CCW01C – Elements of Design – Lines
Our study of the Elements of Design is going to start off with an exploration of Lines within scenes and images. It’s hard to imagine photographic images, or scenes for that matter, that are the least bit compelling, without the effective use of lines within that image. The existence of these lines, their quantity, their arrangement, their weight and their paths, have the potential to provide a number of characteristics to the final composition. While individual lines do indeed have impact on a composition, multitudes of lines and their interactions with one another, when used properly, have potentially dramatic impact upon the viewer of an image and the viewer’s engagement with that image.
Of the multiple elements of design, lines are likely the strongest and most influential elements in your compositions. Without the existence of lines, there can exist no shapes. Without the existence of shapes, there can exist no form. Continuing further on, without form there is no texture and so on. Okay we are getting ahead of ourselves here, but I am sure you get the basic idea, lines matter and they serve as the primer for almost all of the other elements I just eluded to.
Lines travel many different directions in a scene, from vertical, to horizontal, to diagonal and even curved. Lines can either be long or short, range from thin to thick, leading towards the viewer or leading away, even moving the viewer’s position within the image.
Line’s impart emotional effect in images and can engender feelings of rest, action, peace, chaos, structured, random and on and on. Line weight conveys strength or lack thereof, feelings of authority or signs of weakness. Lines have the ability to convey mood, structure, strength and varying degrees of order in an image, all based upon the arrangement of those lines within a scene and your point of view in relationship to those lines.
Lines in an image can exist as physical entities within a scene, or they can appear as the by-product of implied connections between points or elements within that scene. Lines, whether they are physically real entities or are virtually implied paths, can serve as the guidebook to viewing an image, with their direction and characteristics providing strong visual clues to the viewer.
Seeing the existence of various lines within a scene and knowing how to maximize their use and effect within your image, is a first critical step in understanding how to see and control composition in a photographic creation.
First Things First:
Before we start following all these lines around scenes, I would like you to think of lines in the following way:
A line is a but a point in motion and if we think of that point as only having one dimension, length, then the longer that length, the more visually important the line.
The longer that point is in motion, the longer that line becomes, the more pivotal it becomes in engaging the viewer’s eye and giving it someplace to go in the image.
Likely, one of the most often used characteristics of lines is their innate ability to lead a viewer visually through a scene, taking that viewer directly to the intended subject of the image. This may seem manipulative, and it is, but this is exactly the goal we came here to achieve…making our viewer take note of what we deemed compelling in the image.
These leading lines can often be subtle, visual pathways that gently guide the viewer’s eyes where you want them to go. Often times these subtle lines can be implied lines or even lines of shadow, or light, whose direction conveniently aligns with subject placement in the scene. Just as frequently the lines in your scene are physical manifestations, whose alignment is again ideal for the subject at hand and naturally take your viewer where you want them to go.
When approaching a scene, these leading lines may not be immediately obvious and it is altogether likely that they will not be lined up ideally from your initial point of view. Alignment of leading lines, more often than not, requires scene inspection and movement on you part to get just the ideal alignment to be visible in the scene. As a fellow photographer, I will tell you one of the easiest traps to fall into, is that of thinking you have “the shot” immediately after happening upon a scene. Don’t fall victim to this false sense of visual security, work the scene by testing multiple points of view. While looking through your viewfinder, try different positions relative to the subject, all the time looking for leading lines that make themselves apparent as you are shifting point of view.
While I am flirting with the subject of point of view (more on this later), I want you to consider vertical positioning as you are evaluating scenes. I often think, if I gave cameras to ten (10) people, who are five foot, six inches tall (5’6″), I would likely get back at least nine (9) sets of images that have a vertical point of view of five foot, three inches (5’3″). Besides the emotional characteristics of point of view (which we will cover in a later section), changing elevation can totally alter your relationship to leading lines within a scene. It is not the least bit unusual to find me laying in the river, standing on a picnic table, climbing up some facade, or shooting down from a mezzanine just to get that point of view and line alignment that I am looking for in an image.
