How to Use Converging Lines to Enhance Your Photography - Digital Photography School

How to Use Converging Lines to Enhance Your Photography

Converging-Lines

When framing a landscape shot one of the types of environmental features that many photographers look for and like to incorporate in their shots is converging lines.

We’ve talked previously about how lines have the potential to add interest to an image – but multiple lines that converge together (or come close to one another) can be a great technique to lead your viewers eye into a shot.

Perhaps the classic example (and one that’s probably been overdone) of converging lines are railway tracks.

Position yourself in the middle of two tracks (after taking a look at what might be coming from behind) and you’ll see the two tracks on either side of you appear to get closer and closer together as they go into the distance.

Take this shot and the natural reaction for those looking at the scene will be for them to follow the lines off into the distance. In a sense the two lines act like a funnel which directs the gaze of those entering them in a certain direction.

The same effect can be achieved with roads or pathways, converging fence lines, a set of stairs, power lines or virtually any other lines that run parallel into the distance or that actually converge at some point.

4 Tips Regarding Converging Lines

1. Experiment with Positioning – the classic railway line shot described above has many possibilities. One is to position the tracks dead center and symmetrically in the shot.

Another positioning would be to step to one side of the tracks and let them run diagonally through your frame from a lower corner to the opposite upper corner. The beauty of this is that you’ll end up with a more dynamic shot. Symmetrical and vertical placement of the lines can be powerful but diagonal lines tend to convey movement.

Alternatively stepping away from the start of the lines can give another perspective – as can holding your camera on an angle to give another diagonal framing of the lines.

 

2. Wide Angle Lenses – different lenses can totally change the impact of a shot with converging lines. I find that a wide angle lens can be particularly useful – especially when positioning yourself between the two lines.

This will help to give the perception that the distance between the lines at the starting point of the image is wider than it is. This exaggeration of the width of your lines can have a powerful impact upon your shot.

Lines-Converging

3. Positioning the ‘convergence’ - one thing to consider when you have converging lines in an image is that they draw the eye into a shot – towards the point that they converge – this becomes one of the most important parts of this image – a focal point.

As you’re framing your shot ask yourself – ‘where is the most effective position to frame this?”

Keep in mind rules like the Rule of Thirds that says that the intersecting points of imaginary lines a third of the way into an image are key points for positioning points of interest.

Also know that if the point of convergence is outside the frame of the shot that you are leading the eye out of your shot. This could leave a shot unbalanced and with tension – alternatively it could enhance the shot and leave your viewers wondering about the place that they converge.

4. Adding Interest at the Point of Convergence – Sometimes it is worth enhancing the point of convergence with something of interest (for example waiting until a train appears in the distance on the tracks – or positioning a person at the top of stairs) – on other occasions the composition of the shot is strong enough without adding an extra subject.

If you’ve got some examples of converging lines in images that you’ve taken I’d love to see them over at the DPS forums – either in the How I took It or Critique My Shot sections.

Here are a few more Converging Lines shots to illustrate the point and hopefully give a little inspiration.

Converging-Lines-2-1

Converging-Lines-3-1

Converging-Lines-4-1

Converging-Lines-5-1

Converging-Lines-7

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Vincent

    Useful tips. Gonna use tgem

  • http://www.rhinoplastyclinicsydney.com.au Mike

    Thanks Darren for the helpful article about using converging lines.. Much appreciated.

  • Paul Plak

    I agree with fitzroy that the safety aspects and the legal aspects of railroad photography must be taken seriously. As a general rule, you can only take railway photographs from public grounds, or publicly accessible railway grounds like platforms.

    The only safe way to position yourself in the middle of a railway track is from a controlled level crossing, where a sound warning and the barriers going down will tell you (just) in time that a train is coming, or on totally disabled tracks. Many trains are pretty silent even at high speeds. And when you’re busy composing your frame, you may not hear them or even seen them in time through the viewfinder. Especially with wide angle lenses which provide great converging lines perspectives, the train will be very tiny in the view, and your judgement of the distance will be false.

    Please also take into account that train drivers are very wary of suicide candidates (they have 1 to 5 suicides or accidents to cope with during their train driver’s life, leading to nightmares, insomnia and lots of psychological troubles), so put yourself well out of the way and please wear a bright colored safety jacket when photographing near (not too near please) railway lines in operations.

