How can hidden lines help your pictures?

Geometetry in your pictures works to help you see patterns. It draws the eye into the picture.

Geometetry in your pictures helps you see patterns. It draws the eye into the shot.

Look for patterns and geometry in your shots… capture the eye

The human brain is an extraordinary filter. We see things in the world around us that capture our attention all the time. Often it is a pattern that fires our imagination. We may not even be aware of it. We are programmed to see patterns in the world, and we are very good at finding them.

When composing, look for lines to associate.

When composing, look for lines to associate. If you can get lines to hold a pattern with strong geometry your composition will have a more compelling impact.

The geometry in a picture is not always obvious. First of all look to join up points of interest. Lines can be made by the eyebrows, the eyes themselves, the mouth, the nose, the connection with other aspects of the picture… in fact a lot of things. So what you are looking for to create strong lines is anything that has a prominent part of the picture. In the portrait here, we are looking at lines with the eyes/eyebrows. The eyes are always strong. The mouth is a strong feature too. So if you can line up these things with other prominent features of the picture you are revealing the strong points. That’s right, its simple. Lines are strong in a picture because they catch the eye. I have identified the eyes and mouth, the sides of the head and the lines from the hand to the mid-point of the eyes as strong aspects of the picture. There is no mystery here. You need to look for prominent points and edges. The way they create implied lines, join up or connect is what creates a pattern.

The use of geometry is a very old technique in composition of paintings. It can also enhance our photographs.

In the second picture (above) I show how the portrait has been dissected by lines that pull out the geometry. Of course in a photograph we don’t have the luxury of perfect alignment. Painters can map out thier work ahead of the actual painting. Photographers have to look at the subject-scene and do their best to analyze how it holds together, or work the scene to achieve a well proportioned pattern.

In the case of the portrait I have shown three sets of lines. First it is unusual to get a dynamic relationship out of a centre line. However, in this picture the mid-line of the face, the knuckles and tie all line up. So to emphasize it I have featured this in a central position.

Of course a more dynamic relationship comes out in pictures with strong diagonals. Faces on the diagonal are quite powerful. Our eye is trained to know faces very well after years of social interaction. So when they are not in an upright position our eye has to work harder to resolve them. This is good. The eye lingers and goes around the face. It takes into account the different aspects of the face and the way it is inclined within the frame.

Not only have we got a face on the diagonal but we have a close relationship to the rule of thirds. In this portrait it is not a perfect correspondence. However, the proportions are reasonable and there is a pattern.

There is nothing perfect about applying geometry to photographs. The photographer usually has to guesstimate the lines, thier association and the way they may work to give impact to the picture. However, it is up to you to find ways to do that.

Geometry in mathematics is all about perfection and calculation. In photography it is about finding ways to pull out pattern and emphasize the strengths in the picture. Our eyes look for patterns and when we find well proportioned geometric relationships we are pleased and intrigued. It is another way to bring more impact to our pictures.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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