Essence of Photography: Vertical Elements

Learn how to use vertical elements in your photos to add interest and depth.

May 13, 2021

Making use of vertical subjects in your photos can transform an ordinary scene into an evocative image. These elements can be easily found in cityscapes and nature alike.

To get started, look for any elements that are taller than wide such as trees, light poles or building towers. Try to frame your photo to emphasize the vertical elements as the main visual focus of the image.

As you look at the example photos, notice how your eye scans up and down the image repeatedly. This type of engagement creates impactful photos that keeps your viewers attention.

Repeating Patterns

Similar to the idea of graphism in photography, vertical subjects look good when they are repeating in a pattern.

Breaking up the pattern with something unexpected is also an effective technique to create interest in your photos.

In this photo of the beach in France, the silhouette shapes of the people do not fit a set pattern, but create interesting vertical elements all over the image in contrast to the uniform look of the sand and water. The shoreline itself also creates a vertical line that draws the eye up and down the photo.

Mixing Different Verticals

The vertical elements do not always have to be the same thing. In fact, incorporating a number of different verticals into the scene can make a great photo.

For example, this photo of the Tehran skyline in Iran makes good use of verticals including the light post, the people on the bench, and the tower in the distance. Notice how the city smog helps to dull the busy city scene so that we focus on the vertical elements in the foreground.

Here are a few more examples of mixed vertical elements.

Reflecting Lines for Greater Effect

A good technique for accentuating vertical elements in a photo is to incorporate a reflective surface like water or glass. Look for scenes where there are vertical elements being reflected and then frame your photo to show a mix of the physical elements stacked over the reflection.

See how the reflection in the water makes the stick like legs of these flamingos seem longer.

Try experimenting with different ratios by moving the reflection line around in the frame. Sometimes an even 50/50 split can be effective, or look for ways to use more reflections or more physical to get an alternate effect.

In these photos, the buildings create a strong vertical element along with their reflection in the water. The photographer also utilized long exposure photography which makes the reflections a little more blurry and colorful in the image on the right.

Essence of Photography is a series of tips, tutorials, and visual inspiration on a variety of photography skills and techniques.

You can practice these skills and more by purchasing a deck of Photo Cards from Zoom In Reach Out, a non-profit with a mission of teaching to see the world from a different perspective.

All photos in this article were posted to the Aminus3 Photography Community and are copyrighted by their respective photographers.

Click on any photo to see a larger version or to leave a comment for the photographer.

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TOPICS: essence of photography

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