Composing images so features align emphasises similarities between elements within the frame
Lining things up when you frame a shot is one of the most basic decisions in composition. In fact, it’s so basic that many of us who take the trouble to align things in the frame do it semi-automatically. The things being lined up can be the edges of a subject, like the walls of a building, or a row of units, like cows in a field, and it’s ultimately very personal. For some photographers it’s a sign of neatness and professionalism, but at the other end of the scale there are people who feel it’s a bit cold and calculating, and gets in the way of simply grabbing the emotion or atmosphere in a scene. Here, obviously, I’m promoting the idea of alignment, but it’s certainly not a rule to be obeyed rigidly for every single photo you take.
Generally speaking, you can line two or more things up by repositioning yourself so that they look as if they fit, or you can line things up with one or more of the edges of your frame. Or even, if you’re lucky, do both at once. Even wonky camera angles often have their basis in alignment. Garry Winogrand was known for tilting his camera this way and that, but delighted in telling people ‘But they’re not tilted, you see.’ He went on to say ‘I never do it without a reason… I have a picture of a beggar, where there’s an arm coming into the frame from the side. And the arm is parallel to the horizontal edge and it makes it work.’
From this viewpoint only, Indian workers waiting in line on girders make an unexpectedly neat alignment of verticals and horizontals