The easiest way to make more dynamic, better compositions: integrate more diagonals into your photos.
Why diagonal lines?
Imagine putting a ball on a horizontal surface. It will not roll.
If you put a ball on a diagonal surface it will roll down.
Diagonal lines are more dynamic than horizontal and vertical lines. Diagonal lines give you a sense of movement, of potential energy, and a sense of uncertainty.
Here are some tips on making stronger diagonal compositions:
1. Dutch Angle: Tilt your camera
Many film directors have tilted their cameras on purpose, to add more drama to their images (they call it ‘dutch angle‘).
Try to connect lines, or diagonal lines, at the edges of your frame.
Tilt your photos purposefully — to add more dynamism, and drama to your images.
2. Look for leading lines
In the background, look for a leading line, in the form of a diagonal.
Wait for your subject to enter the frame. They call this the ‘fishing’ technique. You find a good background, and wait to catch your fish.
3. Practice on trees
Easiest way to practice diagonal lines: photograph trees. Get a tree to come out from the corner of your frame. And force the diagonal.
Also you can photograph arms, skyscrapers, or any other line you see on the ground.
4. Diagonal hand gestures
Try to capture diagonal hand-gestures. You can either wait for your subject to do a hand gesture; then make a photo, or you can just ask your subject to raise their arm, and try to photograph their arm as a diagonal.
5. Look for triangles
The root of a triangle is from diagonal lines.
So to make better diagonal compositions; photograph more triangles.
Look for diagonal lines in nature, tilt your camera to create a diagonal, and keep looking for it. The more you look; the more diagonals you will find.
To take your diagonals to the next level, learn about the Golden Rectangle Composition.
Take your composition to the next level:
- Center Eye
- Dutch Angle
- Deep Depth
- Leading Lines
- Figure to Ground
- Fibonacci Spiral
- Composition by Eric Kim
Street Photography Composition 101
For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”
Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- Composition Lesson #4: Leading Lines
- Composition Lesson #5: Depth
- Composition Lesson #6: Framing
- Composition Lesson #7: Perspective
- Composition Lesson #8: Curves
- Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits
- Composition Lesson #10: Urban Landscapes
- Composition Lesson #11: “Spot the not”
- Composition Lesson #12: Color Theory
- Composition Lesson #13: Multiple-Subjects
- Composition Lesson #14: Square Format
Learn compositional theory:
- Why is Composition Important?
- Don’t Think About Composition When You’re Shooting Street Photography
- How to Use Negative Space
- Street Photography Composition 101
- The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
Compositional lessons from the masters of art