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How to Create Compelling Compositions with Curves

Do you want to make your images more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing? Try looking for curves when you are photographing!

Once you start looking for them, you will find them everywhere.

Curves make an image easy to look at by leading the viewer’s eye through the frame. It is almost as if the photographer takes the viewer by the hand, draws them into the landscape, and points the way. The viewer’s eyes are compelled to follow the line.

Curves are graceful, rhythmic, dynamic and add energy to an image. They can separate or connect elements or simply offer a balance.

Look for C Curves

C curves, or semi-circles, are probably the easiest curves to find since almost any curve qualifies. It can be anything from the gentle curve of a seashore, lakeshore, a rounded rock, or grasses blowing in the wind.

Boone Hall Planation in Charleston, South Carolina by Anne McKinnell

Boone Hall Planation in Charleston, South Carolina

While visiting a plantation I was immediately drawn to these live oak trees with branches that curve over the entire lawn forming a canopy overhead.


Arches are another form of curve. They can be found naturally in rock formations if you’re in the right part of the world, or you can find them commonly in architecture. I like to make images with multiple arches if possible and take advantage of repeating curves.

Archway in Balboa Park, San Diego, California by Anne McKinnell

Archway in Balboa Park, San Diego, California

S Curves

S curves can have a mesmerizing effect on the viewer as their eyes sweep back and forth through the frame. They also create a sense of depth as the eye moves from foreground to background.

S curves can be found in the natural flow of a river, a winding road, or a pathway.

Colorado River, Arizona by Anne McKinnell

Colorado River, Arizona


Circles can be found in nature from ripples in a pond or puddles of water, or in many man-made objects.

Often in architecture you can find compositions that combine multiple curves as well as some lines that add depth and variety to the image.

Legislature Rotunda, Victoria, British Columbia by Anne McKinnell

Rotunda in the Legislature, Victoria, British Columbia

Implied Curves

Perhaps the most effective use of curves are the images that are much more subtle that the examples shown above: implied curves.

They are created when objects in the frame imply the shape. Rather than the shape jumping out at you in the bend of river, the photographer has to put a little more work into composing an image to make the elements in the scene form a shape, or by recognizing and taking advantage of a shape when it happens.

I was ready to make this image at Mono Lake, California, from a lower perspective when I realized that if I stood up and made it at eye level, the tufa formations would form an S shape.

How to Create Compelling Compositions with Curves

How to Create Compelling Compositions with Curves

At Custer State Park, South Dakota, I was following a herd of bison when this mother looked back toward her calf and I saw the S shape right away.


  • Remember you are guiding the viewer’s eye so choose carefully where you want the the eye to enter the frame and where it should go from there.
  • Other compositional “rules” can also be applied. For example, you can have a symmetrical composition or follow the rule of thirds as well as having a curve shape in the frame for an effective and dynamic image.
  • Make sure the image is well balanced with your curve not too close to the edges of the frame.

Give yourself a challenge and go on a photo shoot with the goal of finding curves and use them to add interest and beauty to your compositions.

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Anne McKinnell
Anne McKinnell

is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems.

You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

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