The Use of Horizontal Lines in Photography

In Rules of Composition by PixinfocusLeave a Comment

Horizontal lines can be used as compositional elements in your photography let’s see how.

You can also read: Portrait vs Landscape

Horizontal Lines Photography: What is a Horizontal Line?

Just as the name suggests, a horizontal line is one that runs from the left side of the frame all the way to the right. Horizontal lines photography is one that uses such frames to create more attractive photographs and compositions. Typically, horizontal lines in an image convey a message of ‘stability’. These lines don’t have to be actual lines in the frame itself but may be implied in the frame. Whether the horizontal lines arise from oceans, horizons, sleeping people, or fallen trees, the subject imparts a sense of timelessness and rest. In fact, horizontal lines exist in almost everything we see. Even photographs that have no straight lines anywhere in them are still bounded by the vertical or horizontal frame that contains them.

How to Use Horizontal Lines in Your Photos

Horizontal lines often act as dividers in a frame, breaking the image into separate parts. In landscape photography, the horizon acts as a divider, with the sky on the top and the land at the bottom. In such photographs, it is important to perfectly align the horizontal lines of the frame with those of the image, since humans subconsciously feel uncomfortable when viewing crooked horizontals lines in a photograph. Additionally, the effect of horizontal lines can depend on their thickness, with thinner lines seeming more fragile than thicker ones.

Horizontal lines can also be used to add layers to a photo. When multiple rows of flowers are present in a photo, the viewer’s eye is compelled to skip from one layer to the next, adding a three-dimensional effect to a two-dimensional photograph.

Horizontal lines, however, appear all around us and can be found in nearly every photograph. As a result, it may be tricky to make it stand out in photographs, often making them look dull and dreary. Here are a few ways in which one can use horizontal lines photography to their advantage.

Horizon and Perpendicular Lines

Usually, unbroken horizons are quite boring to look at since they may feel static or dull. Breaking the horizon line with intersecting vertical lines, such as trees, buildings mountains, etc, creates very interesting results. For example, when taking a photograph of a lake or ocean, having wooden poles rising out of the water can add depth and character to an otherwise peaceful frame. What you must take care of when using this technique is that you shouldn’t create a chaotic composition that is dominated by too many crisscrossing lines. Doing so can cause the viewer to look throughout the frame in search of the subject. A little confusion is all it takes to detract the attention of the viewer, and you lose the sense of awe they have when looking at a new photograph.

Horizontal Lines Photography: Perspective

Horizontal lines can add layers to a photograph. Capturing it from the right perspective, however, can greatly enhance the effect. Snapping numerous photos with different angles and perspectives is an excellent way to see which composition captures the horizontal lines well. Sometimes shooting from a lower perspective might work better than from a higher one, and vice versa. In certain cases, you may want to hide certain horizontal lines and emphasize others, and manipulating the perspective helps in this regard. For instance, when items are placed one behind the other in a haphazard orientation, finding the right perspective can give it order and structure, which is very appealing to the eye.


Horizontal lines in photography impart a feeling of stability and weight owing to its relation to the ground and horizon. It feels stationary, adding elements of rest and calm to a photograph. When the photograph also depicts a material that is known for strength, such as stone or metal, it reinforces the sense of stability and makes it all the more eye-catching to the viewer.


Similar to how perspective can take advantage of horizontal lines, viewpoints can influence how a viewer looks at a straight line. Height plays a major role in making a viewer see lines that would otherwise have been missed. This is particularly obvious in built-up cities, where it may be nearly impossible to find a straight line of the horizon from the ground level. With a significant height advantage, however, a clear horizon can be seen in the distance, in addition to the lines created by the roads and paths of the city.

See some beautiful examples of horizontal lines photography here.

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