Week 4: Lines

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve working on an entry describing the use of lines and linear elements in photography.  Again, my primary resource for this project was Harald Mante’s The Photograph:Composition and Color Design.  I’ve been using Mante’s book for awhile now because it extensively outlines the use of point and lines in compositions, and I highly recommend borrowing a copy from Simpson if you’re really interested in these topics because there’s way more to it than I can possibly cover here.


Last week I left you with the interaction of points and lines in my photograph of the James River.  A second example of points and lines in composition comes straight from the UMW mailroom.  While I took this photo for its pattern in Week 1, I thought it was worth doing double take.  Obviously there’re points and lines in this photo; however, the linear arrangement of points (in my opinion) really makes this a better example of linear elements than individual points.  Regardless, I think it demonstrates that a line doesn’t have to be created by a continuous surface; points, when arranged correctly, can be just as effective as a literal line.

Points & Lines I

I should note that the convergence of points and lines can create a vanishing point, which is a type of point that I forgot to mention last week.


Lines, according to Mante, accomplish three things in a composition:

  1. Lead the eye
  2. Divide surfaces (and in doing so create new surfaces)
  3. Create shapes

The following photo was an attempt to “lead the eye” via lines, but I think it’s better excuse to talk about depth of field.


Line IV

In top image, I was hoping the shallow depth of field (DoF) would lead the eye to the hazy background.  I experimented with different DoF combinations and wasn’t sure which version I like the best.  (Opinions, anyone?  I can’t decided which orientation leads the eye most effectively.)  In general, though, I personally think this image could be improved by leading the eye to a more interesting background (my desk lamp will have to do for now–too much study time this week!)

A photographer has more DoF control with an SLR camera.  Because my camera doesn’t have manual aperture control, sometimes I have to trick the viewfinder into thinking something’s closer or further away than it actually perceives (or at least I think this is what’s going on inside my camera!)  I turn the macro on, focus on a relatively close point, and then shift the viewfinder away to capture what I’m actually going for.  I did this to create different DoF’s for the pictures above.  By the way, I’m constantly forgetting to turn macro off once I’m done with it, which can make your non-macro shots turn out poorly (I usually don’t realize what’s happened until it’s too late.)  Anyway, just a word of warning to pay attention to that feature if you ever use it.

The following images from cambridgeincolour.com were created by manually adjusting aperture size (or F-stop):

————————decreasing F-stop number——————————->

—————increasing aperture size (amount of light going through lens)———–>

Here’s an attempt to create shapes from shadow lines.  The shadows also divide the image plane into fairly discrete surfaces in terms of texture.

Line II

Line IOften I don’t have time to take pictures when the light is “good.”  (I prefer overcast and partly cloudy days when it comes to photography.)  This is true for the day I took the last two pictures.  The light was SO bright; it was really hard to capture anything that didn’t look completely washed-out.  I really thought it would be impossible to salvage these pictures in particular until I started playing around with gamma correction in my basic image previewer (in the Preview program for Macs, you can do this by viewing an image and selecting “Image Correction” from the “Tools” menu.)  Honestly, I’m not sure if I understand the intricacies of gamma correction, but to make a long story short, it at least appears useful in adjusting lighting during the editing stage.  The fact that Ansel Adams didn’t seem to care about gamma correction makes me feel a little better about my confusion.

Other examples:

Lines dividing surfaces:

Line IX

Lines creating shapes:
Point II


  1. I Agree with Jenn’s comment about the perfume bottle, but I am a bit partial to the basketball hoop, its a great shot and its my favorite sport.

  2. Who knew there was so information about lines and art? Not me. All of the pictures you used as examples in this are really cool looking. I especially liked the locker picture, and you mentioned the vanishing point, which I actually remember learning about in an art class! Very cool.

  3. I thought the photo of the basketball hoop was really cool. It almost seemed as if someone took a crayon to the background and colored the entire space blue. You must have taken the photo on a perfectly clear day!

  4. These are EXCELLENT! All of them are great, but the ones that I keep looking at the most as I scroll through the course blog are the mailroom image, perfume photo and basketball hoop. I like these because these are very ordinary things I see around pretty much every day, or I’m at least familiar with them, but I never really stop to appreciate the beauty in them, and that’s what your photos are making me do-look at these normal objects in a new way. I wouldn’t normally think a picture of mailboxes could be interesting or beautiful, but your photo engages me because of your attention to detail; you captured the beauty in it. You have a great “eye” for capturing shots and I’m enjoying your photography immensely.

  5. I like the perfume photo, i think the tube inside of it adds another line to the existing composition. That is what is forcing my eye to travel downward…