Using the 7 Elements of Art to Capture and Create Your Photos

Photography is a form of visual expression. It is classified as the 8th art category.

When you choose it to express your emotions, to transmit messages or to show what is beautiful for you, you must use the symbols of the photographic language. If you do not speak the language, you will not be understood.

Do you know that in these symbols, there are 7 essential visual elements. Do you know them? In this article, I will reveal them to you.

They will help you to build your photos better and make them interesting.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

A road winding thru Valley of Fire in Nevada. Using a curved line: first element of art to create this landscape photo. Photograph in black and white.
A road winding thru Valley of Fire in Nevada. Using a curved line: first element of art to create this landscape photo.

The Story Behind This Article

Since my childhood and the release of my first book, I have always been passionate about writing and languages. During my graduate studies, I chose to specialize in translation and language recognition using computer models.

I have always found that using symbols or languages to communicate was essential to feel seen and understood in one's life. Knowing how to communicate correctly allows us to learn, exchange, transmit, and share.

We are social animals. Our well-being depends on communication with our fellow creatures.

In 2010, when I decided to change my professional activity from illustrative photographer to photographic artist, I tried to understand how to communicate and exchange with artistic photos. I started to study photographic language and photographic writing. I studied painting, sculpture, drawing, and different forms of visual arts. I realized that they all had 7 basic elements in common.

These 7 elements could be used in photography. They were part of the photographic language. From that moment on, I understood how to master photographic writing. It was a decisive step in my professional photographic activity.

After all these years, I continue to use these 7 elements of visual arts.

I thought sharing them with you in this article would also help you take a step forward in your photographic approach.

Welcome to a fascinating creative universe that has well-established codes.


The 7 Visual Elements Present in the Arts

I offer you a list of 7 of the visual elements so that you can remember them by heart. I will detail them in the following paragraphs:

  • Line.
  • Figure.
  • Shape.
  • Color.
  • Value.
  • Texture.
  • Space.

These are the 7 elements of art, whatever its visual form. They are the basis of all visual art creation. Often they are called essentials or building blocks.

When you combine them to create a work of art, you achieve something that will interest many other people.

Not all works of art contain all the elements. But I could see that there were always at least two.

For example, when an artist makes a sculpture, he will necessarily use shapes and space, because it is a three-dimensional work. A painter will always use at least color and value.


The Primary Interest of the 7 Elements of Art

The 7 elements of art are essential if you want to create a work of art and a "fortiori", a photo art.

They serve as your guides, references, and beacons. They are the basic elements on which you will build. Without them, art would not exist. They are incredibly useful to you as a creator. But they are also useful for those who will look at your creations.

First of all, the 7 elements of art constitute a language that will be common to the creator (you) and the viewer. A line is a word that both parties understand.

If this language is common, the viewer will be able to describe what he sees. He will be able to analyze what you have done. He can also judge. When you become a viewer of your own photos or those of others, you can use this language to form an opinion.

The 7 elements of art constitute a simple, solid base that everyone can understand. They allow us to spark dialogue, to exchange, and to share with others.

They are essential for understanding one another.


Using the 7 Elements of Art in Photography

Photography is an art form in its own right. It allows us to interpret and show the world around us as we wish. We do this by considering our style, our personality, our emotions, and our experiences.

Using the 7 elements of art in photography is therefore an obvious choice.

We have to adapt. For example, the line does not just naturally occur in photography. I will explain in a next paragraph how to do this.

But you should already know that the 7 elements of art must be part of your toolbox to express yourself photographically. You must know them by heart and master them if you want your photos to be interesting, readable, and understandable by others.


Element of Art #1: Using the Line in Your Photos:

The line is the fundamental element of art. As a child, when you create your first drawings, I am sure you drew simple, random lines. You must have been very proud of the result.

A line is a mark that extends between two points over a certain distance. A line can be

  • made with marks.
  • made with contours.
  • implicitly used.
  • abstractly invoked.
  • two-dimensional.
  • three-dimensional.

A line can be used to create a figure as we will see in the next paragraph. If a line joins, then it forms an outline. It can be used to create depth or structure.

A line can have different aspects:

  • horizontal.
  • Vertical.
  • Continuent.
  • Broken
  • serrated.
  • dotted.

The lines are the basis of the other elements of art. Without them, they would not exist. The use of lines can radically change the nature of an artwork and its impact on the viewer.

Straight Line

It slices. It cuts. It delimits frankly without any concession. For example, a tree takes on a straight line. However, straight lines are rarely seen in nature.

Curved Line

This line is a soft and more natural line. It suggests comfort and ease. They are easily found in nature.

Zigzag Line

The zigzag changes direction quickly. It is a line that creates agitation, movement, destabilization, wandering. It invokes or shows imbalance.

Diagonal Line

A diagonal creates movement. It allows the photo to dynamize an artistic composition.

Horizontal Line

It creates a feeling of calm. It evokes stability. In nature, it is the horizon line or the line of separation of tones. In nature, it is very easy to find.

Vertical Line

A vertical line suggests spiritual elevation. It gives an impression of height.

Imaginary Line

It is a line that has no physical existence in a work of art. It is suggested. It is invisible. It can be, for example, a look that directs the eye of the spectator towards another point or in a direction.

Having listed the different lines, it is now time to see how to use the line in photography.


Using the Line in Photography

In the previous paragraph, I listed the different lines that can be used in all art forms. I now want to show you how to use them in photography.

You will certainly think that lines have little interest in photography. You may tell me that a line is just a line drawn between two points, whether real or imaginary. That it is not a very captivating concept.

However, in photography, lines are the source of all your photos.

They cross each other to form figures, which by crossing each other, become forms, which themselves are filled with textures, colors to create a universe.

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The line is the most versatile artistic element in photography.

Every photograph is based on the reproduction of a scene built by lines. Always keep in mind that the physical edges of a photo are bounded by the lines of the photographic frame: 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines.

By integrating and controlling different types of lines in a photo, you will better control how others will read your photos. That's why you need to learn how to master them.

Using the line in your photos allows you to build a narrative. It guides the viewer's eye to the main subject of your photo.

The different line shapes set the emotional tone of a photo.

The different guidelines create an entry and exit perspective.

By voluntarily integrating lines in your photos, you take control of the viewer's eyes. You maximize the interest and impact of your photos.

Using lines in your photos will create connections with the viewers. Your photos will have depth and body.

Incorporating the Horizontal Line in Photography

I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos