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Shape describes two dimensional space. It is defined by other elements of design like color, lines, space and value. Shape occurs when the area between lines is filled by color and value. In the two dimensional world, there are three simple geometric shapes.

All other geometric shapes are combinations of these basic shapes. In natural and man made life, we see many complex shapes like silhouettes of leaves etc. Shape is the foundation of form.

 Lighting: Front or the back lighting is best to illustrate shapes .

 Contrast: The shapes are best illustrated when they stand in contrast to their surroundings

FormForm is the three-dimensional counterpart to shape. Shape is to form as a square is to a cube. In the three-dimensional world, the basic geometric forms are cube, sphere, pyramid, cylinder and cones.

Form is shape with dimension or volume. To change a shape to a form, dimension must be created by the addition of tone or color transitions within the shape. 

Lighting:In paintings, the illusion of three dimension image is created by shading and giving an impression of lights and shadows. In photography side lighting is useful in creating this effect. For landscapes, early morning and late evening times are considered best by for dramatic effects

Volume: We can make it appear to the viewer as three-dimensional,  when we successfully add volume to a photograph..  The best way to achieve this is by inserting elements in different planes of the image.  

Another example of conveying depth is the use of two or three similar subjects at different distances.  

Types of shapes and forms: Shapes and forms can be natural or man made. the emphasis can be presentation of pure geometric forms or natural images. Triangular shapes present magic, strength, creativity and endurance. Square and rectangular forms represent stability, structure and integrity. in natural world squares and rectangles are often not found. Triangles can be seen in natural world in the form of mountain peaks, tree tops, and tiny mushrooms.

Circles composed of a single, unbroken line represent wholeness and convey a protecting, surrounding character.  Circles are seen quite often in nature.  By their enormous size, the planets, the sun, and the moon are the most powerful circular shapes in nature, but many smaller circles can be found in dewdrops, berries, and flower blossoms.

Spiral shapes may convey balance, progress, awareness, or connection and are often recognized in stairs or in the arrangement of flower petals.

Design in photography: sometimes the emphasis is on pure design as subject of photography. An early example of this is masterpiece of composition from Edward weston.

This is an image that uses shapes almost exclusively in its design. Texture is non-existent and  any volume in the image is generated by tonal changes determined by the angle of the surface

Following are few of examples where emphasis was primarily on presenting shapes and forms as primary element of composition and design.

an image from 3blindmice

Some shapes are more effective than others in providing an interesting frame for your photo. For instance, squares and circles tend to be too symmetrical and leave too much empty space around the subjects. The shapes that work best for composition are triangles and diamonds.

Triangles can be formed a few different ways:

If your subject is already triangular or diamond-shaped (like a pyramid), the viewer’s eye will automatically focus on that shape.

Groups of people can be posed as an irregular triangle. An irregular (slanted) triangle makes sure that no two pairs of eyes will lie on the same horizontal plane. An interesting example is from Arnold newman


some more examples from grand master Edward Weston for use of interesting shapes as basic elements of composition


And finally some beautiful examples where shapes and forms were the primary object of photographic composition from Dale Unruh 

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Replies to This Discussion

Aamir, I really like the examples you show here and the discussion, thanks.  I starting to suggest that people posting on the Photo Critique group take a look at this group for inspiration and direction.  I'm not sure if this fits but here is one of mine.

Ron your picture is a really good example of use of shape and form as dominant element in composition (with texture being the other prominent element)

in fact it is a nice example as technical well exposed picture, as master piece of editing as well as from compositional point of view. The shapes of two rocks are  beautifully illustrated. the icing on the cake is provided by two factors. one is the intelligent use of side light which is ideal for revealing tonal changes and giving three dimensional illusion. the other factor is placement of rocks. both are kept off centre (rule of third) so the eyes keeps on moving between the rocks and the earth which forms the third angle of an implied trinagle

in fact your album contains many wonderful examples of such image. although i should not pass a sweeping statement from your few images but it appears that in your images, shapes and forms are dominant factors (in fact it is a interesting exercise to analyse our own pictures to note our own predilection-- some one pointed as texture for my pictures)

i wish i had seen your following pictures before submitting this discussions

John, this is a wonderful shot with great depth and color.  It certainly seems to have beautiful shape and form to me.  

wonderful image John. an excellent example of spiral form. so balanced and intricate. it give me giddiness at looking down. i feel as i might fall down:-)

Thanks AMW for posting this picture. apart from technical aspects and great lighting, the image has great emotional appeal

the two shapes positioned against a great expanse of body of water has a placed man against nature. the vulnerability of our existence against grandeur and force of nature . very simple but effective 

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