    Looking back for a second is just not enough. But railway tracks still make great photos, so do it safely. Very often you can position yourself safely at the start of a bend in the railway track and still have with a short telelens a straight perspective on a railway track.

  • Barry E Warren

    Nice read..and a great mine refresher…….Thanks

Some older comments

  • Paul Plak

    June 12, 2013 03:19 pm

    I agree with fitzroy that the safety aspects and the legal aspects of railroad photography must be taken seriously. As a general rule, you can only take railway photographs from public grounds, or publicly accessible railway grounds like platforms.

    The only safe way to position yourself in the middle of a railway track is from a controlled level crossing, where a sound warning and the barriers going down will tell you (just) in time that a train is coming, or on totally disabled tracks. Many trains are pretty silent even at high speeds. And when you're busy composing your frame, you may not hear them or even seen them in time through the viewfinder. Especially with wide angle lenses which provide great converging lines perspectives, the train will be very tiny in the view, and your judgement of the distance will be false.

    Please also take into account that train drivers are very wary of suicide candidates (they have 1 to 5 suicides or accidents to cope with during their train driver's life, leading to nightmares, insomnia and lots of psychological troubles), so put yourself well out of the way and please wear a bright colored safety jacket when photographing near (not too near please) railway lines in operations.

    Looking back for a second is just not enough. But railway tracks still make great photos, so do it safely. Very often you can position yourself safely at the start of a bend in the railway track and still have with a short telelens a straight perspective on a railway track.

  • Mike

    June 9, 2013 08:21 pm

    Thanks Darren for the helpful article about using converging lines.. Much appreciated.

  • Vincent

    June 7, 2013 07:55 pm

    Useful tips. Gonna use tgem

  • Dr.senaka

    June 7, 2013 02:00 pm

    Hi I am a nature lover,and your service is appreciated.Even I am out of this field,hope to get maximum from you

  • Keith

    June 7, 2013 07:26 am

    While not converging lines in the sense of this article the power and tramlines in this photo lead the eye into the picture. Normally I would remove power lines from a picture but in this case it was too complicated and they actually enhance the shot.
    http://www.photosales.co.nz/details.php?gid=88&pid=36268

  • Jerry Ferguson

    June 7, 2013 01:27 am

    Used this idea just last week at the local farm park. Was able to position the camera at one end of a water pipe with younger son at the other.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerry_pics/8859033387/

    Took several pics with focus on the duck or people in the bacground etc.

  • Steve

    June 2, 2013 05:53 pm

    Good for lead in to a building

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Wales/G0000Exlf55keW7Y/I0000KV8hTp_hyAA/C00006idB3II8aC4

  • Fitzroy

    June 2, 2013 04:56 pm

    Sorry, but the suggestion to: "Position yourself in the middle of two [railway] tracks", even with the advice: "after taking a look at what might be coming from behind" is, at best, foolish.

    In the UK, trespass on the railway is a criminal offence, carrying a fine of up to GBP 1,000 (USD ~1,500). Worse, on Southern Region, 750V DC third rail electrification is used, presenting a very serious risk of electrocution.

    In countries where high-speed trains (i.e. 125mph plus - the wind speed of an EF2 tornado) are operated, a "look behind" might not be enough. The passage of an HST can blow you off your feet and even pull you into the slipstream. Try putting your ear on the rail instead - Tonto-style!

    Later in the series of admittedly excellent photographs, there is one taken on an underground railway station. Prospective photographers on 'The Tube' in London must not that flash and assisted lighting is prohibited on platforms - for obvious safety reasons. I would not be surprised to learn that this is common throughout the world on underground systems. Bright focus-assist lights must be covered (or attenuated) too. The use of tripods and other camera supports is also forbidden - for health and safety reasons, given the usual crush of people on the platforms in the centre of the system, and for the trip hazard elsewhere (LU uses 600V DC fourth rail electrification).

    Various activities cannot be photographed (or filmed) including such photogenic ones as graffiti, nudity, busking and begging.

