Mount Agave photograph

Are You Out of Shape? Photographic Art Elements

We are always being reminded how easy it is to get “out of shape”   or how we need to “get in shape.”  Sometimes we are even told to “shape up”.  I’ve often wondered at the reasoning behind this.  It is this misuse of the word shape that brings us to our next topic.  The next element of art is the simple shape.  What is a shape?  To have a shape you must manipulate a pair of lines.

1.  Two or more lines that start in the same space and travel different directions.

2.  Somewhere in their travels the lines will twist or turn, curve or careen in directions that inevitably end up with them meting again at a different place then when they started.

3.  Overly thick lines will result in a filled shape, while lines along a border will result in an empty one.


That’s it.  If you draw a line  curving in angles from 0° to 180°  and another line from 180° to 360°  you create a circle.  If you draw 4 lines that change at 90° angels to where they connect with one another you have a square.  These are simple shapes. 


Shapes in photography are very important for the same reason they are in painting or design work.  They communicate emotions to the viewer.

Keyboard photograph
CC By katerha

Geometric shapes with sharp angles like squares and triangles will give a cold or very strong emotion to the item in the picture. Think of a row of building blocks.  They represent order and power.

Photograph of Sushi
CCSA by jmv

Circles and blobs are a biomorphic shape.  They have a much more fluid and a natural emotion attached to them.  The line of a circle can curve gradually towards it’s meeting with the other part of the line.  Circles are not in a hurry.   Think of an arch,  or the edge of a flower.  The circle of a flower petals distribute the color of the flower by spreading it out, much like the weight distributed in an arch.  The color of the flower or physical weight of a doorway flows through the circle of an arch.


So, shapes can represent order, chaos, power and grace.  The way you manipulate them in a picture will draw an emotional response from the viewer.  Shapes are either solid or open.  Remember that too shapes can influence a picture by making it confusing, while not enough shapes in your art will make it bland and lifeless.

Thus, I’m happy to say that I’m not “out of shape”.  I have a shape. In fact, I am a shape and, thankfully, the shape that I represent is uniquely mine.

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