Shape and Line
As a photographer, you can create dramatic impact by emphasizing shape. One way to do this is to make a single shape the focus of your image, capturing it against an uncluttered, contrasting background. To do so, you may have to get in close to your subject or change the camera's angle to rid your picture of distracting details. Lines define shapes. Our eyes follow lines. Lines lead the way, showing us direction and distance.
In more elaborate compositions, shapes become the building blocks of your image. They can mirror each other in form or provide contrast to create balance or tension. Shapes can overlap and disappear in shadow.
Shapes are subtle. They are usually defined by edges and by lighting that separates them from the rest of the things around them. Yet often only part of a shape will be seen, leaving the viewer to imagine the rest of it.
This is the powerful and distinctive shape of a blue marlin.
There are many kinds of shapes, from manmade to natural, from hardedged to soft-edged. The human body is one of the prime natural shapes that photographers work with. Photographers often play with a viewer's understanding of shape by placing a shape against a background that alters it. For example, a scallop shell looks very different on a sandy beach, where it merges with the sand, than on a table of dark wood, where it stands out.
Line can convey action or force. One of the most important uses of line is to lead the viewer to the center of interest in the photograph. Lines are a tool the photographer uses to create depth in a photograph. A flat, two-dimensional image takes on life when parallel lines recede to a distant point, creating a sense of perspective and beckoning the viewer to the far-away point.
You can utilize hard-edged lines to create impact, while curving lines suggest a softer, more graceful feeling. When composing a picture with several elements, lines can be used to direct the eyes of the viewer from one form to another. They can link objects usually considered unrelated, and they can provide information about the action in the picture. Frequently, the opposition of curved and straight lines is used to express action.
Lines can be easily changed in a photograph. The photographer simply has to change her camera angle. A billboard shot from the front will be flat and rectangular. Shot from the side and close up, it will create a trapezoid that recedes into the distance.
The line of the pier pulls this composition together.
The S-curve is one of the most common and graceful lines used in composition. An S-curve often draws the eye past several points of interest. S-curve compositions typically produce a feeling of calm. Look for an S-curve when composing a shot.
Other simple geometric shapes can enhance your photo compositions. The strongest of these is the triangle. A triangle in your composition can add effective visual unity to your image. A V shape typically accentuates perspective and pulls the viewer's eye to the focal point of the picture. The C-curve can be useful for framing the main element or drawing the viewer's eye into the picture.