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CCYL 7: Vertical Lines

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.

Vertical Lines 

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.

Vertical lines in landscape composition.

Vertical lines in portrait composition.

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.

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


18 replies »

  1. Great lessons thank you! Really enjoyed this post. However I’d have to disagree about your yard shot, with all due respect of course! 🙂 I like the landscape version better. It feels more artistic to me, bringing it together as a scene, almost like a showcase. Oddly enough I also think the landscape is brighter, to my eye. Plus I didn’t notice the table as much. In fact I paid it no mind till I read your comment. Lol. I wonder how much of this is influenced by my having no affiliation with the place? Hm…

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love how we can all have our opinions. I did almost ask “which version do you like best?” When I initially wrote the post (2015) I liked the portrait better, because it shows the vertical better and that is still true in my mind, it does make my yard look even skinnier and longer. However for the sheer beauty of the photo, I like the landscape better. You described it nicely.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous! This can be my learning platform while not taking that Autumn trip. It’ll still be a holiday, right?


    • It really does look different. It also helped that I took at 18mm which made it work more as an wide angle lens. Aww so many tricks of the trade. 😀


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