Diagonal Method in Fine Art Nude Photography

Diagonal Composition

What is diagonal composition?

It is a color photograph bringing out the details of an interior. A good example is where the majority of Wall’s images are displayed in a light box. Diagonal composition represents a well-balanced for dynamically intersecting parallel and diagonal lines. This is a results of viewing and framing an object from a particular angle.

History of diagonal composition

It is important to note that diagonal composition is not a contrived theory but is a discovery. Diagonal method (DM) was accidentally discovered in May 2006 by Edwin Westhoff who was a Dutch photographer and teacher. This beautiful accident occurred when he was doing research on the composition known as ‘rule of thirds’. Therefore, the diagonal composition is not derived from the Golden section of Rule of thirds.

This method of composition is very simple in application; when using it, you can bisect each 90 degree corner of the frame thereby giving you two 45 degree angles. The dividing line is called a bisection line. Most artists will often place the important details in their frames on these lines of with a deviation of 1-1.5 millimeters. This method is called diagonal composition since the lines are mathematical and they overlap the squares in the rectangles. By following the bisection lines, viewers will tend to look at the pictures just as the artist did when capturing it.

It is possible to crop the photos later in such a way that the important details are placed near to the diagonal lines. This can be easily achieved by using the crop tool called ‘Diagonal’ in Adobe Light-room or Adobe Photoshop CS6. Most people say that by using the Diagonal Composition their photography work has become a lot better. This doesn’t apply only to the composition but also to how easy the viewer immediately grasps the important parts of the picture.

Basic Steps of Applying the Diagonal Rule

In diagonal method, one side of the frame or picture is divided into two and then each half is divided into three parts. Later, the adjacent side is divided in such a way that the lines connecting the generated points will form a diagonal frame. From the rule, the important elements of the object should lie along these diagonal lines. Linear elements like roads, waterways, fences which are placed diagonally will always appear more dynamic than those which are placed horizontally.

There are 3 types of lines in the Diagonal method:

·      The horizontal line

·      The vertical line

·      The diagonal line

The above lines have their degrees of intensity. Let us address each of them:

1.    The Horizontal Line

This is the least dynamic line of the three and has the least intensity. This is simply because it is stable and secure. Naturally, the horizontal line is flat. For example, anything in nature which is in a horizontal position, like a tree trunk lying flat on the ground, is usually unshakable or solid. It won’t go anywhere.

2.    The Vertical Line

Unlike the horizontal line, the vertical line is less secure hence more dynamic. Picture a tree which is just about to topple over. This line goes up straight and down – this makes it less balanced.

3.    The Diagonal Line

Of the three lines, this is the most dynamic. Anything in nature which is in a diagonal position is usually about to topple over.

This leads us to the next topic:

Technical Explanation of Diagonal Method

Take the 35 mm photographic frame which is usually a rectangle with a 2:3 ratio. It is possible to draw two squares which overlap each other from the rectangle. After drawing the squares, you should make your diagonal line from one corner to the next.

The next step will be drawing the reciprocal line through the diagonal line. This line should be perpendicular to the diagonal line – this means it will cut the diagonal at 90 degrees angle. (You now get to know why geometry classes are taught at schools). You will notice that there are four 90 degree angles which will of course add up to 360 degrees. This implies that the important element will be around a circular region at the point of intersection.

There are three types of diagonal lines

In photography there are three different types of diagonal lines:

·      Objects which are placed diagonally

·      Actual diagonal lines

·      Diagonal lines which are created by the view point.

The last type from the list is the one which you will be most conversant with in the field of photography. For instance, instead of shooting the photo of a street in Vegas straight from the face-on point of view, you can shoot it from the side.

What makes the diagonal lines very important to photographers?

A majority of photographers use the diagonal lines so as to guide the eye of the viewer to a certain point in the frame. If you take a diagonal line and point it in the direction with a particular object, the tension which will be created draws the eye to it.

In addition, the diagonal lines created from viewpoint have a diminishing effect on a photo as they create a sense of depth in it.

Photographers will also use diagonal lines in artificial objects like constructions so as to add contrast and dynamic tension.

Diagonal lines will also add the unstable nature in some photos. For instance, when taking shots of buildings, you can always use diagonal lines to bring out the un-stability as most buildings will tend to appear stable in nature.

General Tips for Beginners

·      Always hold your camera at the main object’s level. Take some time before you start taking photos from above or below objects.

·      The main source of light should always be behind you and not between you and the object.

·      When taking a picture of a light object use a dark background and vice versa. This will reduce the flare effect on the picture.

·      Don’t be afraid of breaking photography rules.

·      In moving objects, always capture them in such a way that a lot of space is in front of them rather than behind them.


As you go through this day, be it at work or at home, look for examples of the diagonal method in everyday life. Be able to identify its presents in your worldview and as you do you will begin to train your eye to compose more compelling photos. Get in the habit of seeing things as if you were looking in the viewfinder of your camera. If you can do this at lease one day a week for an hour of so you skills will improve and you will become a better artist.


This is a powerful example of the diagonal method. In this photo of models Zinn Star and Ellen Marisa there are many lines and angles for you eye to explore however the most dominant lines fall within the diagonal method. The first and most striking line is that of model Ellen Marisa’s body. This line starts at her shoulder, which features her hand over Zinn Star’s hand. This line runs down her body through her nipple and continues to the bottom right corner of the frame. The second most prominent line is the line that travels along Zinn Star’s sight line. The line starts at Ellen’s extended leg and runs through Zinn’s ear and continues to the top left corner of the frame.