Mirrorless V DSLR Cameras

Why have some professional photographers eagerly embraced mirrorless, while others still hold out? 

Interest in mirrorless cameras has grown steadily ever since Panasonic released the ground-breaking Lumix DMC-G1 in 2008, with photography pundits regularly predicting that ‘this will be the year in which mirrorless takes over’. We’re not quite there, as DSLRs still dominate the high-end enthusiast and pro end of the market.

However, change is in the air, and while the mirrorless market is quite volatile, survey after survey has shown they are luring an increasing number of users away from big heavy cameras with flapping mirrors. It’s not hard to see why: the traditional sticking points for mirrorless refuseniks, namely electronic viewfinders and AF performance, seem to improve with each new release, and there’s never been such a wide choice of high-quality zoom and prime lenses. For many travel and documentary photographers, the light weight and compact dimensions of mirrorless cameras are a no-brainer. More and more landscape, portrait and even sports photographers are changing over too. Yet, many of their peers are sticking with DSLRs.
Over the next six pages, we chat to a range of top photographers from different genres to get their take on the DSLR vs mirrorless issue – and some of the findings will surprise you.

Interest in mirrorless cameras has grown steadily ever since Panasonic released the ground-breaking Lumix DMC-G1 in 2008, with photography pundits regularly predicting that ‘this will be the year in which mirrorless takes over’. We’re not quite there, as DSLRs still dominate the high-end enthusiast and pro end of the market.

However, change is in the air, and while the mirrorless market is quite volatile, survey after survey has shown they are luring an increasing number of users away from big heavy cameras with flapping mirrors. It’s not hard to see why: the traditional sticking points for mirrorless refuseniks, namely electronic viewfinders and AF performance, seem to improve with each new release, and there’s never been such a wide choice of high-quality zoom and prime lenses. For many travel and documentary photographers, the light weight and compact dimensions of mirrorless cameras are a no-brainer. More and more landscape, portrait and even sports photographers are changing over too. Yet, many of their peers are sticking with DSLRs.
Over the next six pages, we chat to a range of top photographers from different genres to get their take on the DSLR vs mirrorless issue – and some of the findings will surprise you.

As the massed ranks of the Canon L series and Nikon pro lenses at the Rio Olympics have shown, sports photographers have been very reluctant to trade in their DSLRs for mirrorless. Much of this is down to the perception that the continuous AF on mirrorless cameras lags behind (it’s essential for action shots), or that their electronic viewfinders (EVFs) are not as bright and clear as traditional optical versions. Leon Neal, a sports and press shooter for the AFP agency, speaks for many of his peers.

‘Mirrorless is almost certainly the future, but currently the features that I need aren’t addressed by makers of mirrorless systems,’ says Leon. ‘My Nikon D5 bodies are very fast and incredibly tough, but also include things like a network port for tethered shooting at events like Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. I’m sure future generations of cameras will ditch the flapping nod to history that is the mirror, but until then, I’m sticking with it.’

While a network port for tethered shooting is indeed lacking in mirrorless cameras – makers would argue it’s still a very niche feature – some of Leon’s colleagues are proving more receptive to the idea of changing over.

Take Mark Pain, former chief sports photographer for The Mail on Sunday. ‘I’ve just finished a hands-on test of a Fujifilm X-T2 prototype, which I took to the UEFA 2016 soccer championship and this summer’s tennis,’ he says. ‘I was sceptical about it at first, but very pleasantly surprised.’

As Mark explains, a lot of sports photographers don’t like change and need time to get used to new technologies, but the X-T2 offers some big advantages. ‘It’s silent and much lighter,’ he adds.

Mark is very happy with the X-T2’s picture quality (see his outstanding image of Andy Murray, right) but reckons there are still some issues that need to be addressed.

