Professional photographers have an eye for creating stunning imagery that directs the viewer to see what is intended to be seen.
For this effect to take place, these skilled photographers are using a compositional tool known as leading lines.
Using leading lines is an incredibly effective way to create a focal point in your images and draw attention to an area of an image. Learning how to use leading lines in your photography will teach you how to use better composition in your images.
What are leading lines ?
When looking at an image you are able to see lines that are created by the elements in the image. Some lines may be clear and visible, but some might be vague and not easily spotted.
These lines appear in a photograph that have been framed and positioned by the photographer to draw the viewer’s eye towards a specific point of interest.
Types Of Leading Lines Photography
For you to use leading lines effectively, knowing that there different types of leading lines you can use will let you spot these lines more clearly.
These categories are:
Horizontal leading lines are often found in nature and wide spaces.
The horizon is one of the most used leading lines, because it is so visible and easy to use. Natural surroundings create a broad spectrum of great leading lines that anyone can implement into their photography.
Using vertical lines will communicate authority and power. This will direct the eye up and down the image and create a magnificent feel to the image. Vertical leading lines are often found in fashion photography and street photography.
Use diagonal lines to create a sense of movement and change. Diagonal lines are often placed to start from the foreground to background, and this creates distance between the two focal points. Adding large depth of field you can experiment with diagonal lines to increase the sense of depth in your image.
If there are converging lines present in your frame, it’s best practice to situate the subject of the image at the axis of these leading lines.
When using converging lines you can effectively draw the eye to the focal point of the convergence. This creates a strong compositional element and communicates a powerful image.
How to use leading lines: the basics
When adding leading line in your images, you should know these two steps:
- Look for leading lines starting from the obvious ones (instantly seen by the eye)
- Add them one by one to your images
Do not feel hesitant in using multiple leading lines in your images, this creates interesting compositions and will result in train your eye to see them more clearly.
How to find leading lines
Almost anything you see can be used as a leading line. When starting out, looking out for the obvious ones in the best way to start. Buildings, roads and natural leading lines like trees and hills work well.
By looking out for these lines you will start finding them more easier; and positioning yourself in various places in relation to the lines, you can create different moods and emphasize several elements at once.
Roads are one of the most obvious leading lines you’ll see, and that’s why many start out by photographing them. You can clearly see how the road directs your eye in the middle of the image and instantly – this way you as a photographer decide where the viewer will be drawn in first few seconds.
Photographing in cityscapes creates multiple possibilities in implementing leading lines. Roads and buildings work as clear directional lines to let you create powerful imagery. Huge part of the leading lines found in the cities are vertical, giving the photographer a chance to portray powerful pictures.
Staircases can be found in many places and they are usually shaped as a continuous swirl instead of just one line. Because of the nature of the swirl being built inside a building, they are perfect for photographers to train their eyes without any additional distractions from the surrounding. As you can see from the image above, the surrounding space around the staircase is left empty and feels pleasant for the viewer.
4. Rocky grounds
The leading lines found in the nature are more soft and less hard, they might instead be merged into a beautiful body of soft lines. Rocks and hills are great visual elements to be used in creating these lines, and especially if you go closer and fill the whole frame with the landscape.
5. Looking up
In both natural environments but also in cityscapes, many of the elements are large and standing close beside them results in the photographer feeling quite small and meaningless. This is why they are mostly used to build powerful images and communicate force and strength. Next time you see an image of a powerful politician; look at how they are being photographed.
6. Trains and tunnels
Horizons are not the only horizontal lines out there; positioning yourself on the side of the road, railway or such you can find interesting lines as well. Instead of creating a line that is cutting through the middle of the image you can create a converging line – from the foreground to background – as can be seen here.
7. Go closer
When photographing in nature and natural surroundings, the photographer has the option to use these smaller elements and go closer enough and thus multiple leading lines can be created simultaneously. The lines themselves can also be straight or rounded, depending on the environment you place yourself in.
Start out with the most visible lines and only implement one at a time. After you’ve gotten the hang of it, start adding more lines to add more depth and intriguing elements into one image. Using leading lines will instantly develop your eye for detail and bring more diverse composition in your imagery.