Curves and Diagonals – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

In the past, I discussed compositional tips such as the rule of thirds, moving in and moving out from your subject. This week I will discuss S-curves and diagonals and how they can improve your photography.

Photographs are static images. To add life to them, we need to make use of compositional elements. Of the two I will discuss today, the diagonal is easier to find and photograph. Diagonals are used to lead your eye into the photo or out of it. They provide a path for the eye to follow through the image. The following image shows this well. The photo on the left of the Pearly Crescentspot shows the butterfly resting, but the diagonal of the plant gives the butterfly someplace to go, up. The image on the right (the same image, rotated) is static and simply shows the butterfly resting.



Notice how the water flowing left to right directs your eye across the photo in that direction in the photo on the left, while the photo on the right, your eye follows the photo from the bottom of the image on the left to the top on the right.

S-Curves are a little harder to find than diagonals, but provide for much more dramatic photos. Like diagonals, they provide a path for the viewer to follow allowing them to travel through the image, rather than simply looking at it. Look for S-curves in nature. They occur in rivers and streams, waterfronts, foliage and many more places. You can also find them in portraits. Watch for them starting at the head, coming down through the torso into the lower body. Often a bent arm or leg will help create the shape.


Next week I will discuss night photography.

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the vice-president of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

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