Diagonal Lines in Photography: The best Guide

Diagonal Lines in Photography: The Ultimate Guide

a guide to diagonal lines in photography

What are diagonals in digital photography? And how can you use them to produce stunning compositions ?

In this article, I share everything you need to understand composing with diagonal lines, including:

  • What diagonals in photography actually are
  • Where to find diagonals when out capturing
  • Easy ways to improve your own diagonal pictures

Are you ready to capture diagonal photos just like a pro? Then let’s dive right in!

What are diagonal lines inside photography?

Diagonals refer to any slanted lines that appear in a photo, through tilted trees and street paint to partially elevated arms and bent flagpoles.

Right here, diagonal lines stretch throughout the entire image:

diagonal lines in photography shadows on a wall

In fact , diagonals are pretty easy to find; most moments include a strong diagonal or even two, plus you can convert any straight line into a diagonal simply by slanting your camera!

But what makes diagonals so great to get photography?

For one, diagonals act as leading lines : they lead the viewer’s eye with the scene . In other words, they help take the viewer on a visual journey (which can be quite much always a good thing). Look at the image featured over; do you feel the diagonals pulling you through the shot?

Diagonal lines also add a sense of dynamism , or action , to an picture, which is perfect for dramatic landscapes and intense street photos. When used carefully, diagonals can even give a composition depth by suggesting perspective.

So while you do not always need to incorporate diagonals into your compositions, it is often a good idea, especially if you are after more dynamic, participating results.

How to find diagonal lines when capturing

As I stressed above, diagonals are not especially difficult to find – you just have to know where to look!

Every scene includes a few diagonals just waiting to be discovered. Over time, you’ll get better at spotting them, nevertheless you’re just starting out with diagonal compositions, I’d recommend you look in a few specific locations.

First, should you be capturing landscape photos, look for lines that stretch from your foreground to the horizon, for example:

  • Dropped logs
  • Rivers
  • Blades of grass
  • Lines in the sand

Any of the above options work great as diagonals. Simply slap a wide-angle lens onto your camera, have down low over your own foreground subject, and adjust the shooting angle before you get a beautiful diagonal moving through the scene.

diagonal log leading toward a forest

Second, if you’re taking portrait photos, ask your subject to position their arms so they point – diagonally! – to their face. You should be subtle about it, and the influence should appear natural .

Third, when doing road photography, pick a clear subject, then look for lines in the surrounding environment that’ll business lead the eye in the right path. A wide-angle lens – such as a 28mm or 35mm option – can be helpful. You might then use:

  • Building edges
  • Street signs
  • Road paint
  • Curbs
  • A person gesturing

For the best results, you may get down low over a curb or line of road color so the diagonal cuts straight toward the main subject. On the other hand, you might capture your subject moving between a maze of structures full of interesting diagonals and diagonal edges (to amplify the effect, consider tilting your camera! ).

person biking past diagonal stairs

4 easy tips for beautiful utilization of diagonals

You know all about diagonal lines and how to find them – but how may you work with diagonals for the best results?

In this particular section, I share my personal favorite tips for diagonal compositions, starting with:

1 . Prevent positioning diagonals in the image corners

Whenever you’re just starting out with diagonals in photography, it can be seductive to find a strong diagonal – like a log on a seaside – and compose so the line cuts directly from underneath corner toward the horizon.

Yet while corner positioning will definitely give you powerful results, the particular resulting compositions often really feel a bit static ; they look as well obviously designed .

Thus instead of positioning diagonals in corners, I recommend you change your camera for a slightly off-corner effect. By relocating your camera downward, for example, you can ensure that the diagonal intersects with the vertical advantage of your shot, and by relocating your camera to the right or left, you can make sure that the diagonal intersects using a horizontal edge.

diagonal line cutting through trees aerial image

How far from corners should you keep your diagonals? Honestly, that’s your call, and there’s no simple answer. The best advice is to experiment – over time, you will start to determine the diagonal positioning that you like.

(Note, by the way, that you usually do have the option to adjust your diagonal positions in post-processing. A little cropping can go quite a distance! Though it’s always better to get it right in digital camera when you can. )

2 . Combine diagonals and straight lines to create destinations

If you’ve read up on the control of thirds , then you definitely know that, while solitary outlines are nice, it’s points of intersection that really pull the viewer’s eye.

In other words, the particular points at which two outlines intersect can be very powerful.

So the next time you are composing, find your diagonal – but then look for a second line, which the diagonal can intersect with to create a powerful area of interest.

snoc-covered bridge with a river running below

Note that your second collection doesn’t need to be a diagonal; you can get good results simply by merging a diagonal line as well as the horizon line, for instance.

But be careful: Whilst line intersections are great for having the viewer’s attention, you should not use them aimlessly. Instead, attempt to adjust your composition so the subject is at the point of intersection. That way, when the viewer follows the lines, they go straight toward the subject!

3. Don’t include too many diagonal ranges

Diagonals are good for a whole host of reasons, but it is achievable to have too many diagonals, where point your composition will begin to feel messy and difficult to understand.

An over-diagonaled image will be especially difficult if the diagonals are bridging from different directions (whereas a handful of diagonals all relocating the same general direction can create interesting patterns; see my next tip! ).

So if you do arrive upon a scene along with dozens of diagonals, carefully assess your composition before striking the shutter button. Ask yourself: Will the image feel cohesive? Or even do the diagonals make it chaotic?

If a picture does feature many diagonals, you can always adjust your composition to exclude some of the a lot more problematic areas. Try switching to a telephoto lens (zooming with your feet works, as well! ).

diagonal lines in a building facade

Alternatively, you can embrace the chaos. But if you do decide to go that route, make sure there are a few especially eye-catching diagonals – that is, diagonals that will stand out above the rest – to keep the image coherent. Make sense?

4. Look for styles

In the previous suggestion, I mentioned that a couple of diagonals, when moving with each other, can create eye-catching patterns .

And as you might expect, you can use these patterns to create highly compelling compositions (though you have to be careful to avoid compositional chaos, as discussed above).

Keep an eye out for repeating diagonal elements, and when a pattern becomes clear, carry out what you can to incorporate this into your images. One trick is to get extra near so you can make the pattern the topic of your photo. (That method, you can create a stunning subjective shot. )

railing on stairs diagonal lines in photography

Another choice is to move back and use a wide-angle lens to make the pattern a small – but powerful – part of the picture.

Note that diagonals in patterns tend to be stronger than diagonals on their own, thus make sure that you position patterned diagonals carefully in relation to the main subject matter. You want to make sure the diagonals lead the eye toward the subject rather than away from it!

Diagonal lines in photography: final words

Now that you’ve finished this informative article, you’re ready to capture some stunning photos featuring diagonal lines.

So remember the tips I’ve shared. And start practicing your diagonal compositions!

Now over to you:

What type of diagonals do you plan to incorporate into your photos? Share your thoughts within the comments below!

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