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2.2 Lines in Photography

The use of line in photography is similar to its use in design, but with a few subtle differences. In this lesson we take a look at some examples of intentional use of line in photography.

2.2 Lines in Photography

Hello everybody and welcome back to basic design concepts for photographers. This is lesson 2.2 where we talk about the use of line in photography. Last lesson we talked about the way artists can use lines in their design to bring about certain emotional meanings, and you can almost control the mood of your viewer just by the type of lines that you use. This lesson I want to take that idea and see how we can apply it to photography. We discussed how long horizontal lines tend to evoke a feeling of peace, or stillness. Mostly because they tend to be very similar to a horizon or large land masses and has a certain sense of serenity about it. But how, as a photographer, can you use that idea in your photography? Let's say for instance, you're photographing a lone figure walking along the beach at sunset. And if you really want to evoke a feeling of isolation or even a feeling of peace and serenity, instead of framing the figure in a vertical pose, which does match the length and height of the figure, instead compose the shot to include a long straight line of the horizon. As much of that horizontal line you can get in there, the more the feeling of deep serenity or isolation you'll capture with the photograph. We talked about how vertical lines tend to contribute to a feeling of height, and strength, and power. Take this image of Paris for instance. Now we do have a very tall vertical line with the Eiffel Tower. And it does look rather tall. It's undeniable. The height is not something that anybody would argue. But because we have this very wide horizontal line kinda balancing out, we don't get quite as much of a dynamic feeling of height from this tower as we could. Whereas this composition gives much more of a feeling of the height and the majesty of this structure. Not only do we have a lot more vertical lines here but there's a lot less horizontal lines to distract from the verticalness. So even though this a landscape oriented image, it doesn't feel quite like that because the strong presence of vertical lines. We talked about how diagonal lines carry with them a sense of action. They're a lot more dynamic than either horizontal or vertical lines are, but how would you apply this as a concept? Well if you're shooting an event that has a lot of action to it, and you want the resulting photographs to express that action, you need to be careful about how you compose the shots. For instance, in this surfing photo here, while this looks very engaging and his body position has a lot of energy, that's a good action pose, unfortunately, the photo carries with it way too many horizontal lines for this to really feel that engaging action-wise. Not only do we have the horizon that's visible throughout the image, that kind of counteracts some of the action that's visible with the subject, but unfortunately these birds up here also create a visual horizontal line that works against us, and also the foam at the bottom of the photo. So all of these horizontal lines inadvertently, but subconsciously detract from the feeling of energy and dynamic movement within this composition. Whereas this composition, although the same. More engaging, feels a lot more dynamic and that's mostly because of the presence of very substantial diagonal lines. The body position of the surfer is diagonal. The surfboard itself is diagonal. And even the waves tend to have some diagonal energy to it. If you're looking for an emotion of smooth elegance look for curves in your subject. In this image here we just have this curve of of this Ferris wheel, this very slight arc to it. And it makes the image feel rather smooth. It's almost calming, in a sense, and there's a natural beauty to that arc. In fact, even subjects that are made of material normally associated with cold, hard, and roughness, can appear soft and beautiful by accentuating the natural curves that you see in them. Now true, not every set of stairs has a curve to it like this, but when you do encounter it, take notice of how this curve, this spiral going in, has a natural elegance to it that even counters the cold texture of the concrete. So next time you're out shooting and you're struggling to get the composition of a subject, and you're not quite sure how to compose it, what I'd like you to do is think about where the lines are naturally within that subject. Start looking for the visible lines as if you were to trace it out with your finger over the photo. Once you can start to identify the type of lines that are present in the subject that you're working with you can start to think about what you want the photo to convey. So if you're wanting the photo to convey a sense of elegance, or natural beauty, try to accentuate the natural curves that you would see in it. So that's almost a good way to go about trying to compose your photographs. Think about what mood you want the image to convey and then look for the lines that help convey that mood. Now that we've talked about how to use lines in photography, next up is lesson 2.3 which is our photo assignment for this chapter.

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