Understanding and Using Line, Shape, and Form in Photography

Rating: 3.75 based on 4 Ratings
  By Jennifer Berube
Understanding and Using Line, Shape, and Form in Photography www.sleeklens.com

There are individuals who enter into the world of Photography without a background in Art and without an understanding of the elementary principles that make up pieces of artwork across all types of mediums. In total, there are six principles – Line, Shape, Form, Pattern, Texture, and Color. Using each of these individually or together will help take your photography to the next level.

The three most important of those principles to understand are a line, shape, and form. When composing a shot through the viewfinder, these are things a photographer should be taking into consideration to create the most visually appealing image possible. We’ll brush the surface of each one so you can begin putting these principles into practice.

Finding Lines

The line

is one of the most important principles in photography. It is what creates shape, form, texture, etc. It is a line that draws the viewer into your photograph and creates the mood for them.

Vertical lines will give a feeling of dominance and power as they tower above the viewer. Think of shooting up at skyscrapers as they climb into the sky. Or standing in a forest and capturing trees at they grow. You will see vertical lines being used often in photos of roads and highways. Putting the yellow center line in focus in the middle of your photo and allowing it to continue vertically out of the frame will bring the viewer into a journey of where the road goes.

Horizontal lines can give a feeling of stability and calm. Generally, the viewer’s eye is moving across the photo instead of into it. This allows them places to rest and admire the landscape that you’re capturing.  This can be seen in mountainscapes where the horizontal range travels across the photo or birds perched on power lines.

Diagonal lines can be used to draw a viewer in, adding a dynamic impact and creating action as the line comes towards the front of the photo. The use of diagonal lines could be seen in a sports photograph as a player runs towards the edge of the frame.

The Basics of Shape

When thinking of shape in photography, imagine a flat, two-dimensional object without light and shadow. A silhouette is a great example of shape within a photo. The shape should be something your viewer can identify, as it becomes part of your subject matter.

The best way to make a shape identifiable is creating a high-contrast image. A dark silhouette against a light background will emphasize the shape of the subject. Shooting up towards the sky and allowing what’s in front of your camera to darken can achieve a silhouette with high-contrast. Buildings and people create great silhouettes against evening sunsets.

Lighting to Make Form

The form takes line and shape and turns it into a three-dimensional subject that comes alive in a photo. Those shapes that were flat objects before now have highlights and shadows. How you choose to light the form will add depth to a photograph.  However, the form is one of the most challenging principles to capture in photography as you are working with a two-dimensional medium.

Look for the light, particularly lighting from the side. If you light from the back, you will reduce your form to a shape. The same is true if you have a harsh light from above that will flatten the form.

Utilizing focus in your photo can create depth and will also bring out forms. Placing an object in the foreground that is in focus while everything behind the object falls off out of focus can accentuate depth. Bringing proper light into the photo will draw the form out of your foreground object.

There are many principles are art to consider when shooting a photograph. However, it is best to start with the basics and work out from there. Understanding line, shape, and form will add visual interest to your photos and make them less predictable. Using lines will dictate how your viewer reads and responds to your subject matter. Shape, especially when combined with the rule of thirds will give your viewer something recognizable to relate to the photo. Bringing line and shape together when used with appropriate light will create form. Through form, you can add depth and an element of three-dimension to an otherwise flat, two-dimensional medium.

The best thing to do is great your camera and start practicing. Print out your photos and draw lines on them to understand how they read. Recognize shapes and take note on how you could better accentuate forms.

Rating: 3.75 based on 4 Ratings
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Before I became Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, I spent over five years specializing in Photography Writing and contributed articles regularly to sites like PictureCorrect, Sleeklens, and PhotoWorkout. Photography has always been a huge passion of mine; I may not be professionally trained in the art, but the knowledge and experience I have gained writing about photography techniques, interviewing some of the biggest and most inspiring photographers out there, and covering industry events has been invaluable!

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