This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links it means we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Shape In Photography: What Is It & How To Use It

Shapes are formed when a line closes and outlines a specific area. Shapes are two-dimensional in length and width.

A way to spice up your photography and take photos that get noticed is to incorporate what I like to call power shapes into your compositions. Our world contains seemingly a never-ending array of shapes, such as lines, curves, triangles, squares, spirals, rectangles, and circles. Learning how to recognize, identify and work with all these shapes and more, critically to find a way to make shapes work together is fundamentally important to mastering composition.

This is especially true when working with a chaotic scene. To visually simplify the image and thus make it more relatable to your viewers, you have to find a single bold eye-catching visual element that serves to draw the attention, keeping the viewer from lingering over.

Other chaotic elements of the scene get even more chaotic if you only think straight. Let me explain: You got to stop thinking about a tree as a tree, a tree is a vertical line as well, right? Or, for example, a mountain is not just a mountain, it is also a triangle, right? So, learning to visualize the abstract is the key to successfully recognizing and working with shapes.

Types of shapes

Positive shapes

Positive shapes in a work of art are usually the subject matter of the image. So, a positive shape is when we think of an object in our mind and the shape it appears, that’s a simply positive shape, something that we have seen and we know the lines of it. 

Negative shapes

Whereas, negative shapes are called such because they don’t usually occupy the space of the shape. For example, if we see a tree, we also see a straight line, but not necessarily, because the branches of that tree form other different shapes, triangles, rectangles, etc, you name it, so an outline of a positive shape forms a negative one. 

Organic shapes 

Organic shapes are a present to us by mother nature. This means we can find a bunch of organic shapes as soon as we step outside in the open. The clouds might form an interesting organic shape, or as we mentioned above, the tree branches might also form an organic shape. The shadows of those tree branches might also form some completely organic and really scary shapes. 

Geometric shapes 

These types of shapes differ completely from the organic shapes, because they are just fixed, for example, a building outside is made with the help of a human hand and it has the fixed shape of a rectangle. So, we can find geometric shapes in artificial objects, for example, buildings, balls, computers, watches and so on and so on, a numerous geometric shapes all around our daily life. 

Shape elements


Lines are simple, yet powerful shapes, which propel the eye deeper into the scene. They actually form the edges of the shapes, so without line, we basically don’t have shapes. 


The texture is the equivalent of depth when we talk about forms in photography. If depth is an element of form, then texture is the equivalent element of shape.


What’s important to know about shapes is that they have to have a certain pattern, which means they have to lead you somewhere, they have to lead a human eye to something that would be pleasing and acceptable. 

Shape in Photography 

Examine yourself and your work

Yes, go on and be a doctor, examine your work and reflect on yourself. In that way, you will be able to find out what type of shapes you use the most in your photographs, and by knowing that you will know how to manipulate them better with it. Also, by knowing what suits you well and what does not, you will be able to make comparisons and find the best shapes for your work. The shape is a key element that affects everything in your work, that’s why you gave to be careful when adding it to your work. 

Use it  

Once you examine yourself and you know what you want to be present in your work, you can use it and manipulate it. The same thing applies to shape. Once you know what kind of shapes you want to use, you can use them and manipulate them. For example, you can use shape to affect the mood in your photography. Let’s see how! Round or oval shapes create a sense of movement because of the lack of angles in them. They relate to calmness and tranquility. Have you ever asked yourself why you feel calm while watching a photo of fruits, such as apples or oranges? Yes, bingo. The power of shape!

Manipulate with it

You can always manipulate shapes in your photography. Above we mentioned fruits, right? Well, what happens if we slice them up. Congratulations, you have just manipulated with shape. Or you can use light to give more texture to the shape of an object, for example, a ball, with proper skills you can make an interesting shadow to that boll and voila, the shape has just been manipulated. 

Look for it

Look for the shape in your photography from different angles. Play with the perspective, for example, if you see a few stairs from up down, you will see a spiral, but if you change your position you will see just some plain stairs or a few rectangles. Is all about your point of view. 

Final Words

Shape, form, color, light, depth, texture, and so on and so on. All of these mentioned elements are your assets, all you have to do is to know how to deal with them, That might sound easy, but it actually isn’t. You have to be quite witty to know how much light to use, where to use it, etc, etc. There are so many details that have to be considered and dealt with. Photography per se is a work of art, so don’t think it will be easy, not even for a second.