Compositional Lines in Real Estate Photography

So much is said about how important vertical lines are in real estate and architectural images, and I agree… they are vitally important. In fact, I can hardly look at images that don’t adhere to this norm. On the other hand, very little is said about Compositional Lines in Real Estate Photography. That is what I want to talk about here.

Let’s pause here for a second to quickly talk about how lines work as a general rule in photography. I will cover Vertical, Horizontal, Diagonal and Implied Lines.

1. Vertical lines in photographs can help create a sense of strength and/or a sense of growth (think of buildings and trees for example). Take a look at this image I took last week, what do you notice about this image?

[Vertical Flagpole]

I notice the flagpole and flag first, due to the central positioning, vibrant colour and strong vertical line.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, much is said about vertical lines. This is because often a photographer will have to “edit” lines to make sure actual vertical lines in reality are represented that way in the final photograph. The reason it has to be “edited” that way is because when a photographer points the camera up or down to any degree, the resulting image will have lines that become angled. The reason why it is important to have it edited is because we expect cupboards, doors, windows etc to have vertical sides, and if we don’t see an image that way we have a sense that something is wrong.

2. Horizontal Lines 

The most common horizontal line that we see in photography, is the horizon itself. Lines such as these tend to represent stability, peace, rest. Often in real estate images, particularly ones with a view,  we place the horizon perfectly horizontal because once again, this is what the viewer expects. In addition to this more obvious horizontal line I often use horizontals to mix things up a little, for example shooting a kitchen straight on with good symmetry and structure, with vertical lines for balance and stability as in the example below.

[Kitchen shot with symmetry, balance and horizontal lines]

[Kitchen shot with symmetry, balance and horizontal lines]

3. Diagonal Lines

My favourite type of line, I have mentioned them before in regards to corporate photography, but I can tell you I always look for them. They are dynamic, and are often used to lead a viewers eye through the photograph and can give a sense of depth. Take a look at the image below, it could be very different, but I shot it this way so that the diagonals create interest.

[Diagonal Lines creating interest]

[Diagonal Lines creating interest]

And now see the same image with indication of diagonals below. You will be hard pressed to see a static horizontal line here.

[Outdoor Table with Diagnol Lines]

I know what you are saying, sometimes there are so many lines in a photograph it is very difficult to isolate them to have visual impact. Well that is true, it can be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Think about moving some furniture around, or change your angle or height, or change the proximity to various objects. Take this example below. Here is an example of a house with an AMAZING view, which is what sells in my market on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. The kitchen shot of course is a very important shot in any job, in this case a nice kitchen, but not a feature in comparison to its other attributes. Here are a couple of possible views.

[Kitchen Bench]

What i find the issue with this photograph is that the side of the bench is like a big stop sign to your eyes as they try to enter this image. It is like a big block. If I move any more to my right the height of the bench does not allow us to see anything within the kitchen (no stove, dishwasher, even very little splashback and therefore very little colour), and any more to the left the side of the bench becomes more prominent. See how it represents to me below.

[Kitchen Bench showing Block Element]

So what is the solution? How can we make this photograph work, yet still be able to see parts of the kitchen? What about if we try getting a little closer, so that we overcome this “block” and create a more dynamic image by making the diagonal lines more prominent. Take a look at what I mean below.

[Kitchen Bench: Closer View]

[Kitchen Bench: Closer View with Diagnol Lines]

This image above sends a clear message. It says “this is a kitchen with a great view”, and the diagonal lines makes it very easy for the eye to move through the photograph, something that was more difficult in the first example.

Ok, so we have talked about how you can use verticals, horizontals and diagonals, so time to move on to…

4. Implied Lines.

I have talked about these type of lines at length in our blog post entitled Elements of Professional Photography (part 1). The photograph I used in this article to illustrate this concept was this one below. Here you can feel your eyes moving from left to right in a diagonal fashion, first down and then up and down again. There is no actual lines that make our eyes want to do this, the line our eyes take in an “implied” line created in the design of the photograph.

[Implied Diagonal between Subjects Faces]

OK, so how can we use implied lines to add purpose to real estate photographs? The mindset you need to have is “How can I let the viewer’s eye move through the photograph in a pleasing and simple way?” See what I mean below

[Sun Room]

The image above is a simple one, but I believe the simple ones are the best, because the purpose of the photograph is clear. I want to invite the viewer into the photograph, so they can imagine themselves entering into this area. It is harder for people to do that when there are elements blocking their way. In this example there are shadows that are diagonal, the diagonal wall, the diagonal lines in the coffee table. There is also an implied line from left bottom into the middle of the photograph allowing the eyes to enter, then be seated. Try allowing your eyes to do the same thing from bottom right, it just does not work the same way does it? See how I mean with the line illustration below on the same image.

[Sun Room with Diagonal and Implied Lines]

So there you go, I have talked about how you can use lines, both implied and actual, to benefit your real estate images. To view more great examples on how I use compositional lines in real estate photography click here.

Remember, we love to hear your comments so feel free to let us know what you think in the “leave a reply” section below, and view more of our work at

Shane Law [NBPD] Northern Beaches Photography & Design

Photographer |  Blogger

6 thoughts on “Compositional Lines in Real Estate Photography

  1. Your article about photography for real estate is very interesting, as there are several themes that you emphasize on the vertical, horizontal and associated sensation. I especially enjoyed the part where it refers that objects create obstacles, such as the one reported on the kitchen table. These small details make all the difference and not offen common photographers have this in mind.
    The way the movement is created in still photographs is indeed impressive. The way you explain is very clear, and allows us to learn a lot, and also improve our work.
    I’ve just found your site and blog now and its ´quite interesting.
    Congratulations for your work.

  2. Pingback: Compositional Lines In Real Estate Photography | Real Estate Photographer

  3. The vertical and horizontal lines were easy for me to pick up, from photo to photo, but it was this new term of ‘implied’ lines and the way they can be utilized to inhance a shot is what made me sit up and take notice. Also the light patterns was another thing that I didn’t necessarily see right of the bat especially in the last photo coming off the table, and maybe because my eyes had already been drawn up towards the center of the room being met in that diagonal line from the left and right. I have to agree with the last post that your explanation and usage of illustration with the photos made this a lot easier to understand than if I had just read it, so thank you. I look forward to ‘seeing’ and reading more of your work.

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