According to Mark, a key area in which mirrorless still lags behind is continuous/motor drive shooting. ‘One of the differences between amateur and pro sports photographers is that we look through the viewfinder all the time, even when firing off shots with the motor drive,’ he says. ‘I am lifting and depressing the shutter even though I am using continuous shooting. On the new Nikon D5, there is hardly any blackout between the frames, but the EVF on a mirrorless camera is computer-generated. Because of the way they work, mirrorless cameras have to turn the sensor on and off when using the motor drive, so there is a slight lag when trying to follow a fast-moving soccer match, for instance. With a modern pro DSLR, there is a processor for the autofocus and another one for the picture processing, which also improves performance.’

You don’t tend to see many landscape pros using mirrorless cameras, and the same goes for their enthusiast fans. There are various reasons for this. Landscape and travel veteran David Noton says: ‘I prefer not to have a poor-quality TV screen between the subject and me. What’s more, I like to really look into the composition through an optical viewfinder, without necessarily having to turn the camera on. I’m also worried about speed of focusing and battery consumption.’
Mirrorless myths dispelled
Yet there are several well-regarded landscape professional photographers who have made the change to mirrorless and never looked back. Olympus shooter and course leader Steve Gosling is a good example. ‘The first thing to say is that I have no problem going from a full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark II to an Olympus OM-D,’ he says. ‘I’ve made prints up to 30x20in from the Olympus without any problem. People come to my courses and say: “I’ve been thinking about mirrorless, but how can I shoot landscapes with such a small sensor?” I ask them how big they print, and they usually say A3 or A3-plus. I chuckle, as the OM-D system can easily do that. There are a lot of misconceptions.’

Steve also cites the range of high-quality Zuiko lenses as a reason for choosing the Olympus OM-D system, including a set of weather-sealed and relatively lightweight f/2.8 zooms. ‘Because of the small size of the camera’s sensor I can shoot at f/8 and f/11, but to get the same level of depth of field detail from the Canon I’d have to shoot at f/22,’ he says.
So what about that ‘poor-quality TV screen’, as David Noton calls a typical mirrorless EVF? ‘I am totally comfortable with “what you see is what you get” EVFs, and they’ve become better and better since the original Olympus E-M5,’ counters Steve. ‘I find it frustrating on workshops when I look through students’ optical viewfinders and can’t immediately see how their camera is exposing the scene. I mainly shoot landscapes on a tripod, so I use the rear screen to compose and check focus rather than peering through the EVF. Focus peaking really helps with manual focus, too.’

Sports and landscape photographers may still be quite traditional, but one genre in which mirrorless cameras are becoming increasingly common is portraiture – particularly weddings, travel, family portraits and even advertising. For weddings and family portraits, the size issue pops up again.
‘I do sometimes get funny looks at weddings when people see my Fujifilm mirrorless,’ says pro photographer Saraya Cortaville. ‘Some of the “Uncle Bob” guests [family and friends who come with cameras] may have a bigger camera than me. It doesn’t bother me as I know my work is good enough.
On the positive side, when photographing children, smaller mirrorless lenses are a godsend. A big 24-70mm SLR zoom can intimidate kids, but with mirrorless it’s much less of an issue. With the crop factor and rear LCD I can get so much closer to them.’
The same goes for Saraya’s travel work, where she spends three months a year working for charities and NGOs. ‘I’d go to places like Nepal or Tanzania and the villagers wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of days as they were so freaked out by my DSLR gear,’ she says. ‘They didn’t understand why I was there.’
Mirrorless discrimination
However, it can cut both ways. John Nassari, a commercial portrait and wedding photographer who shot the cover image for AP 13 August, has also faced resistance to his camera choice, but this time for choosing mirrorless over more traditional kit.

