How to use lines to break away from mediocrity in urban or architectural photography

If you are still struggling to break away from mediocrity in your city or architectural photography, underestimating the role of lines in the picture may be one of the main reasons why you can’t make eye-catching works. Lines can help us build the logic of the picture, guide the audience’s eyes to shuttle through different parts of the picture, and even create more fun for the subject and background.

The above photo shows how to use lines to create visual guidance in urban and architectural photography. With the help of these linear elements, we will find the highlights in the whole picture more easily and further shorten the distance from the scene.

In order to help understand how lines play a role in seemingly complex images, we converted the photos into high-contrast black and white tones, and then marked the guiding lines in the photos with red and blue.

Why lines are so important for urban photography

Generally, we like to use the depth of field to blur the background part, so that the viewer can focus on the most important part of the picture, and at the same time add atmosphere to the picture. However, urban photographers rarely use this shooting method. In urban and architectural photography, we hope that all elements in the picture can be clearly visible. When we shoot a city scene, we need to use a variety of techniques that can enhance the stereoscopic sense of the picture to build the image. One of the more effective ways is to use lines to divide the picture into several parts and separate the main elements from each other. In this way, even if there is no distinction between the real and the virtual, the viewer can also understand the internal logic we want to convey through the photos.

The above picture was shot randomly without any composition. The whole picture is roughly composed of three main parts: the gray stone floor at the bottom of the picture, the Irish National Museum in the middle and the sky above. This photo looks as ordinary as the “Here’s a Tour” of ordinary tourists. It is difficult to attract others’ attention.

However, the magic is that just by simply adjusting the composition and introducing some lines into the picture, the vertical depth of the whole picture will be immediately on the paper, and this symmetrical composition also adds more impact to the picture, thus completely getting rid of the dull and boring abyss.

Which lines help to add impact to the picture?

We can roughly divide these lines into three categories:Split line, guide line and symmetry line。

The main function of the split line is to divide the picture into several parts. It can be horizontal line, vertical line, or diagonal line. The introduction of such lines in the picture can not only help clarify the position relationship between objects in the picture, but also present the effect of far and near. In many outdoor photography, horizontal line is the most commonly used dividing line.

As an example, the most obvious thing is that I use a horizontal line to divide the picture into two parts, the ground and the wall. After that, I use a less obvious vertical line on the wall to divide the wall into two parts, the left and the right. Without this line, the right part of the picture would be too empty and boring. The application of the dividing line should follow the rule of thirds. Whether it is a horizontal line or a vertical line, the dividing line should not be placed in the middle of the picture, but should not be too close to the edge of the picture. Generally, the best effect is to divide the picture at the ratio of 2:3 or 1:3.

After the split line, the guide line is also an important tool that can give the picture a stronger sense of space. They can lead people’s eyes into the picture and explore every corner of the picture. The guide line usually extends from the near corner of the picture to the far part of the picture. Of course, there are many forms of guide lines. By using and combining multiple guide lines, the spatial logic in the picture can be more clearly displayed. Remember, the guide line is not necessarily a straight line. We can also use curves and so on as the guide line.

The traffic trunk road in the above picture is obviously used as a guide line. When we see this picture, our eyes will fall on the trunk road unconsciously, and then look at the far city skyline under its guidance.

The third line that is often used to enhance the impact of the picture is the symmetry line. When we search for interesting shooting subjects in the city, don’t forget to try to find the symmetry line in the building. Thankfully, we can easily find these symmetry lines in most buildings.

Like the building above, “symmetry” can be said to be its most obvious feature. Although sometimes buildings are not absolutely symmetrical due to different internal decoration or furnishings, if the building itself is viewed as a whole, it can show a strong sense of symmetry. Proper use of symmetrical lines and symmetrical composition can help us shoot interesting works.

Focus on lines

In life, even if a person is not a so-called beautiful man, if he or she is in good shape, these people will still be favored by many people. In the same way, if we choose RAW format when shooting, we can easily highlight the line sense of the scene in the later stage, and let people focus more on the line. The advantage of using RAW here is that it can record all information in the scene to the maximum extent, including color information. Therefore, after we enter the post-processing stage, we can have more adjustment space, such as processing the photos into black and white tones. However, if you plan to highlight this line feeling at the beginning, previewing the scene in black and white mode can help you eliminate the interference caused by color.

Here we can go further. Most of the camera’s in-camera processing and setting functions are very practical. You can increase the contrast and sharpness of the image by changing the fuselage settings in the early stage, and then find your own satisfactory effect by constantly shooting and previewing.

Other ways to use lines

The Palace of Westminster and the Tower of Elizabeth, located in London, England, may be one of the most photographed buildings in the world, but it is becoming more and more difficult to photograph this rotten subject with new ideas. Fortunately, there are not many people trying to shoot it. The light track in the picture plays the role of dividing line, and also acts as the guide line, and the involvement of the light track also adds some fun to the foreground part.

When we need to take pictures of some tall buildings such as the Elizabeth Tower, the lines of the building itself can serve as a guide line, which can guide people’s view from the bottom of the building to the top. In addition, in order to make the background part of the picture less monotonous and introduce more dynamic elements to it, the above image uses a long time exposure to shoot, further adding lines to the sky.

Don’t be limited by straight lines. Of course, the horizon will never bend. Other lines, especially the guide line, are much more diverse. In the above picture, the track of the tram is not a straight line but a beautiful curve, but it also plays a role in guiding people’s vision from near to far to the center of the picture.

No matter how complex the scene is, it can be clearly combed by lines

Once you can actively and flexibly use various lines in your picture, you can cope with no matter how complex the scene is.

For example, for beginners, the lines in the scene may not be very obvious, but we can select the street as the main guide line in the picture with a little observation.

However, after further consideration, we can also notice the existence of the split line. The subway track in the picture divides the whole picture into upper and lower parts. Finally, the railway bridge and bridge hole plays a very good role in the picture frame, which highlights the figure who is walking through the bridge hole to the close of the picture, and also makes the difference in size between different objects in the picture.