How to Use Leading Lines in Photography

Last Updated on March 5, 2020 | In Rules of Composition by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Leading lines are one of the elements of composition in photography.

Knowing how to use leading lines in photography can change the way you take pictures forever.

Let’s see how.

If you are having trouble composing quality images and shooting sharp photos from different angles, worry no more. Even the best photographers had to make the step of learning this concept when they started. Photography is not only an art but also a process that requires you to go through several steps before you can become a better photographer. And one vital step that every photographer must undertake is learning about photography composition.

As the phrase implies, composing a photo simply means arranging elements within the image in a way that conveys your message or tells a story. In essence, it consists in combining all individual elements within a frame to form the final image. 

Nevertheless, directing your viewers to the point of interest of your photo can be tricky. This is particularly true if you are just starting out as a photographer.

By using leading lines in photography, you can guide your viewers to the main focal point of the photo without breaking a sweat!

So What Are Leading Lines?

In photography, leading lines are compositional tools used to guide the attention of the viewer to a specific element within a frame. In essence, they help draw the viewer’s eyes to the photo’s point of interest. 

The lines could be anything like a roadway, like in the skateboarding photo above, a railway line, a bridge or a river, which leads the eyes to a particular subject or point of the photograph.

The best part is that this amazing skill is very easy to learn.

Leading Lines vs. Paths

Most people tend to confuse leading lines with paths, due to their striking similarities.

Firstly, leading lines and paths are both compositional tools.

The differentiating factor is that while leading lines guide the viewers to the focal point of the image, visual paths direct the order by which the viewer sees the different elements within the image. The path essentially guides the eyes towards a series of elements rather than a focal point.

Moreover, visual paths can take the shape of patterns or different colors.

You may also use visual paths as leading lines to direct your viewers to the focal point of an image. However, visual paths are often used to offer the viewers an easier way to also notice other elements in the photo.

Types of Leading Lines in Photography

Leading lines can have different shapes and forms.

Before you can start using leading lines in your shots, it is necessary to know the different types available.

Here are a few examples that you should consider.

Curved Lines

Curved leading lines provide an intrinsic sense of movement, which is ideal for taking dynamic shots. What’s more amazing is that you can use curved lines as visual paths to guide viewers through the different elements placed along the curve.

Converging Lines

When two parallel lines converge, they create a vanishing point. You can place your subject at this vanishing point to help the viewer comprehend the spatial relations in the image.

Implied Lines

Implied lines are simply implicit lines formed by sunrays, shadows, coastal waves, and patterns. In actual sense, they are not physical lines, but they can help draw the attention of the viewer to the focal point of the photo.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines bring a sense of action in a photograph that tends to be static. You can introduce diagonal leading lines in your composition using naturally occurring triangles like rock formation, dunes and wakes in water. 

Examine Your Scene

To find the perfect leading lines for your shots, it is important to first examine your scene.

Taking your time to survey the area will help you identify the leading line options available. You will certainly notice some places that naturally draw your eyes.

One of the best ways of locating available leading lines is to use your viewfinder. This will help flatten the scene while eliminating distracting elements and highlighting essential objects much easier.

Moreover, establishing your focal point early might also help identify leading lines that emphasize the presence of your main subject in your shots.

What Not To Do

Spotting leading lines in photography could be difficult at first, especially if you are a newbie. It is quite normal for one to make mistakes at the beginning.

But, with a little bit of practice, adding leading lines in photography will be a breeze.

Here are a few things that you need to avoid when using leading lines:

  • Do not use leading lines that point away from your focal point
  • Avoid using numerous leading lines, as they may confuse your viewers
  • Do not use leading lines that are out of frame

Best Practices for Leading Lines in Photography

The best way to learn how to use leading lines in photography perfectly is to practice.

Here are some tips on how to use leading lines correctly:

  • Your position matters when using leading lines in photography. In essence, always make sure that you position yourself in a way that will utilize leading lines appropriately
  • Make sure that the leading lines are guiding the viewers to the main subject or focal point
  • Use editing software such as Photoshop sparingly when editing your leading lines

Why Composition is Important in Photography

Photography is an art that requires passing a message using images.

No matter the type of photography you prefer, you have to compose your shots wisely in order to pass your message accordingly.

With this in mind, it is imperative to use various compositional tools at your disposal, including for example the rule of thirds, frames, and of course leading lines to design the perfect composition.

Examples of Leading Lines

Composition in photography. Rule of Viewpoint

Takeaway: So, are Leading Lines Really Important? 

Leading lines are a vital tool for composition in photography.

However, you may only take advantage of this compositional tool by learning how to spot them and use them correctly.

This could go a long way to help boost your photography portfolio.

So what are you waiting for?

Try them out in your next shoot, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!

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