Diagonal Leading Lines in Photography Composition

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diagonal leading lines in photography

"Purple Bridgewater Place" captured by Tony Taffinder (Click Image to See More From Tony Taffinder)

Of all the lines used in photography diagonals are the most dynamic. You can use them to create a strong impression of movement or you can use them to create a tremendous sense of depth. All images are created with lines some vertical, horizontal and others converging, but, knowing how to place them affects the mood and composition of the final image.

A sense order is created with verticals and horizontal lines implying stability and strength. Diagonals are unbalanced and appear to be unstable but what they communicate is very dynamic yet precarious. They always appear to be falling over or not quite secure. This is what lends itself to a dramatic image.

The easiest way to create diagonals is simply by tilting your camera. They are just slanted views of horizontals and verticals and can easily be created by the photographer. I find that a bit of tilt to my camera adds a little slant to the image and creates a perfect diagonal line.

Try capturing a simple image like a car or skyscraper by tilting the camera forty five degrees and see the effect you create. What happens to the image? The car looks as if it is going fast while skyscraper appears to be reaching for the sky. This is created by simply turning your camera.

When shooting from high up from a bird’s eye view you can really create some stunning images. Look for lines, horizontal or vertical lines and then tilt the camera. The bird’s eye vantage allows you great leeway as there is no right way, no up or down as everything is two dimensional. Experiment with patterns and color and you will arrive at some dramatic compositions.

Don’t be afraid to use crazy angles and change your viewpoint when shooting with diagonals. They will help give you a sense of depth and perspective. They tend to lead the eye to whatever focal point you decide, to a place where they end or disappear into nothing. Diagonals encourage the eye of the viewer to follow, almost like the Judas goat at the abattoir that leads the livestock to the slaughter. A set of footprints, a curved hedge or river can be used to guide the viewers to the point of focus. But you must lead them to something that has a strong interest otherwise the viewer is left feeling that the image is incomplete.

Then there is the zig zag effect when using diagonals in patterns. The repeated pattern can also be used to drag the eye into the image over a larger area of the frame. These patterns are dynamic and when used with horizontals and verticals become even more dramatic.

leading lines composition

"Selfportrait" captured by M. Lorenzo (Click Image to See More From M. Lorenzo)

I have always chosen diagonals as my favorite lines because they are so dynamic and add something to my images. Bottom line though as you learn digital photography is that you need to experiment and above all practice what you learn in order to master it. Happy shooting!

About the Author
Do you want to learn more about photography in a digital world? I’ve just completed a brand new e-course delivered by e-mail. Download it here for free by clicking here: http://www.21steps2perfectphotos.com/ To learn how you can take your photography from ordinary to outstanding click here – http://www.21steps2perfectphotos.com/21steps.htm

Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography.

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