Using Diagonal Lines in Photography to Add Depth, Motion, and Other Benefits
One of the most powerful compositional elements in photography is the use of lines. The three types of lines: horizontal, vertical, and diagonal. Horizontal and vertical lines give a feeling of balance and stability while diagonals provide a dynamic appeal which implies energy and movement.
Benefits of diagonal lines and tips on composition:
Diagonals can give the impression of depth – diagonal lines are highly effective at suggesting depth in an image, making us temporarily forget that we are looking at a flat, two-dimensional photograph. Converging lines, which are lines that seem to narrow and meet in the distance, offer depth perspective. This is often seen in photos of roads, railway tracks, tunnels, and the like. The lines, which appear diagonal, can be positioned in various ways in your composition depending on your camera angle and where you are shooting. One common style is to shoot from the center between the lines, which would result in a symmetrical treatment.
Another way is to shoot from beside the lines so that they run diagonal in your image frame, adding to that dynamic appeal.
Diagonal lines can also be leading lines – lines are often used to guide the viewer’s attention from one area of the image to another. Our eyes naturally follow the path of a line, and you can make use of this knowledge in your composition by placing the main interest or subject at a strategic area, such as the end of the line where our eyes would rest. In this shot below, we are drawn to the two figures at the distance by the diagonal lines that seem to point to them.
Diagonals provide a dynamic effect – unlike horizontal and vertical lines, diagonals suggest a sense of motion. For example, a photo of a tall building taken from a distance can show it standing vertically and solidly on the ground. But this same building, if shot from ground level and with the camera pointing upwards, can create diagonals. The building may appear to tilt in the photo.
Diagonal lines can be implied – diagonals do not have to be obvious and can be created simply by having at least two or three similar visual elements in the composition. The mind makes a connection and creates the invisible diagonal line. The result is a more subtle visual approach.
Diagonals in patterns and their graphic appeal – all kinds of diagonal lines are abundant everywhere you look, both in nature and in man-made creations. These lines are often seen in patterns, which is another strong visual element.
- Take care when composing your diagonals because they are already considered dynamic. Some intersecting or contrasting diagonals can be overwhelming to the eyes.
- You can capture diagonals or create them yourself simply by adjusting your camera angle and position. Another way is to exaggerate the angle in post-processing.
- Use diagonals if they will add visual impact of your photo. But remember that they should have a purpose. Many photos show diagonals with tilted angles that seem to have no meaning as to why they were composed that way. These photos end up looking awkward and forced.