Using lines in your compositions to enhance your images

Photography has evolved into a magnificent state.

Technology offers us powerful photographic tools that can be with us at any time.

Long gone are the days in which SLR cameras reigned the high image quality kingdom. Nowadays we have powerful compact cameras, mirrorless camera systems, and perhaps the most revolutionary of them, smartphone cameras.

One thing that everybody needs to understand when they start to get serious in Photography, is that cameras are just a tool, and that we are the decision makers when it comes to capture a scene that will become an image in no-time.

Learning to operate a tool is just a matter of time, and after you learn the logics behind exposure, you'll be able to work with shutter speeds, ISOs and apertures on every camera that gets in your hands.

Therefore, learning to operate a camera is just one step that you'll achieve with practice, after getting sufficiently skilled you'll need to learn another thing to get great images.

This field of photography is known as composition, and there are some rules that you'll need to learn in order to achieve aesthetic results with your cameras.

Brooklyn Bridge

Let's say that you are willing to capture daily scenes with your smartphone's camera, and depending on the apps that you have installed on your device, you'll be able to control exposure manually. But in order to achieve those breathtaking images that you'll love, and you'll be proud of showcasing with the world on the social media platforms of your choice, you have to learn about composition first.

Composition is perhaps the most important element in photography. It helps to tell a story efficiently thanks to pleasant looks and aesthetics. It is also one of the most tangible characteristic of a photograph.

Composition is demanded by viewers in a tacit way. We read images like we read words, and there has been a huge debate about the direction people tend to read images.

Not so long ago I learned that photography has its own grammar. The reading of an image gets its direction thanks to the lines in its composition and the photographer’s treatment of light. It is also important to know that an image loses its intrinsic value and interest when it does not offer an obvious point where you should start reading it.

Therefore it makes sense that we talk about certain aspects of composition in terms of lines.

Lines are the simplest yet most important elements of composition.

Perhaps the simplest lines are those that happen naturally, like verticals, horizontals, diagonals and organic. The first three doesn't have much room for explanation since they are pretty obvious, but organic lines have a peculiar characteristic, because they can be found in a tacit form around nature. These lines require care and attention.

Lines in the sand

One example of these lines are the light beams projected through a smoke or dust, or even the patterns in leaves. Organic lines tend to be very pleasing at a subconscious level thanks to their tacit peculiarity. And finally there is a much more interesting line that can be used in composition to tell a story more efficiently. These are called "implied lines". Implied lines happen thanks to the tension between two elements in the composition, and they come to life thanks to the reader's perception of that implied line. The most classic example for me, is the implied lines created between two people looking at each other in a photograph.

No matter your photographic tool, this understanding of photography's grammar will get you closer to taking beautiful photographs.

It is a shame to hear people that believe that for them to make a great image, they need a certain camera and a specific lens. The best camera is the one that you'll have in your hands when the precious moment that deserves to be preserved crosses your eyes. Working with limitations will ultimately trigger your creativity into finding innovative solutions for capturing the image the way you want them to be.

I invite you to discover the great power of using lines as your secret weapon to deliver meaningful messages in your photographs.

Don’t fall on the classic mistake of believing that great images require expensive equipment. Meaningful images require practice and passion, not the latest and greatest camera released to the market.