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Beyond The Rule of 3rds





The term composition means 'putting together,' and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, depending on the context. In graphic design and desktop publishing, composition is commonly referred to as page layout. In photography it is commonly just called composition and simply refers to how the elements in the photo are arranged and how they relate to one another.

Line and shape
Line-like shapes are for all intents considered line elements by the artist; for example, telephone and power cables or rigging on boats. Any such elements can be of dramatic use in the composition of the image. Additionally, less obvious lines can be created, intentionally or not, which influence the direction of the viewer's gaze. These could be the borders of areas of differing color or contrast, or sequences of discrete elements, or the artist may exaggerate or create lines perhaps as part of his style, for this purpose. Many lines without a clear subject point suggest chaos in the image and may conflict with the mood the artist is trying to evoke.
Movement is also a source of line, and blur can also create a reaction. Subject lines by means of illusion contribute to both mood and linear perspective*, giving the illusion of depth. Oblique lines convey a sense of movement and angular lines generally convey a sense of dynamism and possibly tension. Lines can also direct attention towards the main subject of picture, or contribute to organization by dividing it into compartments.
The brain often unconsciously reads near continuous lines between different elements and subjects at varying distances.
Straight lines
Horizontal, vertical, and angled lines all contribute to creating different moods of a picture. The angle and the relationship to the size of the frame both work to determine the influence the line has on the image. They are also strongly influenced by tone, color, and repetition in relation to the rest of the photograph. Horizontal lines, commonly found in landscape photography, can give the impression of calm, tranquil space. An image filled with strong vertical lines tends to have the impression of height, and grandeur. Tightly angled convergent lines give a dynamic, lively, and active effect to the image.
Viewpoint is very important when dealing with lines particularly in photography, because every different perspective elicits a different response to the photograph.
Curved lines
Curved lines are generally used to create a sense of flow within an image. They are also generally more aesthetically pleasing, as we associate them with soft things. Compared to straight lines, curves provide a greater dynamic influence in a picture.
In photography, curved lines can give gradated shadows when paired with soft-directional lighting, which usually results in a very harmonious line structure within the image.
Squares, trapezoids, ellipsis, and triangles are formed by lines and can appear as solid as an object like a cardboard box or as abstract as the placement of elements in the frame to create a shape. Three faces in a photo create a triangle, or a line, or an ellipse.
Final Note
Use due caution when using repetition. Too much of the same thing without significant variation can become dry and boring.


Repetitive solid shapes


Repetitive abstract shapes









Michael S Richter © 2000 - 2008 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED