Photography marketing

Product Photography Part 10: Lines as Design Elements

The design elements of a photo include lines, color, shapes, light, texture, and negative space. The use of such elements in product photography can make or break its appeal to buyers.

This is the 10th installment in my series to help online merchants take better product images. “Part 1” discussed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained the tripods. “Part 3” looked at artificial lighting. “Part 4” looked at angles and views, and “Part 5” looked at choosing a camera. “Part 6” evaluated lenses and their importance. “Part 7” focused on magnification and close-ups, and “Part 8” and “Part 9” introduced the basics of composition.

In this article, I’ll be looking at how to use lines to make your product photos more attractive.

Lines in photography

Lines direct the viewer’s eyes to the focal point of an image. Not using lines correctly can make your images confusing or complicated, which in turn reduces conversions. Let’s take a look at the six types of lines for your product photography.

Vertical lines draw viewers’ eyes from the top to the bottom of your photo, or vice versa. Vertical lines can evoke feelings in the viewer, depending on the context.

Vertical lines can evoke feelings in the viewer. This image of a reusable water bottle reflects the brand’s sustainability efforts and a key selling feature: a removable lid. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

For example, the above image of a woman washing a reusable water bottle sends a powerful message about the brand’s sustainability efforts and a key selling feature: a removable cover. Spectators’ eyes follow the top of the flowing water before landing on the cover and the overall stage. It’s a compelling example of how product photography can provide a visual journey and inspire buyers to contemplate an item’s usefulness.

Horizontal. The human eye naturally follows the horizontal lines of an image, making their use a powerful tool in creating a story about a product or brand. Breaking a horizontal line with the product is an effective way to get attention, as shown in the example below. I prefer to place a product above a horizontal line to take up most of the top. It forces viewers to look upward and contemplate your product for longer.

Image of a blue water bottle on an out of bounds line of a tennis court.  Source: TakeyaUSA.com

Interrupting a horizontal line with a product, like this water bottle, attracts attention. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can create useful tension in product photography. Tension can improve engagement. For example, the diagonals in the image below of the napkin and flowers draw viewers’ eyes to the coffee maker and its’ smooth pouring ‘experience.

Woman pouring coffee into a glass.  Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can create useful tension. The diagonals of the napkin and flowers in this image draw viewers’ eyes to the coffee maker. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can also create depth in an image, which is useful for creating a story around a product. The image below is much more interesting with the shoreline diagonally in the background.

Girl standing on a rock holding a bottle of water.  Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

The diagonal shoreline in the background of this image adds interest and engagement. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

First lines can be vertical, horizontal and diagonal. They direct viewers to the focal point of an image. Guide lines make images less static and more three-dimensional. Use them in several ways. For example, a product placed halfway down a line prompts viewers to walk past the article, take the entire image, and come back.

The lines can also lead directly to your product and end, like in the image below. Woman’s arms lead to the water bottle.

Image of a lady sitting on a beach, holding a blue water bottle.  The lines can lead directly to a product and then end, like a woman's legs and arms, which lead to the water bottle.  Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

The lines can lead directly to a product and then end, like the woman’s arms, which lead to the water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Avoid placing a product at the start of a main line. Offer the viewer the experience of following the lines of the element. Also, consider more than one main line as shown, again, by the arms and legs in the image above. The guidelines can come from the same direction or from different directions as long as they direct the viewers eyes towards the product.

Implicit the lines follow from the arrangement of the elements. The photo below is a good example. The placement of the hat, pillow, jug and glass involves a diagonal line running from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. The line draws the viewer’s eye to the product (the jug).

Image of hat, bottle and glass arranged diagonally.

Implicit lines arise from the arrangement of elements in a photo. This hat, pillow, jug, and glass involves a diagonal line from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Convergent lines are two or more diagonal lines that point towards each other. They may not touch each other, but they are useful in some settings. For maximum efficiency, place your product where the lines converge. It becomes the focal point of the image and can engage viewers. The water bottle below sits at the convergence of two diagonal counter lines.

Converging lines can become the focal point of the image and can engage the vieWater bottle sits at the convergence of two diagonal countertop lines.  Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Converging lines can become the focal point of the picture and can engage viewers. This water bottle sits at the convergence of two diagonal counter lines. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

See “Part 11: Editing images”.