    A permit is required for photography if the images are for other than personal use - e.g. if they will be published on the Internet.

  • ScottC

    June 2, 2013 08:34 am

    Converging lines are a great technique. I think they can be used from an angle as well to increase the effect with other subjects included.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4262386227/

  • Portrait Poses

    December 24, 2011 10:08 pm

    Converging verticals and leading lines work so well with portraits too! Having your subject lean against a wall and letting the lines created by the brickwork lead you into the point of interest, the subjects face/eyes, is classic!

  • Egor

    December 18, 2011 11:05 pm

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I'm still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for newbie blog writers? I'd really appreciate it.

  • Bob Simmons

    July 28, 2011 12:48 pm

    Good article. Here's a sampling of my older shots. I've been having so much fun shooting in the last few years that I've forgotten to update my Flickr. Maybe someday after I retire.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuaussi/sets/72157627099618180/

  • Shoot-me1

    July 22, 2011 08:44 pm

    Here's my effort with converging lines: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shoot-me1/3450672524/

  • Shoot-me1

    July 22, 2011 08:41 pm

    Some excellent shots, great use of lines.

  • KL

    July 22, 2011 12:58 pm

    i'm still learning with each picture i take...great article! very helpful. i think these are examples....

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3037/5747735279_6b4d881537.jpg

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2590/4111476126_b95cfa3203.jpg

  • bycostello

    July 20, 2011 07:33 pm

    useful tips thanks...

  • Subhajit Mitra

    July 20, 2011 01:09 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanicus/751993517/' title='Love and Distance' url='http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1009/751993517_3c95cc1128.jpg']

  • Subhajit Mitra

    July 20, 2011 01:01 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/subhajeet/5956701988/in/photostream/

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    July 20, 2011 05:36 am

    I really like to use converging lines and leading lines in composing my shots whenever I can. It is one of my favorite composition styles. Here is an example of using abandoned train tracks in downtown Tampa:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/4/1/photography-tip-vanishing-point.html

  • rye cura

    July 19, 2011 04:05 pm

    converging lines are really great

  • scottc

    July 19, 2011 09:55 am

    Converging lines work so well with many subjects, great article.

    The pews in the historic San Zaccarias in Venice:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5862860229/

  • SJCT

    July 19, 2011 05:43 am

    Thanks for this article! Definitely something that I need to work on when composing my shots is leading the viewers eye.

  • Fuzzypiggy

    July 19, 2011 02:06 am

    While I have to agree and indeed I do practice the use of lines myself, there have been some studies on vision that show we don't always follow the lines or indeed the direction the original artist or photographer intends. It may happen in the course of viewing an image that we will follow the lines, but sometimes we get hung up on other distractions. If you want it to work flawlessly, severely limit any distractions that may occur around or along any of the lines you choose, to ensure people follow "your vision".

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    July 19, 2011 12:44 am

    Hi

    Greatr topic - here converging lines lead your vision up the stairs toward the Mission Bells!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/mission-basilica-san-diego-de-alcala/

  • ratkellar

    February 25, 2011 03:42 am

    It may be just a general composition issue, but I don't think "converging lines" need to be parallel. Mountains, branches, and rivers are all lines that that can converge and help compose a nice shot. The "lead the viewer's eye into the shot" is usually what we're looking for. Rivers and roads are often used this way in paintings.

  • Angela Carey

    February 21, 2011 11:45 pm

    I am loving the photos. Thus site has been a huge help to me. I have a new camera and no experience with photography, so this is all new to me. Thanks for all the great information!

    Does this qualify as converging lines?

    [eimg url='http://www.angelacarey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/DSC0069-1.jpg' title='DSC0069-1.jpg']

  • Angela Carey

    February 21, 2011 11:42 pm

    Does this qualify as converging lines?
    [eimg url='http://www.angelacarey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/DSC0069-1.jpg' title='DSC0069-1.jpg']

  • Caitlin

    February 16, 2011 03:52 pm

    Thanks for this article! I've been working on lines in my photos and this was helpful in understanding this particular aspect. I shared my experience experimenting with these ideas and some of the photos that I've done incorporating converging lines on my blog: http://the-meaning-of-mataphrium.blogspot.com/2011/02/photography-elements-converging-lines.html

