A line can be incorporated into your photographic composition as a way of leading the viewer’s attention to your subject or any key point of interest. Sometimes one line just isn’t enough. If you really want to grab your viewer’s attention and pull them into your photograph you can use multiple lines which originate at different points and meet at a central area around the subject. This form of photography composition is known as converging lines.
Photography Composition – Converging Lines
Converging lines are most often used by photographing objects that run parallel to one another over a great distance. In grade school, you probably learned that if you looked down a set of railroad tracks they would appear to come closer together and touch in the distance. This type of perspective illusion is a classic example of converging lines.
For the portrait above, I used an enclosed pedestrian bridge at the train station for my location. Shooting inside a tunnel, typically, provides an excellent opportunity to use converging lines. For this composition, I laid on the ground to make the effect softer and more subtle.
By lowering myself to the ground, the lines are coming in from the upper portion of the frame and none are moving in from the bottom. While composing this portrait, I actually combined the use of converging lines with another compositional technique called the Rule of Thirds. However, I bent the rules slightly. Instead of applying the Rule of Thirds to the subject, which you will do 99.9% of the time, I applied it to the background itself.
In this next portrait, the use of converging lines is far more dramatic and dominant in the composition. We are now raising up to a standing position and allowing the lines to come in more from all directions. This helped to emphasize the compositional technique and really forces the viewers’ attention on the subject.
Using Converging Lines in Photographic Composition
Honestly, this is a pretty relaxed guideline. There are no rules that say where the lines must originate from or how many lines are involved in the composition. They can come in from one side of the frame, two sides, all sides. They can be rough, rather than smooth. They can twist and bend. The main characteristic is that they often run somewhat parallel to one another and that the converging lines point to the subject in your composition.
Try to find these lines and use them the next time you go out shooting. Street scenes with taller buildings on each side of the road, an apple orchard, a rocky canyon, a subway tunnel – these are all great places to find converging lines.