Horizontal lines lend a sense of weight and solidity to an image. They can imply strength and calmness, and lead our eye side to side. A horizon is a familiar reference line, which is part of why horizontal images have such a powerfully calming and seating effect. However it's very important that horizontal lines are perfectly straight. Our eyes are really good at picking up on a horizontal line that is just slightly off, which is unsettling, and can have the opposite intended effect.
Vertical lines carry with them a sense of movement and speed. They can be seen as barriers, or as an escape, depending on how they are used. Vertical lines carry your eye up, down, and through a frame. They are also present in a human form, which can add a sense of empathy and identification.
Diagonal lines, including zigzags, are the most dynamic. They can lead your eye through an image, keep your eye engaged longer. They sometimes feel unresolved, and can add tension and contrast.
Curves also lead us through images, but they are often a gentler, and more graceful way of doing so. Since they don’t follow either frame, horizontal or vertical, they can do an excellent job of keeping your viewer within the frame, without the tense discord that a diagonal can produce.
In the piano images below, the top image is very static. It’s calm and grounded. The bottom piano image is much more dynamic. The diagonal lines lead you into the frame to the girl’s face, and the vertical line of her frame stops it short and keeps your focus on her face and hands. Both images are examples of lines that are used well, but in two very different ways. The images were taken minutes apart from each other, but have completely different feels, even though the light and subject are still the same.
The next set of images is similar. The top image is solid and grounded. The bottom image still has that sense of weight, but the road leading into the image adds a sense of motion and depth.
In the beach image, the diagonal lines lead your eye directly to the subjects, and the vertical line of their frame stops your eye and lets you know their connection is important and worth lingering on.
Pay attention to lines, start noticing them when you are out and about, and think about how you can manipulate them to lead your viewer through your frame.
WEEK 8 CHALLENGE: This week your challenge is to find and use leading lines in your photography. Leading lines can be found almost anywhere, so get out and find them! Go like the Kensie M Photography Facebook Page and post your favorite from the week there! We can't wait to see what you are working on. And remember we love questions, so feel free to post them in the comments section!
Kate Densmore is a documentary and fine art photographer known for her emotive black and white images. She is also a photography mentor and workshop instructor, and an aspiring writer. She is originally from Colorado, but now lives on the wild and remote coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Kate is married, and has two adorable daughters. She has a serious coffee addiction, loves to read, and holds a Masters degree in education. Her husband is a park ranger for the National Park Service, so they live an unusual and unconventional life in some of the most beautiful places in the country. They currently call a remote area of Olympic National Park home. Kate shoots with a Canon 5D Classic, a Canon 5D Mark iii, a 35L, and a 100L. She's dreaming of the 135L and a Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80. And she makes the best chocolate chip cookies this side of Seattle! You can check out Kate's website here and be sure and go like her on Facebook. Kate also teaches a fantastic 5 week workshop over at In Beauty and Chaos, so check that out here!