An additional characteristic of lines, often used in composition, is the notion of entrance points and exit points in an image, with an image ideally composed to provide both, in an effort to guide the viewer’s visual navigation through the composition. Images that provide both points, help the viewer to locate a starting point in viewing the image, a visual path to follow while exploring the image and a natural exit point to let the viewer know when they have reached the end of the image’s viewing path. Visualizing paths, road, fence-lines, etc. that start at the beginning of the scene (or close to it) and transit the image to a natural termination outside the frame or at a perceived horizon, should give you an idea of what to look for when inspecting a scene.
As you begin to work more with lines, in your compositions, you will begin to notice additional attributes and characteristics of those lines. In addition to line length, which can have a dramatic impact on defining and conveying scale, you will notice that the convergence of lines can enhance this effect even more. Converging lines are lines that get progressively closer together as they continue on in the “space” of an image. This convergence can have the natural effect of defining a horizon line within your scene, or providing a point where visual acuity within the image diminishes to the point of where details can no longer be discerned by the viewer.
Lines that converge have the natural characteristic of imparting scale. The longer it takes a pair of lines to converge, the greater the distance, or potentially size change, that is inferred within the scene. Like sized objects, aligned in a straight path, will naturally converge in a scene, at the same careful alignment of progressively smaller objects can make that shift even more pronounced. Attention must be paid to the viewing angle of the convergence in the scene, as too wide a viewing angle can have the potential of negating the change in object size along the convergence path and being to close to the aligned objects can shorten the perceptual distance in the scene.
For this, your first field assignment, I would like you to purposely inspect your potential scenes for lines that will reinforce the image, BEFORE YOU PRESS THE SHUTTER RELEASE. Spend time considering the lines that exist within the scene and the relationship they might have to your intended subject. Determine if there are ways that you can work those lines into reinforcing elements of the subject at hand.
In reviewing potential scenes, reflect upon the sample images provided with this week’s lesson and determine if one of those samples can guide you to a composition that feels stronger because of the inclusion of additional lines in that composition. Challenge yourself to alternate points of view and working available lines in a scene in more than one way as your shooting.
After a week of shooting, select one image to be submitted for review. Consider all of the images that you shot during the week and select the one that you think demonstrates a strong use of lines within the frame and represents a composition that you might not have thought of before going through the week’s lesson.
Preliminary Submission Instructions:
- File Type: JPG only, all other types will be rejected
- File Size: Sized as follows…
- Min 1920 pixels, LONG edge
- Max 2048 pixels, LONG edge
- Allow SHORT edge to dynamically adjust to maintain aspect ratio of image.
- File Color Space: sRGB, all other spaces will be rejected
- File Name: Use the following specifications…
- Six (6) characters from last name (substitue X’s for short names) +
- _ (underscore) +
- Four (4) character from first name (substitue X’s for short names) +
- _ (underscore) +
- Four (4) digits from street address (substitue #’s for short addresses) +
- _ (underscore) +
- Lesson code value (Week 01 is: ccw01c), found in schedule table +
- Here are a couple of examples to follow for file name:
The upload link (which is not available today) will be here: UPLOAD ASSIGNMENT
Note: I have, to date, expended well over one hundred hours in putting this series together, I fully expect that you can invest some time in figuring out exporting, naming and uploading your files.
Before moving on to the next lesson, I want you to keep the following in mind:
This is not the only time you should be considering lines, they should be at the forefront of the recognition process almost every time that you are considering a composition. They are that important!
As you continue to learn about the Elements of Design, keep these initial foundation elements in mind, these really do work as building blocks and constant reflection on how new elements, along the way, will interact with these that you have learned first, will serve you well.
