Photo Tip Friday: 3 Tips for Using Strong Lines in Your Photography

by Mary Denman     @MaryDenman

Do you ever wonder what makes a compelling photograph? One way to catch attention is with strong lines. Used well, they make a picture stand out.

If you look around, you can probably find them right where you are. 

Let's look at some examples.

PHOTO 1: Stairs and snow by Mary Denman Photography
PHOTO 1: As I was climbing these stairs, in the snow, the stairs themselves caught my eye. Why? Because of the symmetry, strong lines, color, and roughness of the stones in contrast to the snow. Not only is the falling snow soft and round, but the collecting snow is uneven. This helps create contrast between the two objects. 

The color of the stones is actually a fairly warm brown, again, in contrast to the cold, white snow. 

In photo 1, the predominant lines run horizontally. 

PHOTO 2: Burning candles in a church by Mary Denman Photography
Photo 2: The warm color of both the flames and candles stand out in relief to the black of the background in this photograph. The light of the flames is stark and bright. The candles themselves, though, seem to float and the bottoms of the candles just fade away into the blackness. 

The numerous candles form very strong lines. Note that there is a fairly even area of black across the top and two sides of the photo. This helps showcase the strong vertical lines created in this image.

Which brings us to. . . 

TIP 1: Look for strong lines with high contrast to create interesting photographs. 

 Let's move on to our next picture.

PHOTO 3: Grate in the snow by Mary Denman Photography

PHOTO 3: Looking down can provide you with some pretty interesting shots. This is a water drainage grate. Normally, it would just fit in with the dark cobblestones. But the white snow clinging to the grate made it stand out. 

I took the picture on the diagonal instead of straight on for a different effect

TIP 2: Fill the frame completely with strong lines. Notice that in Photos 1 & 3, all you see are the geometric shapes: either the lines of the stairs or the diamonds of the grate. Try moving in close and fill your frame with the lines. 

On to the last picture.

PHOTO 4: Chairs in a church in Belfort, France by Mary Denman
PHOTO 4: I was struck by the beauty of the church in Belfort. The quietness. The peacefulness. The reverence. As we walked around, the warm browns and lines of the chairs caught my attention. But I also love the fact that they weren't lined up exactly. People use them. They shift as worshippers rise and sit. 

So I framed the picture the overall lines of the chairs, but notice that at the top of the photo, I also captured a little of the columns and lights at the back of the sanctuary to give perspective.  

So even though the chairs are uniform, the people who fill them aren't. They're old and young. They have different life experiences. But to God, each one is important. This picture makes me think of God's love. 

TIP 3: Look for a story when looking for strong lines. As you can see in Photo 4, there's a story with the photo. Yes, it's about lines and repetition but also about the people who populate the seats. The context of the church setting in the picture helps convey the story. 

For Bloggers: Carry your camera or phone with you everywhere. Inspiration may be right in front of you or right under your feet. Take pictures throughout the day. Experiment. Being a writer is a creative pursuit. But so is being a photographer or an artist. They all feed off of each other. Practicing your photography or art can help keep your blogging fresh! 

For cell phone users: If you have it with you at all times, you don't have an excuse for not taking pics with it. And, you have the potential to zoom very easily and fame your picture with the swipe of a finger. A cell phone camera could have taken any of these shots with good success. The candles may have been challenging, but if you focused on the brightest part, the flames, you could achieve a similar shot! Pull that phone out and practice! 

Hope these tips help!

Keep on clicking!


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  1. Your pics are striking. My favorite is the chairs in the church. I love the way you are able to connect the picture to the people who sit in them week after week. I'm still working on my picture-to-life application skills. :)

    1. Thanks Sherry. :) Just keep taking shots and I bet you'll start seeing more applications! Sometimes they hit well after I've taken the shots.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love that you use ordinary things (the grate and the steps) and showcase them so well. I also noticed in the picture of the church seats that they look like there's a curved line across each row. Not sure what it's a shadow of, but it caught my eye.

    1. There is so much interesting stuff around us. The curved line that you see is actually in each each because they're made of two pieces of work instead of just one. I have no idea why. But that's what you're seeing. :)

      Have a great day Ellen!

  3. really interesting handy tips - thanks for sharing. Saying bonjour via #FriendshipFriday :)

  4. I love experimenting with strong lines when taking a photo. Love the ones of the stairs and snow. Very effective!

  5. I'm loving this! Great photos. Pinned and tweeted. I hope to see you tonight at 7 at our party. I can't wait! Lou Lou Girls