An Intro to Line, Shape, and Form in Photography

There are many elements of composition that form the building blocks of photography: lines, shape, form, texture, pattern, and the rule of thirds, just to name a few. Each of these elements plays a role in drawing the viewer’s eye into the photo. Here, Mark Wallace focuses on three basic building blocks—line, shape, and form—to really give your photos an depth:


Line is a point that continues; it implies motion. Lines are open and lead the eyes into a photograph or to an interesting point of the photo.

leading lines in photography


This can be any closed shape. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bird, or a plane, or Superman, it is a two-dimensional representation of something we recognize.

two dimensional shape


Form refers to when shape takes on three dimensions. Form is created by shadows and highlights on an object in the photograph.

You can see in these two photos how shape becomes form when light hits the subject. When the sharks are swimming around at the bottom of the ocean, away from the light, they are just shapes. But, when they come to the surface, the light creates shadows and highlights, giving them form.

light creates form photo

This all has to do with your light and your camera in relationship to the position of that light. When the light is behind your subject, that creates backlight, and backlight creates silhouettes. Silhouettes are two-dimensional and they are shapes.

When the light moves to the side or front of your subject, that creates shadows and highlights, giving the subject form.

shape to form in photography

As the light moves, the shadows and highlights change.

How to Make Photos Look More 3D

  • Use a strong sidelight to exaggerate form.
  • More reflections will also add form.
  • A wide angle lens exaggerates the perspective and makes the object look even more three-dimensional.

how to add dimension to your photos

Line, shape, and form are three building blocks to add depth and interest to your photos. How do you use them in your photography?

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3 responses to “An Intro to Line, Shape, and Form in Photography”

  1. Dave says:

    If Im not mistaken, that is MARK Wallace not Mike Wallace

  2. Austin Doyle says:

    The picture with the caption “As the light moves, the shadows and highlights change.” isn’t a real life picture as it seems to be taken within either a game or a 3d modeling program. in other words it looks fake

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