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Using lines and patterns in a composition, is a great method to lead the eyes of the viewer and add power to a photo. This page describes the purpose of lines and patterns in your composition.

Lines

Lines can be used in various ways, but aren’t necessarily literal lines. Subjects, the horizon, hills, or light can all function as horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines.

Horizontal lines

Horizontal lines can be used to add calmness and layers to a photo. Avoid using horizontal lines in the dead center of the scene, as it might result in a strange break in the composition. Instead, keep in mind the rule of thirds. Something else to be aware of, is tangents (check out these 5 rules to paint by). Two overlapping horizontal lines, like the horizon and the roof of a building, are distracting for the viewer.

Amsterdam Central Station

Horizontal lines of the architecture, combined with the horizontal line of the moving people, result in a nicely layered composition.

Vertical lines

Vertical lines are used to add a sense of height, and a sense of depth (or scale). Try to keep vertical lines like lampposts as straight as possible, and remember the rule of thirds.

Another point of view - Take a look at what your shoes see

The vertical lines of the gate are used to create a pattern.

Diagonal lines

Diagonal lines are known to evoke emotions. They can be used “break” a composition, and add a dynamic touch. According to some studies, diagonal lines starting at the left bottom corner and moving towards the right top corner, are most pleasant to our eyes.

Moerputtenbrug

This photo is completely diagonal. Taking the diagonal composition to the maximum.

Caretta Caretta

The arms of this Caretta Caretta turtle form a diagonal line.

Curves

Humans have always liked curves. Curved woman, arches, a stretched curved beach, curly handwritings… We consider curves to be peaceful, harmless, harmonious. Hence, curves are very usable in creating peaceful photos. Your subjects could be curves like the curved lines of a hilly landscape. Or use curves to frame the photo and lead the viewers eyes.

Castillo de Tamarit

A nicely curved beach, used in this composition.

Converging lines

One of the most powerful usages of lines, is to converge them to add a sense of depth to the two-dimensional photo and make your spectators eyes travel trough the scene. Paths and roads are the ultimate lines to accomplish this. Combining this technique with curved lines (a path curling into the distance) is wonderful.

Font del Bosc

The road near Font del Bosc, Catalunya. A perfect opportunity to show the effect of converging lines.

House in Zakynthos

The lines converging in the right corner add a sense of depth.

Most photographers automatically use lines in their compositions, because it is a natural visual attraction to us. But being aware of the lines and consciously using them, could potentially improve your photos.

Try to make the lines to work together in the composition. Make lines cross, to add unexpected elements.

Amsterdam Central Station

Many lines in this picture! Vertical lines of the architecture and poles. Horizontal lines and curves in the architecture, and converging lines of the rail road.

Loosdrechtseplassen

Horizontal lines combined with converging lines, created by the movement of the clouds. Proof that lines do not necessarily have to be subjects

Patterns

Repetitive elements, or patterns can be either boring or intriguing. But you need to train your eyes to recognize some patterns!

Repetitive patterns are used in photography to add depth, perspective, and structure to a photo. Repeating objects of the same size, appear smaller in the far distance, functioning as a scale in the photo.

Olive Garden

The trees are all roughly the same size. Thanks to the repetition a sense of depth is added.

Breaking a pattern might even emphasize the rhythm of subjects more than to continue a pattern on and on. Try both methods to look for the strongest composition.

Olympic Stadium Barcelona, Spain

Olympic Stadium Barcelona, Spain. Shot a long time ago with an old compact camera. The repeating seats create a sense of depth.

There is no right or wrong in using lines and patters, and the best photo, is the photo you like. Nonetheless, using the elements described on this page might help you to get your photography to the next level.

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: Update: Use lines and patterns to improve your photos! | Luvo

  2. Reply

    Hi Luvo, I really enjoy your tutorials and you’ve chosen great pictures to make your point!
    I find it interesting that sometimes I see stuff here and then realise I’m already doing this or that, but it seems I’ve been doing it unconsciously.
    There’s also stuff I never even considered but gets me thinking now.

    • Reply

      Hi Kiki!

      Again: My apologies for the late reply, and thank YOU for leaving a note!

      Thanks a lot for that compliment, that means a lot to me 🙂

      Our brain knows beauty very well, and the way we look and see beauty, is defined by patterns in our brain. Art is science, neuroscience as a matter of facts. Oh my, I could talk for hours about why art and beauty is science and predictable, but that might hurt some artist’s feelings 😉 But good for you, following your brain, it always works out great in your pictures (seriously people, go to her profile, Kiki shoots great photos).

      Again, I am glad my humble site might have helped you a little.

      Have a good one!

      Cheers,
      Tieme

  3. Reply

    Your HUMBLE site… I don’t think so 😉 Anyone who can explain this technical stuff so well, Tieme, is an expert in my eyes. Thank you, though, for promoting my blog!

    • Reply

      Hi Kiki, far too kind, but very flattering 🙂 Expert, geek.. same difference 😉

      You’re welcome!

      Warm regards,
      Tieme

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