Since most of us are stuck inside our homes or yards, I decided to rerun a series I did several years ago, called Cee’s Compose Yourself Lesson (CCYL). This is not a challenge, but I suggest you play with new ideas or ways of looking at taking photos. Hopefully this will fill your day with a little excitement and joy. Please feel free to play along and join in the fun.
When we look at a photo, our eyes start at the left and scan to the right, usually following the horizon. If the eye encounters a vertical line, it stops to assess the scene. Vertical lines force the eye upward or downward, giving height to the picture. (Note: If your viewer has a native language where the script runs right to left, your viewer’s eye has been trained to scan in that direction, but the same principles of horizontal and vertical lines still apply.)
You can also use a vertical line to split your picture in two, or to separate two objects, or to highlight contrast like sunny and shadow.
Vertical vs horizontal lines: if your photo has a landscape orientation, look for a horizontal line of focus. Landscapes with a vertical line create less of a feeling of power and height but can still draw the viewer’s eye. If you are doing a portrait orientation, use vertical lines to make the picture look taller, bigger.
As with horizontal lines, try to keep your vertical lines as straight as possible. If in question, the horizon is normally the line to keep straight.
A vertical line doesn’t necessarily have to be a structure like a flagpole or a building. It just has to be something that creates the illusion of a vertical line, like a furrow in a field or a line of trees in an orchard.
Here I’ve cropped a photo, trying to use the woman photographer as my vertical line. It sounded like a good idea, but it didn’t work. The black of her hair and her pants faded into the imagined frame of the photograph and you mentally subtract them from the shot. Her red top blends into the colors of the tulip. I’ve lost my vertical line.
In the next shot, I’ve cropped out a lot of the subject matter to make her the focal point, but the picture doesn’t make sense. It looks like she’s taking a picture of the people in front of the hazelnut grove.
I cropped again, just leaving her in the picture. Boring! Why would anyone take a picture of someone’s back?
It’s time to go back to the basics, the original shot, taken at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. Mt. Hood is in the background. Now you can see the entire picture, and the scene makes sense. She’s taking a picture of her friend, the flowers, and the mountain in the background.
Let’s go back to the first shot you saw, where the clothes didn’t work to create a strong vertical line. What if we darken her bag to create a stronger vertical line? Better because the black pants, dark purse and dark hair is starting to create your vertical line.
Can we crop it now to create a stronger vertical line and still tell the story?
We’re getting there, but now we see those annoying women standing in the rear of the frame. What happens when we take them out? Now we have a strong vertical line on the left, our horizontal lines of flowers and trees, a diagonal line at the bottom of the frame (her shadow) leading us to an implied vertical line (her friend with the mountain behind her).
For the second part for vertical lines, here is a photo of our backyard I took at the standing in the same place. One is landscape and the other is portrait.
I like the portrait better, because it really makes the grassy area look longer than thinner like a wide walkway. It also shows the lines of our patio and cropped out the table in portrait. It also made it look a little brighter because it doesn’t have as much as the house and shadow under the eaves. The landscape makes the yard look shorter and slightly wider.
Here are other examples of vertical lines.
- CCYL 1: How Your Camera is Not Like Your Eye
- CCYL 2: What all well-composed photos have in common
- CCYL 3: Always Take More than One Photo
- CCYL 4: Simplicity
- CCYL 5: Leading Lines
- CCYL 6: Horizontal Lines
I’ve gathered a list of challenges and their hosts. So if you know a challenge host, please direct them to my blog. Feel free to contact me anytime. I hope everyone will be able to use my lists.
Qi (energy) hugs