TAOP: Project & Exercise: Using lines in composition

This project has one exercise within it which I’ll post here with learnings too.  Having looked a the different types of lines, the aim of this project is to develop consideration of using lines to organise or strengthen a composition.

Important points:

  • the eye follows a line.
  • the eye will ‘construct’ lines from appropriate suggestions as a clear line provides a natural path for the eye to move along.

We will also image lines – closing gaps – with the eye and brain resolving incomplete things using a few suggestions or clues to image a line.  The project lists the most common clues:

  • a row of points (that is objects).
  • the extension of a line, or lines, that seem to point in a  certain direction.  The eye moves ahead.
  • the extension of visible movement, such as a car being driven or a person walking.  Again, the eyes move ahead.
  • the direction in which someone in the picture is looking.  The viewers eye tends to go to the same place, known as an eye-line.

These are known as implied lines and can be used to subtly direct the viewers’ attention.  One use of design in photography is to organise a picture in such a way that another viewer will be encouraged to look at it in the way you want.

Implied lines are partly hidden, so they ‘nudge’ the viewer to the point(s) of attention.  Clues should be provided rather than getting carried away with controlling specifics of how an image is viewed.

The project states the workings of both real and implied lines are very specific.  They depend on the individual circumstances of a picture, and are not easy to generalise.

Exercise: Implied Lines

The exercise starts by providing two example photographs and asking me to find the implied lines, sketching them on a small direction.

Provided example analysis


There are a few implied lines here – from the direction the matador’s head is facing, to the movement by the cloth and the straight lines of the cloth too.

Corn Threshing

Here there is a relationship between the lines – pointing back-and-forth across the image.  The eye-line of the horses and their handler are the main implied lines, but the arms of the handler also provide an additional pointer back toward the horses.

My own examples analysis

The exercise goes on to ask me to find three of my own photographs to perform the same analysis on.  I’ve done this here, providing the original and then a black-and-white version showing the implied lines.

I’m no superman

Here the eye-line point toward the mirror.  It could be argued there’s another line pointing back again, given it’s a reflection.

No photo!

Once more it’s basically an eye-line implied line, though just in one direction here.

Yorkshireman in Rome

Once more, this is an eye-line implied line.

Planned photos with implied lines

The final part of the exercise and project is to plan and take two photographs that use the following kinds of implied lines to lead the eye:

  • an eye-line.
  • the extension of a line, or lines that point.

(ISO100, 1/200sec exposure, f/4.0 aperture – shot on manual with flash fired)

As with the examples, this is an eye-line implied line and is fairly obvious and distinct.

Extension of lines
(ISO100, 4sec exposure, f/8 – shot on manual, tripod mounted as the image was static and I wanted to use available light) 

This is a more complicated effort.  I’ve arranged the knife, butter lid and butter tub to create implied lines toward the bread.  The edges of the chopping board also unintentionally create lines too – but two of those help with the intended direction as the plate and bread is located on the corner of the board.

Additional points on lines in composition

The project concludes to show how lines can be used to perform a very different function – animating a picture; particularly with the use of diagonal or curved lines.  If a line in a  picture encourages the attention to move out of frame, they eye then moves back to see more.  The to-and-fro effect creates tension and activity

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