We often think that our images do not have line quality in them but line in this case is meant to include the edges between things. Therefore, when we talk about depth of field, an important concept in photography, we are also talking about line quality; we want lines to be razor sharp in some areas and fuzzy or completely burry in others. Likewise, when we speak of edge sharpening, we are speaking of the quality of line along the edge of objects while leaving the interiors of those same objects somewhat less sharp. In a portrait we may find that bringing out all of the details in the hair works to our advantage, while bringing out all of the pores on someone’s face is not. These are all line considerations and we need to master their use. Consider the following elements of line:

Vertical lines
Think of all the things you can that are made up primarily of vertical lines: buildings, telephone poles, fence posts, stair spindles, etc. All of these things tend to have certain things in common: strength, support, power and more. As a result images that are made up primarily of these kinds of lines also tend to carry this kind of image. Make use of this whenever you can. Include strong verticals in images where you want to suggest these kinds of feelings…Or, do the opposite; juxtapose the strong verticals against something weak to emphasize its weakness.

Horizontal lines
By extension we consider horizontal lines to suggest peace, calm, stability, etc. Think of the ocean, a long straight road or bridge, the horizon line, for that matter. These are powerful and profound concepts in our subconcious. As a matter of fact, science tells us that there are sensors in our brain that our attunted to the horizon. We subconciously and automatically look for the horizon and try to position ourselves in relation to it. That’s one of the things that make a fun house so difficult to navigate; none of the angles are plumb or level preventing us from finding a balanced position. If you want to impart this same feeling in your images, just do the same by keeping any of your angles level or plumb, but if you want to suggest peace and calm, do the opposite.

Angular lines
Angles are associated with energy and action. Think of a runner springing from the starting blocks, their arms and legs, back and head, all at different angles. We instantly interpret this for the explosion of energy it is. Some photographer have made good use of what is called “Duth angle” shots; that is, shots taken with the camera at roughly a 45 degree angle. By doing this, things that may have appeared “peaceful and calm” in a horizontal image, take on new energy because they now appear in the image at an acute angle. You will often find times when moving a bit this way or that you can create interesting and energizing angles in a composition.

Curved lines
Curved lines are thought of as graceful and elegant, but can also be tought of interms of obesity. A gently sloping curved line that moves in and out is considered graceful. A line that should be straight but is instead curved is often consider rotund. Among curved lines are many subsets. A gently curving ‘S’ curve is considered especially graceful; a line that curves in and out of something is often considered ‘lyrical.’ Makes use of these lines whenever you want to communicate these ideas.


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