Using Lines in Photography

Manhattan Bridge connects Manhattan with Brooklyn.

Using lines in photography is a very powerful method of improving the compositions of photos . Properly used, lines can significantly increase the impact of images. Lines serve to affect photographic composition in two ways. First, they serve to create a mood. Second, they lead the eye through the photograph. By affecting mood, lines add emotional content to images. By leading the viewer’s eye, they keep the viewer’s attention focused on the image.


There are five different types of lines which can be a leading composition in your photographs


  • Horizontal
  • Vertical
  • Diagonal
  • Jagged and Irregular
  • Converging


Horizontal lines convey a sense of homeostasis (lack of change). This use in an image often projects a feeling that an image, or part of one, is somehow frozen at a point in time. They can also split a photograph in different parts. In addition, they can serve to provide a contrast with more dynamic parts of an image.

Desert, Mojave



Vertical lines can project either a mood of stability or peace.. They can be found in rock formations, power line poles, and vertical lines of buildings.

Proper use of vertical lines can also impart an impression of relaxation and tranquility.

Chrysler Building in New York City.       woodlands in pennsylvania



Diagonal lines can convey a sense of action or make an image more dynamic. For this reason, diagonals are a very powerful tool. Diagonal lines can be formed, not only of objects such as streets or sidewalks, but also of color. For instance, a diagonal section of color can add drama to a flower image. Examples of diagonals are plentiful: roads, streams, waves, and branches are but a few examples of objects that can be utilized in a diagonal manner.

5th Avenue and Central Park in NYC.       Table Row in Philadelphia


Jagged and Irregular

Jagged and irregular lines take us one step further on the continuum of emotion and feeling. They often impart a sense of unease, tension, or fear to the viewer of the image. Heavy use of jagged and irregular lines can cause a negative feeling in the viewer (which may be exactly what the photographer intended). Therefore, they are the tools of choice for the photographer who wants to create a feeling of disquiet or agitation in the viewer. Examples can be found in roots, a crocodile’s teeth, stark mountain peaks, and the twisted metal of an automobile wreck.

ice coated tree branch



In a photograph with converging lines you will find guidance and ease. The whole picture radiates order and seems organized in a very relaxing way. They can be found in very high buildings being photographed from an extreme angle or using a spot to photograph where the vanishing point lies in the middle of the scenery.

one_world_observation_tower_by_annette_schreiber       Pier in North Carolina, Outer Banks.

Leading the Eye

As powerful as lines are in helping to create a mood in an image, they become even more powerful when they are also used to direct the viewer’s attention. When using lines to direct the viewer’s attention, two rules need to be followed. First, make sure that the lines always point toward the most important object in the image. This will direct the viewer’s attention directly to that object. Second, make sure that the lines never point outside of the image. Lines that point outside the image will make the viewer’s eye leave the image. This weakens the image and may result in the viewer losing interest in the image entirely.

Figure out for yourself which message you would like to convey and use lines to help you make the photograph an interesting one.