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Lines

From: Foundations of Photography: Composition

Video: Lines

We have already worked with points. In this chapter, we are going to be exploring lots of other kinds of geometry, starting with lines. Lines are probably the most prevalent geometric form that you will encounter, and they are one of the most interesting to work with, because they can be very dynamic. Here you can see on the bridge we have got lots of strong diagonal lines. We have got lines cutting across the frame. Some of these lines are being created by the structure of the bridge itself. Other lines are being created by the shadows cast by that structure. Again, when we were thinking about composition, we are not always concerned about what a particular thing is, but simply the geometry itself.

Lines

We have already worked with points. In this chapter, we are going to be exploring lots of other kinds of geometry, starting with lines. Lines are probably the most prevalent geometric form that you will encounter, and they are one of the most interesting to work with, because they can be very dynamic. Here you can see on the bridge we have got lots of strong diagonal lines. We have got lines cutting across the frame. Some of these lines are being created by the structure of the bridge itself. Other lines are being created by the shadows cast by that structure. Again, when we were thinking about composition, we are not always concerned about what a particular thing is, but simply the geometry itself.

So the structural lines are no more important or less important than the shadow lines. Lines can be very useful because they can provide a very strong way of leading the viewer's eye into and out of the picture. And, as we are seeing here, when I get repeating lines, I start getting a nice rhythm through my image. These are very strong structural man-made lines. You will also maybe find softer, more natural lines, particularly if you are shooting landscapes. Sometimes, as we'll see later, lines are inferred by other repeating elements.

Lines of course come in lots of shapes and sizes and tones and colors, and here's an instance where I've got two lines that are contrasting both in their shapes-- they are creating these mirror image shapes-- but they are also a little bit contrasting in terms of their tone. This is predominantly a black line. This is predominately a white line. There are two ways that you can use these building-block ideas that we are covering. Things like points and lines and shapes and the other things that we are going over in this course can be employed in two different ways.

First, when you see something that you want to photograph, when you see an interesting subject and you think, wow, look at that thing, I really want to shoot it, I don't have the foggiest idea where to begin, you can fall back on this theory. You can say, are there any interesting lines in the image that I can work with, are there interesting shapes? And from there, you can begin to hone in on a good framing for your shot. Or you can do what has happened here. I am walking through this burned-out forest. I didn't actually see anything that was a particularly compelling subject. I didn't know how to shoot a burned-out forest, so I went into a purely theoretical mode and said, what's conspicuous here are all of these black trees. Are there interesting lines anywhere? And I found these two.

So this is a case of I've stopped seeing the actual subject matter and I am looking purely at a compositional idea, which is the idea of a line. So this is the second way that I can use these building blocks to improve my composition. So in this case, I am now no longer seeing a burned-out forest; I am just seeing these two lines. The viewer can then anchor themselves in this compositional idea. They can go, oh, wow, you know, look at this interesting shape here or these interesting tones. Later, from there, they can move on to, this is a burned-out floor, this is a burned-out forest. So it's still a picture of this thing, but the entry point for the viewer is simply a compositional idea.

We've got the same thing going on here. Walking down the street there's nothing necessarily that interesting about where I was, but I was really taken by the repetition and graphical strength of these lines, and so I framed to the shot and took it. This is a case where pure compositional idea is giving me subject matter. A street that would otherwise be interesting if I was simply looking for what's a good thing to shoot, suddenly that street has something in it to shoot. It's got this compositional idea of line.

Same thing here. This is the side of a grain silo. Not that interesting on its own, but shooting up the ladder like this with all these lines, it becomes much more compelling, simply driven by the compositional play of line. Lines can be implied. Here's a case where I have true lines that are very strong, these diagonal lines, but the focus of the image, the anchor of the image is this implied line created by these nails that are coming out of the boards. Here's a case where I was struck first by the moon being up and wanted to compose around it, and I liked the tree here, out on its own, just next to this building and this strange light pole just here in the middle of nowhere.

I am showing this to you in color because we are going to go through kind of the process that I was working through, and of course, I am seeing the image in color as I go. So I thought I like this strong line here. I can use it maybe to kind of anchor or frame some of these other elements. So I tried a couple of different ideas and finally came back to this one. As I had moved over from this position, if I take a few steps to the left, I get to here, and I have lost the moon. And that's okay. My original--or is that it right there--there we go.

I have zoomed out so far I can barely see the moon. So I've given up on my original idea because it's been supplanted by the idea that this pole and its wire can be turned into a single individual line. Now I have tilted the frame this way because I'm no longer thinking about the reality of the situation; I am thinking only about this line, and I wanted it to be parallel to the edge of the frame to really play up its strength as a graphic element. And once I convert to black and white, it becomes even more pronounced.

And I knew that while I was shooting, that I was going to be able to put this black line against a white sky and create a strong graphic element, which further takes the moon completely out of the picture. So sometimes your initial impulse is not the one that you end up with, and that's fine. Here is a nice curly line, made of purely of a shadow as this stream winds through this field. It's a fairly simple composition. The line which is truly the subject of the image is just placed bang in the center of the frame.

