Geometric shapes and diagonals in photography

One of the main problems photography newcomers have, is that they spend a lot of time thinking about the scenery. They think about photographing landscapes and mountains, of shooting portraits and of photographing clouds. But to improve the photography skills you need to break away from this and learn to watch all these things abstractly. At the end you will reduce all of the components into its fundamental components and there are actually only two of them: the geographical forms and tones. So let’s take a closer look on these components of photography composition and let’s start with the diagonals.

Diagonals in photography

Our eyes like to follow lines, diagonals and geometric shapes on two dimensional compositions. You can use this particularity to create tension and dynamic in your photos. Sometimes you can also support the rule of thirds through this. Besides that, diagonals strengthen the depth effect of landscape photos. In our western cultural circle, we are used to read from the left to the right. For that reason we follow the diagonals unconscious from the left to the right too.

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    Can you see the diagonal line? It starts at the small bowl on the left passing by trough the other bowls to the upper right corner of the picture.

Geometric shapes

Geometric shapes are clear and are attracting our attention. That is why geometric shapes achieve in two dimensional photos a strong impression. Geometric patterns already have been used in the past by famous painters. Apparently they knew about the psychological impact of those.

Not only that: the geometric shapes add structure and can help the viewer to keep his eyes within the frame of the image. Actually, every shape has its own expression. For example, our mind perceives such shapes like a rectangle or a square as conformity. Circles are suggesting completeness. Triangles, on the other hand, represent tension, while the lines show some movement and indicate direction in the photo.

Thus, the goal is to engage the viewer and to attract attention. You will know if you made a good photo by using geometric patterns when the viewer would say it is a succeeded picture, without the ability to explain why it is a good one. But you will know. Thus, seeing photographically also means to sensitize the eye for geometric shapes. When you look at a motif that is interesting for you, try to find some lines, diagonals, etc. in it, so you can place it effectively in your composition.

Two forms of geometry

There are two basic forms of geometry: the true one and the perceived one. What does it mean? A true form would be a round window or a rectangular door of a house. In other words, everything that shows you a real and detectable geometric pattern.

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A perceived form could be, for example, three objects in an image, that would form a triangle when connected by an imaginary line. Or it could just be a round subject like sunglasses or an alarm clock.

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    Speaking abstractly, in this picture here we don't have sunglasses but two circles.

Please regard this article as an introduction into the exiting world of photography. To learn photography seriously and to improve you skills you should read some books  about photography basics like “BetterPhoto Basics”* from Jim Miotke. And if not done yet, check my other articles about photography for beginners.


*Affiliate link: If you click on the link, no costs will arise for you. If you decide to make a purchase, I will receive a small benefit from the supplier which I would reinvest, to keep this blog alive.

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