Okay, go get things LINED up!
|Pre||Completely Composed - Introduction||Week 00||Completely Composed - Introduction||CCS00I|
|One||Elements Of Design (EOD)||Week 01||EOD - Introduction||CCS01I|
|Week 01||EOD - Lines||CCW01C|
|Week 01||EOD - Lines (More)||CCW01M|
|Week 02||EOD - Shapes||CCW02C|
|Week 03||EOD - Direction||CCW03C|
|Week 04||EOD - Size||CCW04C|
|Week 05||EOD - Texture||CCW05C|
|Week 06||EOD - Color||CCW06C|
|Week 07||EOD - Value||CCW07C|
|Week 08||EOD - Balance||CCW08C|
|Week 09||EOD - Gradation||CCW09C|
|Week 10||EOD - Repetition||CCW10C|
|Week 11||EOD - Contrast||CCW11C|
|Week 12||EOD - Harmony||CCW12C|
|Week 13||EOD - Unity / Dominance||CCW13C|
|Week 13||Quarterly Review||CCW13R|
|Two||Rules Of Composition||Week 14||ROC - Introduction||CCS02I|
|Week 14||ROC - Simplification||CCW14C|
|Week 15||ROC - Use Of Space||CCW15C|
|Week 16||ROC - Rule Of Thirds||CCW16C|
|Week 17||ROC - Proportional Rules||CCW17C|
|Week 18||ROC - Balancing Elements||CCW18C|
|Week 19||ROC - Leading Lines||CCW19C|
|Week 20||ROC - Symmetry||CCW20C|
|Week 21||ROC - Patterns||CCW21C|
|Week 22||ROC - Point Of View||CCW22C|
|Week 23||ROC - Foreground And Background||CCW23C|
|Week 24||ROC - Depth Of Field||CCW24C|
|Week 25||ROC - Framing||CCW25C|
|Week 26||ROC - Cropping||CCW26C|
|Week 26||Quarterly Review||CCW26R|
|Three||Refinements And Techniques||Week 27||RAT - Introduction||CCS03I|
|Week 27||RAT - Working The Shape (Rectangles)||CCW27C|
|Week 28||RAT - Working The Shape (Circles)||CCW28C|
|Week 29||RAT - Working The Shape (Triangles)||CCW29C|
|Week 30||RAT - Working The Shape (Others)||CCW30C|
|Week 31||RAT - Left To Right||CCW31C|
|Week 32||RAT - Juxtaposition||CCW32C|
|Week 33||RAT - Shooting When You Are Not There||CCW33C|
|Week 34||RAT - Reflections, Angles And Effects||CCW34C|
|Week 35||RAT - Illusions In Time||CCW35C|
|Week 36||RAT - Time To Graduate||CCW36C|
|Week 37||RAT - Colors, Stars And Flare||CCW37C|
|Week 38||RAT - Cooking With Glass||CCW38C|
|Week 39||RAT - Optical Manipulation||CCW39C|
|Week 39||Quarterly Review||CCW39R|
|Four||Breaking The Rules||Week 40||BTR - Introduction||CCS04I|
|Week 40||BTR - Ignore The Thirds||CCW40C|
|Week 41||BTR - Defying Balance||CCW41C|
|Week 42||BTR - Optical Illusions||CCW42C|
|Week 43||BTR - Positive Versus Negative||CCW43C|
|Week 44||BTR - The Non-Conventional Frame||CCW44C|
|Week 45||BTR - Isolation||CCW45C|
|Week 46||BTR - Chaos From Order||CCW46C|
|Week 47||BTR - Working The Focus Zone||CCW47C|
|Week 48||BTR - Shifting Symmetries||CCW48C|
|Week 49||BTR - Breaking Patterns||CCW49C|
|Week 50||BTR - Feeling Isolated||CCW50C|
|Week 51||BTR - Light, Bring Your Own||CCW51C|
|Week 52||BTR - Plant And Shoot||CCW52C|
|Week 52||Quarterly / Final Review||CCW52R|