Commercial photographer John Nassari gets good low-light performance from mirrorless cameras
‘An art director told me I wouldn’t get the job if I used mirrorless – they called them toy cameras and insisted I use medium format,’ he says. ‘This is ridiculous, as you can get incredible detail from Olympus raw files – 40x30in prints are absolutely fine. I know this as I have a background in large-format work. There is a myth about mirrorless crop-factor images not being high enough resolution.’
John also reminds us that despite the relatively ‘small’ Micro Four Thirds sensor, very high-resolution files are possible on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. ‘Its high-resolution mode means you can record 40MP JPEG images or 64MP raw files,’ he adds. ‘The sensor takes six shots across the frame and matches and combines them into a 40MP file. It’s perfect with a tripod for interior work, although you can’t use it with portraits in case you move or the subject moves. It’s also hard to use with landscapes with clouds and wind.’




Lighting Techniques

With all of the technology available, taking great photographs should be a snap, right? After all, today’s cameras have technology that lets them find and focus on faces, reduce red eye and compensate for most lighting situations. Still, anyone who has ever had a picture turn out less than perfect can tell you that cameras aren’t perfect, no matter how advanced they are.
While you or your camera can’t do anything about the fact that your Aunt Ida has a giant hairy mole or that Uncle Mort wears truly hideous sweaters, you can take some steps to make sure that the pictures you take are the best they can be. Much of a picture’s quality comes from how well it’s lit. By taking a few simple steps to make sure the lighting in your photographs matches up with the kind of picture you want to take, you can really improve the pictures you take. Who knows? You might even make Ida’s mole or Mort’s sweaters look a little better.

Photos that are taken outside take advantage of one of the best light sources around: the sun. Sunlight tends to be rich and warm, which makes everyone look good. That said, when taking pictures outside, you should follow some basic rules.
First, avoid shooting on bright, cloudless sunny days. Too much sunlight can wash your subjects out. Plus, strong light means strong shadows. If you’re taking pictures of people, those shadows can wind up on their faces (and no one wants to see the kind of shadow Aunt Ida’s mole casts). Cloudy days are actually great for taking pictures. The clouds defuse the light, softening it but still showcasing rich colours. Plus, the diffused light will cast fewer shadows. If you have to take pictures on a bright sunny day, try to avoid taking pictures in the middle of the day, when the sun will be at its brightest. If you’re taking pictures of people outside, taking them in the middle of the day can result in people squinting into the camera.
If it’s a bright sunny day and you’re taking pictures, look for ways to diffuse the light yourself. Open shade trees are a good way to do it. Look for a large tree with a wide spread of branches that are fairly high off the ground. The leaves will catch most of the light but will also let just enough in so your subject isn’t completely in the dark. Just watch out for any harsh shadows — especially on your subject’s face.You may not be able to control your light source, but you can control where you and your subject are relative to it. Try to have your light source to the side of your subject. If the light is behind your subject, you won’t get to see any detail — instead, you’ll just see a silhouette. On the other hand, if your subject is looking into the light, he or she may be squinting. Plus, direct light on an object or someone’s face may be harsh and unflattering.
Photos with the best lighting tend to have the light source to the side. You’ll want to make sure that they light source isn’t too harsh — otherwise you’ll get shadows on one side of your subject. If possible, go for two light sources, one on either side of your subject. That way, the lighting will be even and you’ll be able to see the subject clearly.
No matter where your light source is, before you snap a picture, take a second to look for any stray shadows. If you’re shooting indoors and using a flash, move your subject away from any walls — you don’t want a shadow outlining him or her, even if the subjects themselves are well exposed.

