How Lines and Curves Can Help you Take Better Landscape Photos

By David Fleet

(Image Copyright: David Fleet)

This article will explore how to take better landscape photos by incorporating lines and curves in your shots. This is such an important element of composition to understand, as it can really help to bring images to life.

In this previous article of mine, I took you through some of the most simple tricks for radically improving your landscape images. Hopefully you've had a go with some of these and realized the massive impact they have.

But now it's time to take things up a level. We're going to start thinking about how to really make a photograph interesting for the viewer. You need to start taking pictures with an awareness of how they will look to viewers.

What makes a photograph interesting for you? Usually, a big part of this will be how an image takes you on a journey. We like our eye to be lead through an image, instead of constantly being drawn back to a single point. So how can you achieve that with your pictures...?


The use of 'lines' in landscape photography

Lines are so important for taking better landscape photos. They give the eye a starting point, and then a trajectory on which to move further into an image and explore its various parts.

Think about the beautiful photographs that you have got lost in. The ones where your eye is contantly led through the scene and discovers new things. That's what we're trying to create!

By working lines, or 'lead-in lines', into your photos, you can take the viewer on a journey and give their eye a clear path to move along in order to take in the scene.

These lines can take just about any form! There are lots of wonderful examples I'm sure you've seen, which employ anything from a jetty, cliff edge or pier, to train line, footpath or road. As long as it creates a visual line running through an image, it can be used!


Straight Lines

There are several ways you can use lines. Straight lines can run in various directions in photos, producing differing effects. One way I like to use them is as diagonals, beginning towards a corner of the image.

Diagonal lines help to lead the viewer all the way into the photo, taking in everything. They are also a great way to bring dynamism and energy to pictures. A diagonal line can link a whole scene together and really bring it to life!

(Image Copyright: David Fleet)

These 3 boats form a diagonal line trhough the image.

Another very effective use of straight lines is to have one starting at the bottom centre, and running vertically upwards through your photo. Think of those peaceful images looking straight out over a jetty on to silky smooth water.

Vertical lines force the viewer deeper into the image. They often bring depth, symmetry and a sense of calm. (You might like to check out this related article on 'balance' in photography)

Finally, horizontal lines are also a great device. All lines lead the viewer along them, so in the case of horizontal lines, that would usually be from left to right. The horizon in a landscape shot is a good example of a horizontal line that often spans the entire width of an image.


'S' Curves

It's not only straight lines that are an effective way to draw viewers into your shots. A favourite technique of mine, and one that is a little more subtle, involves the use of curves, particularly 'S-curves'.

What do I mean by that? Well, curves are simply non-straight lines that lead through a picture. They can take the form of roads, rivers, coastlines or any curve shapes that you see. Curves are actually far more commonly occuring in nature than straight lines, and can be used to create better landscape photos in the same way. Here are some tips related to using curves, on the 'golden spiral'.

How about those S-curves I mentioned? Well these are simply curves that snake through an image in a gentle 'S' shape. They do the same job as a normal curve, but lead the viewer through the image more slowly. allowing them to take in the entire scene.

This helps them to pick up more details and enjoy exploring the entire photograph, as their eye traces the line you have laid out for them.

(Image Copyright: David Fleet)

The shape of the coastline here leads the viewer's eye on a winding course through the photo.

Now that you know about curves and S-curves, you're going to be really mindful of them next time you go out shooting landscapes. You will find yourself constantly spotting them in the natural world, from the shapes of rolling hills, to coasts, to meandering rivers.



Creating depth, balance, interest and energy with lines and curves is something that will have a massive impact on your landscape photography.

Once you realize how important it is to guide the viewer through your image, and how effective lines and curves are for achieving this, you'll be taking better landscape photos immediately!

More landscape photography tips...

The Photography Crash Course: 17 Short Lessons To Camera Mastery

Where Next?

Famous Landscape Photographers

The Ultimate Digital Photography Course

Photography Website Templates

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