Composing Your Photos Within The Lines

Written by stuestler on December 6th, 2010

While preparing our teaching project for the upcoming Design4Kids workshop in Honduras – just a month away now – the concept of design elements came up. While most of the kids there have already been introduced to the basics, we realized that it would be quite valuable to review them and demonstrate how universal these elements are in all design and art – both two- and three-dimensional.

An experienced photographer has likely internalized the concepts of line, shape, form, color and tone and while we may not consciously focus on them when crafting our image, you’re constantly aware of them at a subconscious level. Reviewing them from time to time is valuable to refresh your conscious awareness and to stimulate your creative thought process.

If you’re new to photography realize that these essential elements of design are the building blocks you use to create dynamic, compelling photographs.

Let’s take them individually, and the best way to become completely comfortable with these ideas is to practice them by focusing on using them in your photos.

A single Point is the most elemental design component. Not often found in photographing the real world, we’ll talk a bit more about point in future discussions on Shape.

As soon as you introduce two or more points, you create a Line, and this is by far the most common and basic element we encounter in designing photographs.

Lines can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, straight or curved. And they can be an actual line, such as a horizon, the edge of a wall or table, or implied lines such as the placement of two objects and the way the eye is drawn from one to the other.

Horizontal and vertical lines tend to create a sense of stability, of foundation and strength. Diagonal lines are much more dynamic, creating a sense of movement ant drawing your viewer’s eye through your photo and to your subject.

Converging diagonals give a visual impression of depth and of being present in the image. They reinforce the sense of scale you have in the real world, where objects closer to you appear larger than those farther away.

And curving lines give a feeling of motion and a graceful path through your picture.

Paying attention to lines and how they affect your viewer’s interest in your photo causes a much more emotional connection.

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