Remember, don't get fancy if you don't have to; sometimes the subject matter can stand on its own. Here are a whole lot of lines, all leading in kind of the same direction. What I was building on here was first, as the sun was setting, I was just seeing all these wonderful lines being thrown around. I looked for something that I could play off of the lines and decided, well, these little two trees could actually serve as a subject of the image. And that's what they are. The trees are the subject of this image, not the lines. But the lines are serving a critical compositional function, which is that all of these lines are leading my eye right into here.

I've got the curve of these ruts from some tires, and I have got these shadows coming along here. So I've actually got two different kinds of lines all serving to lead the eye to those trees. So sometimes the lines are actually the subject of your image; sometimes you compose them around to buttress other compositional ideas. As I said, lines, shapes, points, all these ideas can be used in a couple of different ways. You can use them to try to figure out how to make an interesting shot out of a particular thing, or, once you're seeing line, you may find that lines themselves are interesting and that you're seeing subject matter in a milieu that otherwise would have been empty.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Composition
Foundations of Photography: Composition

86 video lessons · 56505 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 12m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. Using this course
      7m 27s
    3. What you need to know
      2m 50s
  2. 2m 47s
    1. What is composition?
      2m 1s
    2. All form, all the time
      46s
  3. 12m 34s
    1. How your camera is not like your eye
      2m 52s
    2. Looking vs. seeing
      2m 25s
    3. Vision and attention
      2m 13s
    4. Dynamic range
      1m 59s
    5. Seeing exercises
      3m 5s
  4. 36m 48s
    1. What all good compositions have
      1m 8s
    2. Subject and background
      3m 5s
    3. Balance
      7m 20s
    4. Point of view
      3m 22s
    5. Simplicity
      2m 59s
    6. Finding and capturing a good photo
      2m 11s
    7. Working the shot: Why one is never enough
      6m 41s
    8. Practicing
      3m 24s
    9. Why black and white?
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Practicing the fundamentals with points
      4m 17s
  5. 41m 48s
    1. Lines
      7m 7s
    2. Analyzing lines
      6m 35s
    3. Exploring a town
      4m 7s
    4. The Franklin Hotel
      2m 7s
    5. Shapes
      10m 13s
    6. Repetition: Arranging the elements
      1m 37s
    7. Rule of threes
      1m 36s
    8. Perspective
      1m 47s
    9. Symmetry
      1m 10s
    10. Focal length, camera position, and depth
      2m 27s
    11. Intersections
      1m 41s
    12. Exercise: Practicing fundamentals with geometry
      1m 21s
  6. 10m 38s
    1. Working a shot, revisited
      3m 21s
    2. Understanding the photographic impulse
      2m 58s
    3. Warming up
      2m 16s
    4. Exercise: Get your feet moving
      2m 3s
  7. 35m 7s
    1. Thirds: How rectangular frames are weighted
      2m 20s
    2. Tonal balance
      3m 52s
    3. Content balance
      1m 20s
    4. Squares: Weighting the corners
      2m 24s
    5. Composing people
      3m 42s
    6. Composing landscapes
      3m 53s
    7. Sometimes you can't get the shot
      1m 12s
    8. Practicing thirds with points and geometry
      1m 45s
    9. Practicing squares with points and geometry
      1m 12s
    10. Image analysis: The work of Steve Simon
      13m 27s
  8. 19m 6s
    1. It's the light
      1m 50s
    2. Direction of light
      8m 30s
    3. Texture
      2m 7s
    4. Shadows and negative space
      1m 19s
    5. Exposure concerns
      2m 44s
    6. Keeping one eye on post
      58s
    7. Light as subject
      1m 38s
  9. 18m 59s
    1. Introducing the workshop location and instructors
      1m 2s
    2. Assignment: Finding light
      5m 17s
    3. Shooting the light
      3m 14s
    4. Critiquing the light assignment
      9m 26s
  10. 22m 11s
    1. The basics of color
      1m 4s
    2. When to shoot color
      3m 56s
    3. How to shoot color
      2m 47s
    4. Practicing color composition
      1m 4s
    5. Image analysis: The work of Paul Taggart
      13m 20s
  11. 16m 48s
    1. Entry and exit
      5m 41s
    2. Framing
      2m 17s
    3. Examining the composition of this set
      2m 28s
    4. Narrative
      1m 55s
    5. When the scene doesn't fit in the frame
      3m 13s
    6. Guiding the viewer's eye
      1m 14s
  12. 13m 36s
    1. Assignment: Foreground and background
      3m 4s
    2. Shooting foreground and background relationships
      2m 19s
    3. Critiquing the foreground and background assignment
      8m 13s
  13. 34m 24s
    1. Planes
      5m 13s
    2. Controlling depth
      4m 54s
    3. Juxtaposition
      2m 58s
    4. Fear
      4m 3s
    5. Layers
      55s
    6. Image analysis: The work of Connie Imboden
      16m 21s
  14. 41m 21s
    1. Recomposing an image with the Crop tool
      7m 23s
    2. Resizing an image
      8m 9s
    3. Tone
      8m 54s
    4. Altering the perspective in Photoshop
      4m 38s
    5. Changing composition through retouching
      6m 16s
    6. Vignetting to drive attention
      6m 1s
  15. 10m 22s
    1. Workshop wrap-up and exhibition
      3m 13s
    2. Workshop students' final thoughts
      7m 9s
  16. 1m 0s
    1. Final thoughts
      1m 0s

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