Composition: Horizontal and vertical Lines

Image of the Sydney skyline captured with the A7II and FE90M28 G

Horizontal lines are easily read as we scan images from left to right comfortably. The horizon line is often the most dominant line within the photographic image. Horizontal lines within the image give the viewer a feeling of calm, stability and weight. The photographer must usually be careful to align a strong horizontal line with the edge of the frame. A sloping horizon line is usually immediately detectable by the viewer and the feeling of stability is lost.

Vertical lines can express strength and power. This attribute is again dependent on careful alignment with the edge of the frame. This strength is lost when the camera is tilted to accommodate information above or below eye level. The action of perspective causes parallel vertical lines to lean inwards as they recede into the distance. Images can, however, be ‘keystoned’ (verticals made vertical) by using either a tilt-shift lens or in post production, e.g. the Lens Corrections panel in Adobe Lightroom.

When we are shooting with wide-angle lenses, and the camera is tilted up or down, verticals that would normally align themselves to the edge of the frame will start to ‘converge’. In some instances if you want to restore the stability and strength of the structures within the design you may want to correct these converging verticals in post-processing. Go to the transform panel in the develop module of Lightroom. It is also possible to correct the converging verticals in camera by using a tilt-shift lens.
In this version of the image above the converging verticals have been aligned to the edges of the frame, thereby restoring the sense of tranquility within the image. In some instances it is NOT possible to correct the converging verticals entirely without creating the optical illusion that the structures are distorted. In these instances it is typical to correct the converging verticals to 90% only.


One of the creative tasks during my one-on-one training sessions and workshops is how to integrate good design in your landscapes and portrait images.