Visual Design – Shapes (part 1)

Summary – Light creates tone & color, the basic building blocks of visual design. Tones & color, in turn, give rise to visual design’s primary elements – lines, shapes, textures & perspective. Previous posts in this series looked at lines. Now – on to shapes. This is part 1 of 3 – a short introduction.

Click for previous posts in this series….


Lines & shapes are arguably

Visual design’s most important elements

At least in the sense of being the most used

Shapes are common to almost every image

It’s the photographer’s job to recognize them

And – to use them effectively.



Shapes are produced by tones & colors created by light

The primary shapes – Circles, Equilateral Triangles, & Squares

Don’t exist often in outdoor photography

More likely in things like product imagery

However, ovals and polygons

The so-called secondary shapes, are everywhere

Most shapes encountered in photography are

Secondary shapes or

Composites/distortions of the primary & secondary


Shapes are purely two-dimensional

They change with the light

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at any moment. (Claude Monet)

and also – Our position & choice of lens, for example

 10-24-2013 7-54-01 AM

In addition to one object with multiple possible shapes

The above illustrates an important point –

You must forget about the names (skyscraper) of objects

And think of them as SHAPES

The objects don’t change, but their shapes can

Don’t think “There’s a tree”, but

“There’s a circle/oval/triangle….”

….try to forget what object you have before you – a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow…. (Claude Monet)


To the degree that a single object offers multiple shapes

It’s up to the photographer to recognize the possibilities

And choose the shape that best tells

Her intended story

Almost no objects have a single shape

Regardless of position & perspective

Only a sphere comes to mind

From one perspective cylinders & balls

All look like circles

If it’s important to the “story”

Whether it’s a ball, a bottle or a barrel

You need more than just the circle perspective

Make your shapes fit your story


Coming up in part two

More details & explanations


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