If you just can’t seem get enough light on your own, a flash is a great way to add some, but you’ll need to make sure you’re using it correctly. Get familiar with your camera’s owner’s manual — it’ll have handy tips and tricks specific to your make and model of camera, even if you just use a simple point-and-shoot.
You shouldn’t rely on a flash to light your scene for you. Instead, use your flash to fill out the light in a scene, eliminating shadows. For example, if you wanted to take a picture of something by a bright window, you’d likely only get a silhouette, since all the light would be coming in from the window behind your subject. But, by using your flash to fill in the scene, you’ll illuminate the details on the front of your subject, too.
You may also want to use different flash setting for different situations. Some cameras have a red-eye reducing flash setting that flashes one light before the photograph is taken, and one while the photograph is being taken. That helps reduce the red eye effect you’ll see in a lot of photos.
Even when using a flash you still have to pay attention to your position and the position of your subjects. Don’t use a flash around reflective surfaces like mirrors or windows — all you’ll get is a picture of the flash reflected back at you. And remember: Flashes aren’t all-powerful. For the flash to work as it’s supposed to, you’ll need to put your subject within the range of your flash. Also, if you’re taking a group picture with the flash, everyone should be about the same distance from the flash. Otherwise, some people will appear over exposed while others will be under exposed.

We’ve already mentioned that clouds and trees can be natural light diffusers, but don’t be afraid to come up with your own methods for diffusing light, or reflecting it gently where it’s needed.
Creating a diffuser or a reflector is actually pretty easy. If you’re inside and have only one harsh light source, like a lamp, simply put a piece of paper or a light cloth over it. If you’re outside, a light-coloured umbrella positioned between your subject and the sun can diffuse the light — just make sure the umbrella itself isn’t in your photograph’s frame.
Reflectors are a good way to reduce shadows and improve light in a photograph. If you’ve ever seen a professional photo shoot, you may have seen the photographer or the photographer’s assistant using white or metallic cloth stretched over a frame to reflect light onto the subject. You can do the same thing. A white tablecloth can reflect light onto a subject (this is a great tip if you’re taking photos by candlelight). If you’re outside, a white cooler lid placed below your subject can throw light upward. You can also reflect light by wrapping tinfoil around some cardboard. Play around with different methods and materials until you find some that work for you. As an added bonus, you’ll have them in your photographer’s tool kit, ready for the next time when the lighting is less than ideal.

A lot of the time, if you’re shooting photographs in dim light, you won’t want to use your flash. The flash will only illuminate a small part of the photograph, and there may be too much contrast between the area of the flash and the rest of the picture.
If you can’t add more light to a scene, you’ll need to give your camera more time to bring what light there is into its lens. That means a slower shutter speed and a wider aperture. For a lot of people that use popular point-and-shoot cameras, that means putting your camera into dim light or night-shot mode.
When your camera is in those modes, the shutter stays open longer than usual. That means that any motion, whether it’s your subject moving or you moving the camera, will be captured as a blur on your picture. If you’re shooting in dim light, use something to steady the camera, like a tripod, or brace your arms on something stable. Press the shutter button slowly, and make sure your subjects are completely still. Having the shutter open longer increases the risk that your photo will be blurry, but it also lets your camera suck all the available light in from a dimly lit scene, which will result in a picture that’s beautifully lit and evocative.


Setting the Scene

Landscape photography looks so easy. We’ve all pulled up to a scenic overlook or arrived at our destination on a hike, and said, “Wow!” But as most of us have also found out, putting that “wow” into our photographs is more complicated than merely putting the camera to our eye and snapping the shutter. Luckily, there are some straightforward techniques to master landscape photography and help you create images that convey the emotional impact you experienced.
Plan Ahead
I like to have an image in mind before I leave home. Guidebooks and online resources are great for getting an overview of a park or region, but I like to continue my research by studying detailed topographic maps. I’m looking for dramatic towers, canyons and peaks that could be good backgrounds. Exciting topography isn’t enough, however. I also try to identify subjects that will get good light either early or late in the day. A jagged 13,000-foot peak might make a great background, but if it’s shadowed at both sunrise and sunset, I’ll probably keep looking. Once I’m in the field, I’m also always ready to abandon my idea if something better presents itself. Flexibility when working in nature is always important.

