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How to Use Diagonal Lines in Photography Composition

In this post, we are going to teach you how to effectively use diagonal lines in your photograph.

Diagonal Lines Lead the Eye and Make Photos More Dynamic

Diagonal lines are a great way for a photographer to lead the viewer’s eye within a photograph. They also make a composition feel more dynamic as opposed to horizontal/vertical lines which tend to make a photo feel static or stable.

In our culture, we are taught to read left to right and we scan photographs in the same manner.

Our eyes start on the left side of an image and scan to the right. Knowing this fact allows you to compose a better photograph because you’ll know how to lead the viewer’s eye naturally within the photo and help pull them into the scene.

Take the photo of the rock climber below for example. The diagonal cracks in the rock face lead our eyes. They draw our attention from the lower left foreground and up toward the climber in the upper right background. If the composition of the image had been reversed, such that the cracks had been oriented from upper left to lower right, this effect would not have been the same. We would have felt as if we were pulling away from the scene.

Diagonal Lines Photograph by A1 Photo Tips
Photo by A1 Photo Tips

Diagonal lines, by nature, have the ability to make your photos more dynamic. This can be very useful in all types of photography and can be achieved in several ways.

Diagonal lines in photography do not always have to be distinct lines as with the cracks in the rock face photo above. Diagonal lines can also be implicit and still give the same effect in a photo’s composition.

Take the photo of the photographer below on the left for example. Doesn’t this photo feel very dynamic to you? A lot of energy is coming from this capture. At first glance, you may only see one diagonal line created by the background horizon that starts in the top left of the frame and extends to the bottom right. While not immediately obvious and after closer inspection you’ll see that the legs and arms of the photographer also form diagonal lines. These lines subconsciously intersect the background line formed by the horizon and make this photo more dynamic.

Diagonal Lines Photograph by Gamling
Photo by Gamling

The photo above brings up another unique feature of diagonal lines in photos. The more competing diagonal lines you have within the frame, the more dynamic the photograph’s composition feels to the viewer.

Another tip is you can instantly create a diagonal line in a photo where none exist simply by tilting your camera about 30-45 degrees to one side. Try this the next time you are framing a photo.

In portrait photography you can make a photograph feel more dynamic by forming diagonal lines with the subject’s torso, limbs and face.

Take the photos below for example. The photo on the left feels dynamic just by having the girl position herself so that she forms a diagonal line within the frame. The photo on the right feels even more dynamic because the girl’s body forms diagonal lines with her arms, legs and torso. Her diagonal lines compete with the diagonal lines of the arrows painted in the background – adding even more energy to this composition.

Diagonal Lines Photograph by Bisig Wedding & Portrait Photography
Photo by Bisig Wedding & Portrait Photography
Diagonal Lines Photograph by PortergraphPhoto by Portergraph

We hope you enjoyed this photography tutorial on how you can effectively use diagonal lines in your photographs. Please share this tutorial with other photographers using the button below!

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