continues to up to the right


Lines - Tips

  • Walk around the subject, changing your camera angle to take advantage of lines in the scene.
  • Try shots that begin low to the ground