Scout Thoroughly Once You Arrive At Your Destination
Intimate landscapes can be beautiful, but my customers and I are most interested in grand landscapes. When I’m scouting, I’m searching for a place where a great foreground interacts seamlessly with a spectacular background and where there’s potential for superb light. A lush group of flowers won’t work well in a grand landscape if a grove of tall trees blocks the view of the mountain backdrop. In addition to examining the area 10 feet ahead, you should also look for new vantage points. Your topographical map can help you visualize what you’ll see if you hike to the far side of the lake or up the hill to that rock outcrop, but it’s not as useful as laying your eyes on the scene. I’ve often felt I’ve walked 20 miles for every memorable shot I’ve taken. Great landscape photography is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, and a good pair of boots.
Arrive Early, Stay Late
Few great landscape photographs are made at noon. One reason is that the color of midday light is flat and contrast is low, and the shadows at noon are very short. The part of our visual system that sees depth is literally color-blind. We need shadows to see texture and form. The long shadows created by a low sun angle early, and late, in the day give images a three-dimensional quality. If it’s clear at the horizon where the sun rises and sets, the light becomes warm, which isn’t only beautiful in its own right, but also very different from the commonplace white light at midday. In every field, we treasure things that are rare. Every sunrise and sunset is unique, so do whatever it takes to be at a great location during those magical minutes. Sleep is for photographers who don’t drink enough coffee.
Compose With Your Feet
Many of my students arrive at our shooting location, plant their feet and immediately set up their tripods with their cameras at eye level because that, of course, is the most comfortable height for looking through a lens. Although they do swivel their cameras and zoom their lenses searching for the best composition, which is good, they rarely compose with their feet. They don’t examine the scene from ground level, knee level and waist level to see what looks best. Precise composition is key, and it’s my belief that people appreciate a landscape photograph more if it looks like moving the camera even an inch would significantly change the composition for the worse. Throw in some rare light at sunrise or sunset, and the photograph looks like a precise record of one particular place at one particular time rather than a photograph that could have been snapped anywhere within a 100-yard radius anytime between now and next Tuesday.

Compose With Your Feet. Step by step, I walked toward the summit of Star Dune until I found the best relationship between the dune crest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado.
Use A Tripod
A good tripod is essential for shooting at shutter speeds that can’t be handheld. It will also boost the quality of your images in a less-obvious way. Using a tripod allows you to examine your composition at leisure and tweak it until it’s perfect.
Always Do Border Patrol And Background Checks
Our visual system has a tremendous capacity for selective attention. With our attention fixated on the main subject, we easily overlook distracting branches and grasses sticking into the frame. It’s critically important to do “border patrol” by running your eye around every edge of every frame, every time. Check first to make sure nothing unwanted is protruding into the frame. Next, make sure that all parts of the subject are either included cleanly, with a little room to breathe, or cut off cleanly, like you planned it that way. The worst sin is letting a major part of the subject just barely touch the edge of the frame. Next, run a background check: examine carefully how the subject relates to the background, as well as to every other element in the frame.

