The strategic use of lines can have a great impact on the success of the image. Therefore, it’s important to know the psychology behind different types. The more you know about how lines flow and move, the more you can intentionally use a line of any given shape or flow to impact the subconscious feeling viewers have when they study your photos.
Lines in photography can imply rest, movement, strength, grace, beauty and more. Where the lines are positioned in the composition can have an impact. How much image real estate of the image do the lines constitute? The amount is key to bring out the feeling of each type of line. It’s amazing how lines actually impact the viewer’s thinking. With all lines, try to avoid placing them so they lead the viewer out of the frame. Include lines so they bring the eye to a resting point in the photo. Let’s take a look at different lines to find out how the inner feelings of each person who looks at your images can be impacted.
As with all lines that appear in a photo, where they are placed is of great importance. They should be a key component of the overall image. They don’t necessarily have to be the dominant element. What’s ultra important is their location and how they balance out the rest of the elements.
Horizontal Lines in Photography
Horizontal lines imply rest, relaxation and sleep. Think about when you lay down in your bed to retire for the evening. People sleep in a horizontal position. Horizontal lines are also static. The eye follows each horizontal line from either the left to the right or the opposite. In the image of the mountain layers above, it exudes peacefulness and tranquility. Each layer flows across the photo in a gentle and restful way.
Vertical lines have just the opposite message of horizontals. Verticals imply power, strength, vitality and are dynamic. Think back to when you were in school or were coached by your parents to feel confident. You were always told to “Stand Tall.’’ The implication being you need to emit confidence and be proud. When you “look up to someone,” you imply that the person is tall and powerful. When you look up, it’s done vertically.
Diagonal lines are synonymous with movement, flow and acceleration. Action and mobility are displayed. If you lean to a 45-degree position, there’s a good chance you’ll topple over. If you do, movement occurs. Think about a playground slide. They’re often at a 45-degree angle and when you go down a slide, there’s obvious movement. A giraffe in a vertical stance shows power, but note how the two are positioned in the accompanying image. In that they are on the move, the necks tilt forward further reinforcing that diagonals show fluidity.
Curved lines bring the eyes of the viewer on a course throughout your image. They flow within the photo and lead the viewer on an eye-candy journey. Be sure the lines bring the eye to an integral portion of the photo. The more they can course the viewer on his or her journey, the stronger the composition.
Leading lines in photography direct the viewer’s attention to other key components. They start somewhere along the perimeter of the image and bring the eye of the person looking at your photo to a specific portion in the composition. The place where the lines lead should be an important element in the photo. Leading lines can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal or curved.
Combine Different Types
Challenge yourself to include multiple types of lines without making the image busy. In the sunset image taken in the Serengeti, the tree trunk on the left is vertical, so even though it’s the smaller of the two, the vertical trunk gives it power. The acacia on the right is comprised of diagonal and curved lines that show motion and lead the viewer’s eye to other parts of the composition. The horizontals of the clouds imply rest and relaxation as the sun sets over the Serengeti.
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