Photography is an amazing art form. A painter uses colors and brush strokes to portray their thoughts and feelings. A photograph is a photographer’s canvas. The depth of a horizon, the diagonal lines of sun peeking through trees. These compositional techniques are all used to convey a feeling or emotional response.
Horizontal lines are another compositional element in photography. It is a technique that brings a photo to life and draws your viewer into the fantastic image in front of them.
In recent articles, we’ve explored the use of diagonal lines in photography. Let’s look at how horizontal lines are an important element to any photo.
When you explore photography composition, the world around you looks different. You can spot details and visual patterns that help with your photography. Horizontal lines surround you everywhere you look. Horizon lines, tabletops, flat roads are some examples of horizontal lines.
In this article, we’ll explore the meaning of horizontal lines. You will learn how to integrate horizontal lines into your photography techniques.
Horizontal Lines Photography: What is a Horizontal Line?
A horizontal line is a straight line that runs from the left side of the frame to the right (or vice versa). When we talk about the world around you, where do you think you will find horizontal lines? The best-known option is nature. In some instances, a photo will not have straight lines. There isn’t a defined break between subjects. There are still vertical and horizontal lines! The frame around the photo is using such lines. Pretty tricky right?!
One fantastic thing about photography is that manipulation is always an option. You don’t have to use post-editing software to do this. Your camera, some creativity, and the right subject can turn any image into a masterpiece.
Cityscapes, building architecture, and the earth’s horizon is an amazing subject with horizontal lines.
Horizontal lines frame your subject to create a more attractive photography composition. Horizontal lines in an image can convey a message of “stability.”
How to Use Horizontal Lines in Your Photos
Horizontal lines often act as dividers in a frame, breaking the image into separate parts. In landscape photography, the horizon acts as a divider, with the sky at the top and the land on the bottom. In this photography genre, it’s important to align the sky and land. An uneven landscape photo is unappealing to the eye. It can be obvious that something isn’t correct.
Horizontal lines are also a part of landscape photography. A slight difference is photos with defined horizontal lines can have other elements. For example, a sunset (horizon) shows a horizontal line between the sky and the water or land. Throw a single tree and clouds in there. This shows depth and conveys peace.
Additionally, the effect of horizontal lines can depend on the thickness of lines. Thinner lines seem more fragile than thicker lines. Either option still adds a little something to your photo. You will need to experience with which create a bold, in your face photo. Decide what you want your viewer to feel and see. This could change each time. That’s perfect! Don’t define your style by one emotion or feeling. Bring it all. This is what keeps your viewers coming back for more.
You can also use horizontal lines to add layers to a photo. Have you ever traveled through Oregon on the way to the coast? One breathtaking view is the fields of red tulips. Rows and rows of these flowers line either side of the interstate. Now take a picture of these flowers standing in such a way that it shows the individual rows. The viewer’s eye moves from one row to the next. This adds a level of layering to the photo. It brings a two-dimensional subject to the forefront creating a three-dimensional effect. It is so gorgeous!
Horizontal line composition is fun to play with, but they don’t always stand out. It can be tricky to show a defined line and in turn, making the photo look dull or static.
Here are a few ways that will help keep the static out and the beauty in!
Horizon and Perpendicular Lines
What causes static in a photo? Let’s start here. A photo without any meaning, depth, voice, or elements is nothing but static. It sits there. It often makes the viewer question what their focus is. What should they be looking at? It is especially important to make sure you prepare your subject ahead of time beforehand. Use the area around to find the right subject that will give you the elements you need and want.
As we touched on before, showing a break in a horizon is the difference between depth and dull. Using intersecting vertical lines, like trees or mountains creates interesting results. Another example is an image of a lake. That lake was once an open field with a wooden fence and cows. There are no longer cows, but you can still see the old wooden fence rising out of the water. It shows the break between land and water. This adds depth, character, and wonder to what was once there.
Another item to think of when using the horizontal line technique, stay away from chaos. What does this mean? The basic idea is don’t add so many elements to an image that it causes confusion. When there is so much going on in a photo it causes your viewer’s eyes to go from one object to the next. It confuses them in the sense that they don’t know what the focal point is. You might want to create a unique image, but remember there should always be one focal point. Confusion is a photographer’s nemesis. Wonder is gold!
Horizontal Lines Photography: Perspective
What is perspective in photography? Perspective in any situation is all about what one person’s takeaway is. This concept isn’t any different when we talk about horizontal lines in photography. What is perspective is your viewer taking away from your photos. Some of that is up to you. What do you want them to see? Remember, we spoke about this earlier. We talked about how you’re feeling or what you see and portraying that through your image. That can and will change from one subject to the next.
Experimenting with horizontal lines is the only way to understand how to use them. Creating layers, blending, shooting from different angles, all are excellent techniques. Shoot the same subject multiple times using these techniques. See the different perspectives for yourself. Which composition captures horizontal lines well? Think about shooting from a lower angle or area versus begin higher. What is the difference? It is about what you like and are happy with, but also think about your viewer.
In certain cases, you may want to hide certain horizontal lines and emphasize others. Manipulating the perspective helps in this regard. Placing an item behind another in a haphazard orientation can show structure. Changing your perspective can give perspective.
Another great idea is to review your favorite photographer’s work. Find a photographer in your same genre. Study how they shoot their images. What perspectives do they want to convey to their viewer? What is their perspective and how does that affect how their image?
Horizontal lines in photography bring forward a feeling of stability. They can also show peace, strength, and weight.
Stone or metal are two materials that represent strength, boldness, and weight. Use buildings and architecture in your images to send a message of power and stability.
What about framing your image? A window is breakable and fragile. Surround it with steel beams painted in red. Red is a bold, vibrant color. That fragile window is stable only because of the vibrant, strong metal that surrounds it.
Placement is important when you’re working with horizontal lines. Too many or too little will completely change the outcome of the photo. One recommendation is to take test shots.
Horizontal Lines and Viewpoint
Perspective and viewpoint can be the same. Viewpoints can influence how a viewer looks at a straight line. As discussed, perspective is about what the viewer takes away from the image. Changing your focal length or shooting from a higher angle will manipulate the photo. Height plays a leading role in helping a viewer see lines that hide.
This is particularly obvious in high-rise cities. It may be impossible to find a straight line of the horizon from the ground level. Height can change how one sees the clear horizon in the distance.
See some beautiful examples of horizontal line photography here.
Horizontal lines can be simplistic but also difficult to capture. The wonderful part is that lines are all around us. Photography is such a diverse niche; you can create anything you want. Understanding how to do that is a skill itself.
Remember some key takeaways: Find your viewpoint, convey a perspective, and add stability.
Capturing beautiful images can take a bit of luck, experimentation, and experience. Learning the different elements of composition does take time. Practice makes perfect and the willingness to strive for more is key to building skills.
If your genre is landscape or portrait photography, horizontal lines are useful. It is easy to be creative using horizontal lines. Making strong images to catch the eye of your viewer is what every photographer strives for.
How will you use horizontal lines in your images?
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.