Always Do Border Patrol And Background Checks: Composing this image of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake at sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, required careful consideration of the relationships between the trees, the peaks and the edges of the frame.
Don’t Attempt To Shoot Six Different Images During The Two Minutes Of Peak Light
You may have been advised to “work the scene,” which means experimenting with a variety of compositions until arriving at the best one. While that advice is sound, it needs qualification. The peak colour of sunrise and sunset light rarely lasts more than a few minutes. It’s impossible to “work the scene” during such a short amount of time. The best strategy is usually to decide on the most evocative composition, dial it in to perfection, wait for the perfect light, then nail the shot. It’s tempting, I know, to move at the last minute if the clouds light up in every direction except the direction where your camera is pointed. All too often, however, attempting to move means settling for an inferior composition. By the time you set up the new composition, the light there, too, is likely to have faded and now has become good for the composition you originally chose. Before you can set up again, that light, too, has faded, and you end up with nothing. Remember that even the best sky, by itself, is only one component of a great landscape image. In addition to beautiful light, you’ll need that great composition you worked so hard to achieve to really make the image soar.
Think Through Your Exposure Strategy Before The Light Peaks
Learn to recognize exposure danger zones: situations where your camera won’t automatically give you the right exposure. Any subject that isn’t midtone—sculpted snow, waterfalls, black water-washed rocks—will require exposure compensation. Other exposure danger zones include any scene with a large dynamic range, meaning, a big difference between the darkest shadow and brightest highlight. Examples include scenes with a deeply shaded foreground and sunny background; backlit scenes, particularly with the sun in the frame; photographs taken inside a forest on a sunny day; and reflections shot with a wide-angle lens because the difference in brightness between the subject and its reflection can be four or five stops. Once you’ve recognized an exposure danger zone, shoot a test frame and examine the histogram. The best single exposure in a high-contrast scene will place the brightest highlights just left of the right side of the graph. If a single frame can’t capture all the highlight and shadow detail you need, you’ll have to shoot more than one exposure and combine them, either manually in Photoshop, with the Photomerge > HDR utility in Lightroom or with a program like Aurora HDR 2017.
Repeat Visits To Promising Locations Are Often Productive
Great light and interesting skies don’t happen every day. If the light and weather don’t cooperate on your first try at a promising location, make the effort to return as many times as necessary to produce the image you have in mind. Visiting a new area every time you go out is fun, but the pros know that it’s the repeat visits that often produce the best images.

Always Ask Yourself If The Image Could Be Improved: I had probably photographed the famed Maroon Bells in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado, a dozen times in the fall before I finally hauled my sled six miles up the snow-covered road so I could camp on the shores of Maroon Lake for three nights and shoot the Bells in winter.
Always Ask Yourself If The Image Could Be Improved
Would it be better at a different time of day? What about shooting at night? What about an entirely different season? Do flowers bloom at that location in the spring? Are there trees or shrubs that turn colour in the fall? What would the scene look like with a blanket of fresh snow? Remember that the angle of sunrise and sunset varies by 60 degrees between winter solstice and summer solstice at the latitude of San Francisco, Denver and Philadelphia. That’s a huge difference in the angle of light on your subject. Take the time to learn the many moods of the locations where you like to shoot. Then return again and again until you’ve created images that truly capture a sense of place.

What is Conceptual Photography?

Conceptual photography is a mystifying field of photography for many. What defines a photo as being “conceptual”, that is, what makes a conceptual photo… conceptual? This article offers an explanation.

    • Conceptual photography alternately seems to occupy an ivory tower, isolated from the rest of photography—or is so vaguely defined that this type of photography just blends in with the rest. This article attempts to clarify and define what conceptual photography precisely is by looking at the concept, subject, interpretation, use of symbols and aesthetics in conceptual photography.

      The Concept

      Conceptual photography is, first and foremost, about the

      concept of the photo. A conceptual photographer is trying to bring some message about to the viewer, be it a political advert or a social commentary or an emotional outcry. There is some level of abstraction, thus, in a conceptual photo: the image is not an explicit example of the concept, but a general expression of the idea

  • Use Of Symbols

    Conceptual photography makes healthy use of graphical symbols to represent ideas, movements, moods, anything and everything that the photographer might want to include in the message of their photograph. Symbols with strong, well-established connotations are usually used, from racy red lipstick to a bleeding heart, shamrocks and clovers to a green dollar bill.

    Of course, a problem that every conceptual photographer runs into is whether to use symbols that are more universal, that is, whether their photos and the corresponding concepts should aim to be interpreted the same by everyone, or whether to play on ambiguities for a plethora of different meanings. This leads to another major feature of—or rather, distinction within—conceptual photography.

    Examples of Conceptual Photography

    Subjectivity Versus Objectivity

    Whether a photo is intended to be “subjectively” or “objectively” interpreted varies considerably by the conceptual photographer.