  • ppdao

    October 26, 2010 01:39 am

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ppdao/5106371894/

  • peter dao

    October 8, 2010 04:18 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ppdao/5061888256/

  • Dave Lapham Photography

    August 14, 2010 11:25 pm

    Thanks! super helpfull

  • Martin Soler Photography

    June 14, 2010 07:14 am

    Excellent article. I've worked a bit on this and find that converging lines without an end point doesn't give such an interesting image. I had fun in the London underground over Christmas and shot this one. As you mentioned, wide angle changes everything and boosts the converging lines effect making it much more interesting.
    http://martinsoler.com/2010/01/10/down-the-tube/

  • Tamyra

    April 2, 2010 04:23 am

    Is the image by Loving Earth upside down?

  • Jay McIntyre

    March 23, 2010 06:49 am

    here's one of the subway.
    http://jmphotographyonline.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-better-way/

    @Stevacek Very brave of you to get between the trains

  • Oscar Patterson

    March 16, 2010 04:33 am

    These are some good shots, you should make some examples to show whats right and whats wrong, showing what falls under the category of coverging lines

  • Sri

    November 25, 2009 01:04 am

    What an article.. loved it! Eager to apply them..
    PS: I would love to see some examples shots for right and wrong or best/worse shots in your articles.. That will help in visulaizing what is being explained.

  • Misti Kallas

    November 24, 2009 10:13 pm

    I took a picture of the inside of a Titan Rocket, does this fall in this category?

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2567/4058872455_d20f806e03_b.jpg[/img]

  • BIJU

    July 11, 2009 07:58 am

    Darren.... thanks for the great article...

  • Jam Samonte

    May 6, 2009 12:42 pm

    nice shots.. converging lines are really great! I really appreciate them. Thanks for the tips!

  • StephenZ

    April 27, 2009 07:52 pm

    Sorry forgot the link...
    I’m totally new in learning about the basics and don’t have any powerful or SLR cam. But, I would appreciate you guys input some comments on the picture. (please see link). Thanks

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/raniego/3332070765/in/set-72157614792103037/

  • photonoobie

    April 24, 2009 11:09 am

    Great pictures. This is a style I don't often do so found this read interesting. Thank you!

  • servo101

    April 20, 2009 12:40 pm

    Sorry bout that, here is the correct link...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/servo101/3436103107/

  • servo101

    April 20, 2009 12:39 pm

    I tried to do converging line shots during my recent vacation.

    Here is one of them.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3148/3436103107_9151f99360.jpg?v=0

    PS: i suck at landscapes...

  • dcclark

    April 20, 2009 05:13 am

    Lines coming together can give a sense of strength or stability. They also don't have to converge to a single point -- several different points, especially if they're also located along a (different) line, can add a more complicated effect -- for example, Strength.

  • Vincent Kelly

    April 20, 2009 01:11 am

    An excelent tutorial with some excellent examples!

  • Ilan

    April 20, 2009 12:47 am

    In most of the examples above the use of converging lines is very obvious, very pronounced.
    I don't think that it needs to be so "strong".
    One can use such lines to give depth to a room.
    Here is an example of what I mean.

    http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/03/night-shift.html

  • cortlander

    March 7, 2009 08:43 am

    sorry, the link was missing:

    http://www.zooomr.com/z/photos/zoom/6858723/size-16/

  • cortlander

    March 7, 2009 08:40 am

    Interesting article.

    This one was taken with a canon 10-22 mm lens on eos 40D hand held.

  • Stevacek

    February 27, 2009 12:28 am

    Re. the photo at the top of this article, I actually went back and retook it from in between the tracks.
    Pretty hair-raising experience but the lines do converge quite nicely...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevacek/3231487093/

  • Allan

    February 18, 2009 10:04 am

    I agree, its a good article and only serves to reinforce the things that we think we know but all too often forget.

  • Patricia

    April 25, 2008 10:53 am

    this article is great! Can't wait to start shooting!

  • George Augustine

    February 20, 2007 02:26 pm

    Great article.

  • Design House - Hervey Bay

    February 17, 2007 09:26 pm

    Great Tutorial! Really useful tips

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed