Horizontal Lines in Photography

The Use of Horizontal Lines in Photography

In Rules of Composition by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Horizontal lines can be used as compositional elements in your photography but how?

In a recent articles we’ve explored the use of diagonal lines in photography.

When you learn photography composition, you look at the world around you with a different eye. You are able to spot details and visual patterns that help you with your photography. Horizontal lines surround you pretty much everywhere you look. Horizon lines, tabletops, flat roads are just a few examples of horizontal lines in photography that you can take advantage of for your compositions.

horizontal lines photography

In this article we’ll explore the meaning of horizontal lines and see how you can integrate it into your daily photography routine.

Related article:

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 (or vice versa).

horizontal lines photography

Horizontal lines photography is one that uses such frames to create a more attractive photography composition. 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, horizon lines, sleeping people, or aligned windows, 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.

horizontal lines photography

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.

horizontal lines photography

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.

glass windows

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.

horizontal lines photography

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.

In Conclusion

Capturing beautiful images require a bit of luck and experience. Learning the different elements of composition such as horizontal lines is key to improve your images.

No matter if you shoot in landscape or portrait orientation, horizontal lines can be very useful elements in your composition. By now you see how easy it is to get creative using these types of lines.

Do you use horizontal lines in your photographs?

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