Light is #1 for us, but a close second is lines. Lines are what give your photo structure and lead your eye around an image. 


Let's learn about horizon lines! First off, what not to do....

Feeling a bit woozy? We are! Nothing makes us not love a photo faster than a wonky horizon line! Film makers actually use wonky horizon lines in horror movies to make the viewer feel uncomfortable and nervous, there is even a fancy term for it - Dutch Angles. So now we know not to use Dutch Angles, lets talk about what is awesome about a nice straight horizon line…

Having a straight horizon line lets you know that everything is right in the world. The viewer feels all comfy and balanced, and they will hang out looking at your photo a lot longer. Even a slightly off horizon line can make the photo feel a little bit off kilter. 

Once you know to look out for your horizon lines being straight it becomes second nature, and with the grid turned on on your phone it becomes easy to do. Even so, it’s a bit tricky to get things exactly straight every time, the first thing we do when we are editing a photo is straighten the horizon, sometimes it’s as little as 0.2° (we will show you how to do this in the Afterlight Editing Lesson)

As well as keeping your horizon lines nice and straight, when you are shooting straight on to a scene, make sure you really are dead in front of what you are shooting. This means that all the lines will be as straight as they can be, and your angles will be as square as possible. Even a step or two in either direction can throw things off. A good example of how ace being straight on is in the photo above. Kate saw that amazing tree coming up when she was driving down the road, and pulled the car over to where she thought was right in front of the tree, but actually she was 50 metres short. So she walked forward that 50 metres until the horizontal and vertical line were both nice and straight and there was a 90° angle between them. This made the photo calmer and more peaceful than if she had just made do with being slightly off in the first spot she stopped… Ahhhh.

The above photo is another example of a photo that wouldn’t have worked at all if Peta hadn’t been straight on to the scene. The photo is all about those straight lines in the shelves, even a step or two in each direction would have meant some of those lines would have been slightly wonky. Notice that the line where the table meets the wall is all nice and straight too.

The Friendly Grocer photo is a good example of what a difference even a slightly wonky horizon line would have made to the scene. How much more calming and lovely is it having everything nice and straight?

Homework Time

Photograph some nice straight horizontal lines. Also keep in mind what you have learnt in the previous metering sessions, don't throw that knowledge out with the excitement of straight lines! 

Leading lines are the lines that lead your eye into the photo and keep it from wandering out of the frame, they are an awesome little tool to make people stick around. So keep your eyes open for them!

In the scene above, Kate noticed that awesome little pool of water leading up to her family on the rocks, so she composed the photo so that the line went from the outside of the frame in towards her little crew. There are also lots of other lines leading in from the outside of the scene to keep your eye from leaving it, the second biggest line is the one that goes from the right side in. So many lines drawing you in - you may never be able to leave! Notice the horizon line is nice and straight too. Ahhhh.

Above is another really obvious leading lines example. There are so many lines leading in towards that cute little vacuuming rollerblader! The main ones are the four where the walls meet the ceiling and the floor, but there are also more subtle ones in the pattern in the wallpaper and the lights and the vacuum cleaner. 

This is a great example of using leading lines to direct the eye around an otherwise static scene. That fallen log leads your eye right in towards that stand of trees on the left, and the knobbly pathway leads your eye in to the second bunch of trees on the right. Both leading lines keep you from leaving the scene. Notice that while there isn't a horizon line to be seen, all the trees are nice and straight, so even though you can't actually see a horizon line in the photo, you know that somewhere out there there is a straight horizon and all is ok in the world! 

Homework Time!

Have a look around and see if you can find some leading lines to photograph. They're hiding everywhere!

Sometimes we don't have a horizon line to keep everything grounded, so we have to pick a straight line to balance a photo. We call this an Anchor Line, because it's what keeps the photo still, upright and from going wonky. There are two main times you will use Anchor lines in a photo...

The first situation is when you are shooting a scene at an angle other than front on, i.e. from one corner of a room to another, like in the photo above. When we are shooting a scene like this, we think of the Anchor Line as a tent pole - the one straight vertical line that all the other lines can hang off. Usually we pick the biggest straight vertical line in these situations. It could be the line of the corner of a room like it is above, or it could be something like a vertical beam or fence post.

The second situation we use Anchor lines is when we ARE shooting straight on, but the lines in the scene are all wonky and impossible to have lined up parallel to one another. This often happens when shooting old buildings and naturey stuff. In this situation we picture a set of old fashioned scales, and tip the scene back and forth a little bit on our camera until we feel like things seem as balanced as they can get. Often it's a matter of picking one line in the scene, and having the other lines fall off in other directions. In this old Spanish building there were no totally straight lines and the street was on a slope, but Kate felt that having the vertical lines in the windows straight gave the most sense of balance. It doesn't have to be a vertical that you go with, sometimes it may be a horizontal line that gives the scene that sense of balance you are looking for.

Homework Time!

Get out your tent poles or your scales! (Not literally!) Time to use an anchor line in a photo!