Visual Design – Placing Lines Where Wanted

Summary – The location and direction of lines is often within your control. For lines to help tell your story, you must know how to place them within the image space to your advantage.

Knowing where to place lines in an image is important

It’s an “artistic” decision

Knowing HOW to place a line where you want it

Is another matter entirely


Roll mouse over image

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Sunrise Simplicity

Keeping things simple; letting nature speak for itself

Three lines & two rectangles

The sky above the frame was featureless & dark

Didn’t add anything, so place the horizon line high

I like a foreground element

Even better if it provides a line to start us though the image


Placing lines

Often (not always) you can place lines

Where you want them in the frame (the design space)

For example, I often want an oblique line to lead the eye

Better – one starting near a foreground element to

Initially capture the eye & start it on its journey

I always assumed that positioning ones-self correctly to

Position a line was straight forward, but

Experience while teaching showed me otherwise


Placing yourself  in order to place an oblique line

Line placement is easy; it involves two simple steps

1. On which side do you want the line to begin?

A –  To start from right

You must be to the left of the “line”

How far left? Try it and see.

The closer you remain to the line,

The closer to vertical the oblique line will be

2. Where does the line’s lower end begin in the frame?

A – It depends 100% on where you point the camera

The further you point toward the line

The higher in the frame the line will begin

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To achieve the result in the example image

I was well off the path to the left and

The camera was pointed well to the right of the subject house

How far off the line & how much away from the subject?

Depends entirely on you, the subject & your story

This all may seem obvious (it did to me until shown otherwise), but

You need to practice in order to learn line placement

Stop reading, grab your camera & try it

You don’t even need to go outside 😉

Good news!!!

Look through the viewfinder and the answers to

How far? How much?

Are there in plain sight

Adjusting is simply a matter of

Moving the body holding the camera 😉


Horizon lines (& other “rectangular dividers”)

Horizontal lines that extend across the frame

Are often taken for granted

They divide the image space into rectangles

An extremely, often neglected question is

How much space to devote to each rectangle?

The right answer is NOT – use the rule-of-thirds

It depends on what your story is about and

where the story resides


Are you getting the feeling that you should have

Studied geometry a bit harder in school?

Henri Cartier-Bresson apparently thought so when he said –

In order to give meaning to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.

Think about that quote. It says a lot about visual design.


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