Home Photography Composition How to Use Horizontal Lines in Photography Composition

How to Use Horizontal Lines in Photography Composition

6 min read

Using lines within a photograph can be very powerful because they create a sense of direction and movement within the frame.

In this post, we are going to teach you how to use horizontal lines in your photograph to create a certain mood and feel. Other types of lines you can use within photos include: vertical lines, diagonal lines and curved lines.

Horizontal Lines Convey Stability and Peace

For the most part horizontal lines portray a sense of stability and peace. Just think about the many photos you’ve seen of a landscape horizon, sun setting, person sleeping, etc. with a dominant horizontal line. You probably felt the same way that most others feel when they look at these photos: a sense of peace and stability.

It doesn’t matter how many dominant horizontal lines are within a photograph. It could be one, two, three or more. The affect on the viewer is still the same: calm, gentle and restful.

In contrast, vertical lines convey power, strength or growth. Including vertical lines within a photo can disrupts the peacefulness that horizontal lines convey.

Knowing the effect horizontal lines have on your photos will help you to shoot better photographs because you’ll know how to use them to your advantage. For example, take a look at the two photos below. Both contain a single dominant horizontal line. The photo on the left has a horizontal line formed by the receding ocean while the photo on the right has a horizontal line made up from the tree tops.

Both photos have a horizontal line, but which one feels more calm and stable to you?

Photograph by Sakari Lampola Horizontal Lines Photograph by Sakari LampolaPhotograph by Sakari Lampola

You probably chose the photo on the left of the ocean as being more calm and stable. That’s because it lacks any other contrasting lines. The vertical lines within the photograph of the trees disrupt the calming effect horizontal lines portray. That photo feels more dynamic simply from those vertical lines.

So how can you use this to your advantage? The next time you want to ensure that your photo portrays a sense of calmness you should position your camera so that it eliminates any contrasting lines like vertical and diagonal.

Photographer Beware

Since horizontal lines portray a sense of stability and peacefulness you need to be aware of the fact that they can also make a photo feel static and boring. A good trick to add some interest to the photo would be to include a subject that acts as the point of interest, like a person, tree, building, etc. Take a look at the photo below. Its dominated by horizontal lines but including the sleeping cat in the top left corner adds interest to the photo. While its provokes a calming feeling and static it also keeps us interested by having a subject to connect with.

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

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