    Some conceptual photographers like to claim that their photo has one and only one objective meaning, and through their photograph, they strive to make it mean precisely the same thing to all people, regardless of background. While one can play at Jungian archetypes all day, and come up with some pretty powerful photographs while you’re at it, will a photo really mean exactly the same thing to very different people? This is the goal of some conceptual photographers.

    Other conceptual photographers take the other extreme: they attempt to make their photos ultimately subjective to interpret, entirely up to the viewer to decide what it means to themselves. To many, this makes more sense, as one can never possibly hope that their image will be interpreted the same by such vastly different people with such vastly different experiences—so why try? Compose an interesting image that just serves to make people think and maybe trigger some experiences and memories and feelings.

  • Composition

    There are two main camps of conceptual photographers: those who strive for minimalistic effects, and those who relish in business in their images.

    The more minimalistic conceptual photographs are composed so that the focus is entirely on a single subject, a single concept, narrowing the viewer in on a single thought. Think of those clean white backgrounds upon which objects are placed in thought-provoking manners: no distraction from the idea.

    The opposite camp is a little more involved. These are the conceptual photographers who place dozens and dozens of objects into their photograph, often to the point where there is no clear single subject. Rather, every object, every symbol, is placed to play off of another, creating sweeping conceptual landscapes of ideas that are both extremely specific yet also describe a broad message. You don’t see such photos quite as often, as they take considerably more work, but they’re certainly out there.


    Conceptual photography does not always attempt to be beautiful or even pleasing to the eyes. Conceptual photography might simply be, or even present intentionally ugly images to get an idea across. That being said, many conceptual photographers attempt to make their images at least neutral, so as to not distract the viewer from the concept of the photo either way.

Lines in Your Photography

Lines are one of the most basic elements in image design and their uses are many from functional to artistic. They also go a long way in helping us to create and organize our compositions. They serve as functional elements including visual paths, focal points, dividers, natural frames and borders, and in many cases they even act as the subject itself. Lines can also be used in more subtle, non-direct ways, including to create a sense of tension, mood and drama.

Following are brief introductions to the various kinds of lines found in nature, and some of their uses:

Straight Lines
Straight lines can act like miniature highways in our photographs. Long straight lines, in particular, tend to grab the eye and pull it from one end of the line to the other, skipping everything between. The longer and straighter the line, the faster the eye moves. This can be good when used as a direct guide but with a more complex composition it can cause the eye to skip important parts of the image. Use long straight lines with care and awareness of their effects.

Vertical Lines
Prominent vertical lines are the most powerful lines in visual art. We may associate them with a feeling of strength, height, integrity, solidity, dominance and power such as when viewing a tree, skyscraper, flagpole or anything else standing tall and sturdy.
Solid vertical lines are attention-getters and can be used to create tension, to act as direct guides and paths, and to act as dividers and natural frames. Being the powerful composition elements they are a certain degree of care should be taken when dealing with prominent vertical lines.

Horizontal Lines
In contrast to the effect of vertical lines, horizontal lines can lend a lazy, calm feeling to a photograph. They may bring to mind how it feels to lie down and be relaxed. Some examples of using horizontal lines to create a calming mood are to capture long, rolling waves on a shoreline, using the solid line of a fallen tree as a main element; and capturing the peaceful line of an ocean horizon. The calm, relaxed feeling created in all of these scenes can be further enhanced by using a horizontal format.

Diagonal Lines
Diagonals are considered more visually dynamic than verticals or horizontals. Where vertical and horizontal lines sit in the composition and are restricted to up-down, left-right movement, diagonals can sweep across any area of the image and go in any direction and this is what causes that ‘dynamic’ feeling associated with these lines.

Diagonals are often used to create a sense of tension, or this can happen naturally as the Tension map illustrates. In addition to this, diagonals can serve the same purposes as horizontal and vertical lines in that they can guide the eye, and act as frames, borders and isolators.

