Elements of Composition | S Curve | Morro Strand, CA

Ripples in the Sand | Morro Strand State Beach | Morro Bay, CA

When it comes to composition, many of you are probably familiar with the rule of thirds. While the rule of thirds is a powerful compositional tool, there are many others. One of my favorites is the S-Curve.

An S-curve leads the viewer’s eye through the photograph and creates a feeling of movement in an otherwise static image. It works beautifully for both landscape and portrait photos.

When photographing people the s-curve is often known as contrapposto (a slightly less harsh version of the S-curve). The subject stands with their weight on one foot so that the shoulders and arms are at a slightly different angle from the hips and legs creating a dynamic sense of movement and at the same time making the subject appear more relaxed.

In landscape photography, the key is to look an ‘S’ shape as you are composing your image. It can be natural or man made, but the desired effect will lead the eye through the photo and create a sense of movement.

I was inspired to make the image below after going through some of my great-grandfather’s photographs. My family is lucky to be in possession of several 16×20 prints that he made. I was mesmerized by his compositions and his use of the S-Curve in his photos of sand dunes.

Ripples in the Sand | Morro Strand State Beach | Morro Bay, CA

The photograph above was captured at the dunes on Morro Strand State Beach using a Induro AKB1 Tripod mounted Canon EOS 7D and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens. Minor adjustments were made in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 and the black & white conversion was done in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a commission if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase. I only share products that I believe will be valuable to my readers (most of which I personally use and love). All opinions are my own.

Disclosure: One of the ways I support this website is by partnering with awesome companies, whose products I use and love. These partnerships allow me to earn a small commission when you make a purchase through one of my affiliate links, but there is no additional cost for you. Thank you for your support!


  1. […] get cameras in hand Sunday evening, the night before I drove home. We spent a little bit of time at the dunes on Morro Strand State Beach and then drove up the coast north of Cayucos and went out of the bluffs to capture the sunset. […]

Leave a Comment