Converging and Diverging Lines
Lines that converge are lines that come from different areas of the photograph and lead toward a common intersection, object or area. Conversely, diverging lines lead away from each other, a common intersection, object or area. These types of lines are usually strong compositional elements in and of themselves, but the shape(s) that are created when they are in close proximity, or actually converge or diverge, can act as strong a focal point, main shape or it could even be the main subject of the photograph. The use of converging and diverging lines can often result in highly creative, artful compositions.

Arcs and Semi-circles
These lines can isolate, emphasize, frame and cradle areas of an image. There is an abundance of natural arcs to be found in nature, both as positive and as negative space. It is a good idea to examine their potential uses within a composition as they can be many.

Zig-zags and Odd-shaped Lines
These kinds of lines, depending on the composition and artist, can add artistic flair, a sense of style and/or tension or serenity to an image. They are powerful composition and design tools and can make for spectacular abstracts in the hands of a skilled artist.

Curved Lines
Curved lines may add beauty and grace to an image. They are also used as a popular design technique for leading the eye into the frame. In contrast to straight or patterned lines, meandering curved lines allow the eye to explore an image in a smooth, free-flowing manner.

Groups of Lines
Groups of lines, especially short lines in close proximity to one another, or lines that form patterns are almost always guaranteed to command attention. They can cause density and give considerable weight to an area, which can affect the sense of visual balance and draw the eye to the area.

Repetitive Lines
An image comprised entirely of lines arranged in a pattern, especially lines in a precise, mathematical arrangement, can be powerful and high-impact. Because of the repetition and sense of predictability of repetitive lines, the eye travels in a predictable way that is natural and comfortable. Repetitive lines can go a long way to help create a sense of rhythm and movement.

Suggested or Implied Lines
In addition to the obvious lines found in nature, we need to be aware of suggested lines that can be created or simply happen with or without our knowledge. An example of a suggested line would be a man standing on a path, looking up at a rock. A suggested line would exist between his eyes and the rock. It is not a visible line and it does not affect our composition structurally, but it acts like a line, and it is just as powerful. Because we are curious about what he is looking at, our eye follows his gaze.

Other kinds of implied or suggested lines are those that result from forms and shapes converging or diverging in a way that naturally creates a line or visual path.

We need to be aware of these kinds of special lines when composing. They are powerful and if we’re not careful they can inadvertently weaken a design, lead the eye straight out of a photograph, create unwanted tension, divide an image or otherwise compromise a thoughtfully composed and hard-earned piece.

Creating Fluidity, Movement and Motion with Lines
Lines, both actual and suggested, can have a great impact on how the eye travels within a composition. Instead of having a viewer jump from one part of the image to another, skilled artists will often guide the viewer around their image with focal points, lines, and visual paths. The flow and momentum of this movement is dependent on the kinds of lines doing the guiding and the structure of the composition.

Using Lines to Create a Sense of Rhythm
Examples of images that use lines to create a sense of movement are: an image of concentric lines that slowly expand outward from the centre, increasing in distance as they go; a sharp horizon line that sweeps the eye quickly from one side to another; a complex path of implied lines that wander slowly throughout the image such as an aerial view of a mountain range; or an abstract image of zig-zag lines that mimic the movement of rippling water.

Tension Created by Lines
Tension is what we feel when we view objects that are not in harmony, or not at rest. In a photograph this sensation can be created in a number of ways and is another powerful design technique that should be used with care.

Tension in an image can be created using colour, values, patterns, textures, light, forms and lines. When used in the context of image construction it refers to the positioning of the physical elements in the frame and the feeling that their spatial relationships to each other and the frame creates within us.

One of the most famous examples of a photograph loaded with tension is one of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Because it is leaning over, we feel that it may tip over at any moment. This sense of anticipation mixed with the sense of unrest we may feel from the lean of the structure is what creates the sense of tension we feel when looking at the building.